The summer of 1987 was a great summer for me. I was between the junior and senior years of college and had decided that I could give up the retail job that I had held since age 16. Instead, I took a job working at the Essex Institute (now the Peabody-Essex Museum) in Salem, Massachusetts.
The Essex Institute owned numerous historic houses in Salem. During the summer months, they offered guided tours of four of the houses, each dating from the 17th to the 19th century and furnished with period furnishings. As a history major, I loved those houses and I loved having the luxury of spending time in them, whether I was giving a tour or simply studying the furnishings, art and architecture.
As summer jobs go, it was the best job I ever had. I was surrounded by history. I got to share my views of history with a willing public. I got free admission to a full network of museums. I really wanted for nothing. Unfortunately, my hourly wage of $4.50 per hour was adequate only to keep me comfortable for a summer, while I was in college and still living at home. My idyllic summer also taught me that if I wanted to earn a decent wage, I needed to find something else to do for a living.
After that summer ended, I discussed with a history professor my revelation that history does not pay much. He laughed and agreed. Although I was an excellent history student, he advised me to keep history as a hobby, and to remain passionate about it, but to seek my profession in another field. That set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led me to law school, but I never forgot the pleasure I derived from being a tour guide.
We all have hobbies and interests. When I wrote that you need to Do What You Know, I did not mean to limit anyone’s thinking to the jobs that they know. Everything that we enjoy can become a job, if we work towards that goal and every hobby can become a profession.
The key is to start small.
If you are a fan of history, as I am, explore the museums and historic sites in your area. Perhaps you can find a part time job working at the site. Even if it does not pay much, you will still be getting paid to pursue your interests. If you would normally spend 8 hours per week pursuing your hobby, doesn’t it make more sense to try to get someone to pay you to pursue it?
If you love to garden and you spend a lot of time in your local nursery, try to get a part time job there for a few hours each week. If you like books and enjoy browsing the stacks at a book store, try to take on a shift or two at your favorite store. You will get paid to wander the stacks and you will probably get a discount on the books you purchase. Wherever you may like to wander in stores, look there for a job that might pay you to do so.
When I finally retire, I know that I shall try to do so in a place that surrounds me with history. If I have the energy, I know I shall also try to find another historic site or museum that will allow me to interpret history to visitors. I may not make a lot of money doing it, but I shall be getting paid to do something that I love to do. If you can find a way to collect a paycheck doing something you love, you have found the key to success.
How have you taken a hobby and turned it into a money making venture? Have you gone from training in the gym to training others? Were you once a stamp or coin collector but now a stamp or coin dealer? Have you ever tried to turn a hobby into a job, only to discover that you lost your passion for the hobby when you turned it into a responsibility? However you have failed or succeeded in making money with a hobby, let us know!