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Smart Strategies

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Turn Your Hobby Into Income

Your hobby could have an unexpected upside: extra money.


Brooke Folk, of Meyersdale, Pa., always loved writing, but he didn't have much time to pursue it during his working years as an entrepreneur. After retiring in 2011, Folk, now 68, turned to Fiverr.com, a site that bills itself as the world's largest marketplace for creative and professional services.

When Folk first started, he was penning 500-word fiction stories for just $5 a pop. Eventually, his work became so popular that he could charge more—anywhere from $25 to $1,300 a piece. And it's really added up. "I make about $10,000 a year from Fiverr to supplement my Social Security checks," says Folk.

While not every retiree will make five figures from a hobby, doing something you love in retirement—and earning extra cash from it—can be a reality for many.

"Surveys show that the majority of boomers are hoping to continue to work into retirement," says Nancy Collamer, author of Second-Act Careers and a career coach at MyLifestyleCareer.com. "The caveat is that they don't necessarily want to continue doing what they've been doing in their careers."

So how can you start turning your passion into income?

First, you need to determine if there is a need for your product or service. For example, if you're a scratch golfer living in a community where there are more golfers than pros, you might be able to make money giving lessons, says Collamer. Or perhaps you're an antiques enthusiast who can earn cash by appraising family heirlooms and collectibles for others.

Next, take advantage of local, free resources, such as networking groups that you can join through your local Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Small Business Administration (sba.gov) is another resource that sponsors free mentoring to small-business owners through the SCORE program.

You could also partner with an existing business. Collamer suggests seeking out local business owners who may need help with an aspect of their business where you have expertise or skills. For example, Collamer had a client who loved traveling to Italy during her working years. After retirement she connected with a local travel agency and began organizing very niche trips to northern Italy for people interested in cooking.

Tapping into a Web-based service platform, as Folk did, can help you to reach a larger audience than you might be able to on your own and can provide structure for your business. Denise Sabar, 52, of Laguna Woods, Calif., has turned her love of dogs into additional income in retirement with the help of Rover.com, a site that allows pet parents to book personalized care for their dogs, including pet-sitting and dog-walking. "The supplemental income from Rover.com has helped immensely during retirement," says Sabar. "I charge $40 a night per dog. This past year I was quite busy—earning about $7,500 total."