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Make Money From What You Love to Do

Turn your passions into profits by starting a sideline business at home

By Miranda Marquit | May 23, 2012
close up, man cutting vegetables on laptop
You can turn your passion for cooking into an online business.
iStockphoto | Thinkstock

Chances are that you have a passion outside your day job. Or, perhaps you have already retired, and are enjoying pursuits you didn’t have time for when you were employed full-time. Either way, have you considered turning what you love to do into some steady income with a home-based business? Maybe you should.
 
As an expert, you can share your knowledge with the world and the world could pay you for it. Steven Rosenbaum, author of the start-up guide Curation Nation, says these days, nearly anyone can take a passion and earn money from it.
 
You might be an expert and not even realize it. Think about what you love to do in your spare time and know a lot about.  Now think about how to turn that into a sideline home business. A few possible ways:
 
Start a blog or Web site. As the founding columnist for MSN Money's Smart Spending blog, Donna Freedman turned her difficult experiences with money into a successful venture, and even branched out into her own blog, Surviving and Thriving.
 
Rosenbaum believes that curation – launching a Web site and collecting items related to a single topic on it – might be the next $1 billion industry. “If you like to barbecue,” Rosenbaum says, “you can start a site where you offer tips, collect and curate recipes, share pictures of grilled foods, and even add videos.”
 
You’d offer the content for free, but bring in money through advertising and affiliate programs. As an affiliate, you join an ad program through a digital products retailer or exchange such as ClickBank or AdBrite. Relevant ads appear on your site, and you get a commission whenever a visitor clicks on the ad and completes a purchase.
 
Affiliate programs pay from less than a penny per transaction to more than $50. Many successful bloggers earn between $100 and $800 a month using affiliate programs. Jim Yih, an Edmonton, Alberta entrepreneur who has been running his Retire Happy Blog for almost a year receives a couple hundred dollars in profit each month through affiliate programs.
 
Self-publish a book. Historically, you needed to sell a manuscript to a publisher to become an author, but not anymore. Today, you can create an ebook in a PDF format and then sell it yourself on your Web site, through your own blog, or on other sites or blogs.
 
E-publishing authors often create PayPal accounts, letting readers pay for the ebooks and then download them instantly. Some enterprising writers also use the self-publishing service CreateSpace to produce Kindle books that sell on Amazon.com.
 
Teach about your passion. You don’t even need a teaching degree in many cases. Offer classes on your prized subject, whether it’s whittling, parenting, home organization strategies, grilling, or playing the guitar. Check with local colleges and community centers for opportunities to teach classes. Or just start holding classes or lessons in your home. You might also teach students anywhere in the world online, through a live webinar using a webcam or through a taped webinar. To do it, you'd promote the webinar on your Web site or blog and collect payments through PayPal.

Finding clients and setting prices
 
Once you decide to turn your knowledge into income, you need to find people willing to pay for that knowledge. “For most of these types of businesses, finding a price point requires trial and error,” Yih says. “When you monetize your passion you can’t always go out and check the market, and compare with competitors.” Instead, test a few price points to determine what works for your business.
 
Many home-based entrepreneurs prefer to utilize the Internet when looking for customers. Promoting through your own blog and blogs of others, through social media, and through ads can draw traffic to your business’s site.
 
Spread the word in person, too. Let friends and family know what you are doing. Former co-workers can also provide you with potential leads for customers or clients. Use your professional and personal networks maniacally; you never know when people you know will mention your expertise to people they know. Freedman landed her home-based gig at MSN Money through the help of a former co-worker.
 
It may sound crazy, but one way to generate income for your business is to offer something for free. If you want to sell a five-part video course on effective parenting, give away a half-hour segment and promote it heavily through your networks. Many book, ebook and Kindle authors provide a free chapter or two of their books in order to drum up interest.

On your blog, you can develop additional, in-depth, “premium” content your blog readers pay for, charging monthly subscriptions of $5 to $20. They may be happy to buy the extra content because you’re conferring “insider” status on them, since the general public won't have access to this additional material. And who doesn’t want to be an insider?