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Turn a hobby, interest into income

Meghan Streit

Created date

March 20th, 2012

Working during retirement doesn t necessarily mean slaving away in the same office where you spent your career or picking up a mindless part-time job. Many people are using their retirement as a chance to turn a beloved hobby or a unique skill into an income stream. Finding full-time jobs is pretty difficult for the great majority of people coming to our website, so we have had many people ask about starting small businesses or working from home, says Art Koff, founder of, a website that provides job information and other resources for older adults. Striking out on your own can be ideal because you can be your own boss, work when it s convenient, and possibly explore an interest you didn t have time to pursue when you were punching a clock. Koff says his readers have found all sorts of ways to parlay hobbies and unique skills from cooking to gardening to caring for animals into lucrative businesses. Koff says one woman was even able to turn her love of bargain shopping into cash by marketing her services to people who are too busy to shop for gifts and home goods. Another retiree, Koff says, always had a knack for organizing and he now earns cash helping people get their garages in order.

The business of art

Art is another popular hobby. Whether you paint, knit, or take photographs, you may be able to turn your passion into profit. Carolyn Edlund is the director of The Arts Business Institute (, a Baltimore-based organization that provides artists with training and resources to manage the business end of their craft. Edlund says artistic hobbies can be a great way for retirees to generate income if they do it right. They have to take close look at what their costs are and what their time is worth to determine if they are actually going to make money, Edlund says. Artists can sell their goods through local shops and galleries, at arts and crafts fairs, or online via their own website or sites like, where crafters can set up virtual shops to sell their wares to the site s large audience in exchange for a small fee. Edlund s tips for turning an art hobby into a business: Understand your customer base, offer something unique, create a collection of related items that you can cross-sell, and post professional photos if you re selling goods online.

Don t go it alone

Michael Chodos, associate administrator of the Small Business Administration s Office of Entrepreneurial Development (, says virtually any hobby, from golf to woodworking, has the potential to become a business. However, he says the most successful ventures start with solid plans. The SBA offers resources like networking groups, business plan development, and financing information. The best way to decide if a hobby would work for you as a business is hooking up with an [SBA] mentor to develop a business plan, Chodos says.