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How to Turn Your Passions Into Retirement Income

4 ways to profit from the activities and interests you love


Part of the America’s Entrepreneurs Special Report

Last year, Mike Liff, now 71, relocated with his wife from San Francisco to Portland, Maine to be closer to family. The retirees explored their new hometown and thanks to a chance conversation at a barbershop, Liff learned that MaineFoodieTours.com was looking for part-time guides. After hearing that the job would give him a chance to walk around the city, share his enthusiasm for history and food and meet interesting people, Liff decided to apply.

“I’m having such fun,” he said. “I like to say I didn’t retire, I ‘rewired.’ To have a place to go and a purpose is really important to me — and my wife appreciates it too.”

During the height of the tourist season, Liff works six mornings a week, leading a 3-hour tour around the old Port city. After winter arrives, the sports fan takes on a different part-time job, working as an usher for the Maine Redclaws, the developmental team for the Boston Celtics. He gets to watch “really great basketball,” while earning supplemental income in the process.

Like Liff, you too may be able to generate income from your passions and hobbies. Here are four strategies to consider, along with resources to help get started:

Mike Liff is a part-time tour guide for MaineFoodieTours.com

1. Find a part-time job. Take inspiration from Liff and look for a part-time job that offers the chance to engage with your hobbies and passions on a more regular basis.

For example, if you love plants and being outdoors, you might find it satisfying to work at your local arboretum, community park or garden center. Or, if you’re open to traveling for part-time work, you can search on CoolWorks.com for seasonal jobs at the National Parks, ski resorts and dude ranches.

If food is more your thing, take a look at GoodFoodJobs.com where you’ll find a variety of part-time opportunities. Current listings include a recruitment manager for a nonprofit teaching kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds what real food is and a food demo specialist.

2. Become a gigster. Eager to strike out on your own, but don’t want the headaches of starting and marketing a business? Consider applying for short-term gigs that play into your passions by using gig technology platforms and mobile apps.

For example, if you love pets and would enjoy working as a pet sitter or dog walker, you could sign up on Rover.com. You set your own schedule and rates; Rover.com handles the payments and insurance for dogs in your care. In exchange, the company takes 20 percent of your earnings to cover administrative costs and overhead and to make a profit, of course.

It’s proven a lucrative option for Walt Galvin, 66, a recently-retired defense contractor and dog lover based in Woodbridge, Va. “As a retiree, Rover provides me with a great monthly supplemental income. And it’s great exercise, too!” he says. Galvin averages $1,500 a month from Rover, he told me.

On his Rover.com page, Galvin says: “I love dogs! Over the years I’ve fostered over 150 dogs as a volunteer/board member of a local lab rescue group. I don’t foster anymore, but as a new retiree with time on my hands I’m looking to continue to interact with dogs and their families.”

If you Google “gig platforms” you’ll find that there are many other possibilities. For instance:

  • Coachup.com: Sign up to offer coaching services to local clients.
  • Gigmasters.com: It matches people who provide event services (like music entertainment, wedding photographers, magicians and officiants) with prospective customers.
  • EatWith.com: Apply to be a dinner party chef, working out of your own home.

3. Sell your art or crafts online. Many retirees enjoy hawking their wares at local venues like craft fairs, art shows and farmers markets. It’s a nice way to get out of the house, interact with customers and generate income in the process. But why not expand your reach by taking advantage of online marketplaces as well?

For example, James Hartman, 67, a California-based artist, uses UGallery.com as part of his marketing mix. Hartman says UGallery connects him to a broad audience of people who otherwise would never have seen his paintings. “I find the experience very personable,” he says.

UGallery.com, which represents about 500 artists, splits the sale of artwork 50/50 (the company also covers the costs of packaging and shipping). Interested artists must go through an application process to be accepted.

Other online marketplaces for artists and craftspeople include Etsy.com (primarily for crafters),  Amazon Handmade and Zibbet.com.  Before setting up shop at any, make sure you compare fees and services, since terms differ among the sites.

4. Teach your craft. Whether you’re a polished piano player, a witty writer or a master at mahjong, you can likely earn income in retirement by teaching others how to do what you do so well.

If you prefer to stay local, look into teaching opportunities at continuing education programs offered through your town, community colleges or private adult education programs. Or you can offer lessons out of your home (just be sure to check zoning restrictions before hanging out a shingle).

To take your teaching online, you can deliver classes through your own website or by creating a class using an online teaching platform like LinkedIn’s Lynda.com, Skillshare.com or Udemy.com.

Networking Can Help, Too

Finally, remember that as great as technology is, the best opportunities for part-time work in retirement often surface as the result of everyday networking. So keep your antennae on alert.

As Liff’s story shows, you never know when that random barbershop conversation might lead to the semi-retirement gig of your dreams.

Nancy Collamer
By Nancy Collamer
Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a career coach, speaker and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. Her website is MyLifestyleCareer.com; on Twitter she is @NancyCollamer.@NancyCollamer

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