After a long week of work, many Americans spend their weekend pursuing a hobby. Hobbies can include creating things, collecting items, or engaging in some form of physical activity.
Hobbies can be relaxing, engaging, and satisfying to take part in. People are involved in hobbies because they are passionate about them. Many people sink hundreds and even thousands of dollars into their hobbies. Yet others are so good at their chosen pastime that they can actually make money off their hobby.
To identify hobbies you can make money on, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed activities that are most often done for enjoyment without expecting a profit. While the vast majority of people who participate in these hobbies do not earn money from them, a select few do. Some have been able to turn a profit from their hobby by sheer luck. Others are extremely skilled at their craft. These people make money through sponsorships, prize winnings, and sales of their work on sites like Etsy.
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We did not consider activities that are mostly undertaken for profit or that meaningfully change when done for profit instead of pleasure. While people enjoy taking leisurely rides on their bicycles, professional biking is a completely different activity. Competing in the Tour de France or serving as a bike courier in a big city are vastly different styles of biking than the casual riding a hobbyist enjoys.
Some of these hobbies can become side businesses, but others can become full-time jobs. This is not common, but the most prominent people in their fields are able to make six-figure incomes, if not more, from their hobby. These are America’s highest paying jobs.
Many of these hobbies are not possible everywhere. Outdoor rock climbing is only possible in certain parts of the country where mountains are abundant. Other hobbies require proximity to other people with the same hobby. This is the weirdest job in each state.
Gaming. (Photo: gorodenkoff / Getty Images)
Gaming was once a solitary endeavor, but online gaming has unlocked a world of earning potential from video games. Skilled gamers with engaging personalities can earn money from streaming, or broadcasting themselves playing games while interacting with fans or giving tips on how to master the game. One of the top streamers, who goes by the name Ninja, reportedly makes about $6 million per year thanks to his paying subscribers, ads on his YouTube channel, and sponsorships.
The best gamers in the world can also make millions by winning major competitions in their game of choice. The highest paying championship is The International – the championship for Dota 2. The prize for winning The International in 2019 was over $15.6 million for a team of five. Each of the top six teams took home over $1 million in prize money.
2. Building sandcastles
Though most sandcastles are built by children and do not reach very high, a few adults have been able to make money creating huge, ornate sculptures and structures for corporate clients or as part of competitions.
Making sand sculptures is no day at the beach, though. Sand artists must work full days in the sun over the course of several weeks, hauling and packing sand. One sculptor told the Bureau of Labor Statistics he could earn around $500 per day sculpting part time, while others have been able to make a full-time living sculpting.
3. Home brewing beer
With the growing popularity of craft beer, some amateur brewers have been able to make money off their home brews. With over 1 million amateur craft brewers in the United States, dozens of craft brewing contests have popped up all across the country. Many of these festivals offer cash prizes to the best beer of the day.
Winning one of these contests can lead to an even more lucrative outcome. Startup Noble Brewer is a business that licenses home brewers’ recipe and distributes them across the nation, taking care of all of the difficult legal issues associated with selling alcohol.
Cosplaying – dressing up in a costume from a favorite show, movie, comic book, video game, or other media – has gone from being a nerdy hobby to big business. As events such as Comic-Con have grown over the past decades, some creative costumers have been able to garner enough fans to make a living cosplaying.
Some cosplayers earn money by dressing up and promoting a booth at a convention or other gathering. Other cosplayers make money from modeling, appearance fees, and selling their own merchandise. These cosplayers build up massive followings online by posting their work on social media. The most famous cosplayers can make an estimated six-figure income, though even less known cosplayers can still pull in up to $300 for a day’s work.
Trivia contests at bars can be a fun way to spend an evening and maybe even come away with a small prize, but if you can win enough bar trivia games, you can actually make a good living. British trivia player Christian Drummond claimed he made the equivalent of about $90,000 in one year simply by playing bar trivia machines. Drummond said he visited over 10,000 different pubs playing different quiz machines. Other trivia masters have even been recruited to write trivia questions as a full-time job after demonstrating their immense knowledge.
6. Coin collecting
Coin collecting is a hobby that dates back centuries, perhaps as far back as the first century. Collectors can seek out coins based on country, time period, certain types of coins or sets, or any way they see fit. Thanks to the internet, the new generation of collectors can now buy and sell coins by communicating directly with one another. The rarest and most desired coins can be worth $6 million to $10 million, but most U.S. coins that are collected for their rarity are worth anywhere from $5 to tens of thousands. Collectors can wait for their coins to appreciate in value to sell them for a large profit.
7. Flying drones
Drones may seem like expensive flying toys, but drone pilots can use their drones to make a bit of extra income. Drones that are equipped with cameras can provide useful images and videos for real estate companies, allowing them to show off the top view and surrounding areas of the property. Stock photography outlets can also use drone footage to provide vantages and aerial views of cityscapes and nature that were previously impossible to get. Drone pilots have reported getting around $200 for a single project.
With the internet becoming the primary method of communication for most people, handwriting is becoming a lost art. While many take calligraphy classes and practice on their own as a hobby, those who are able to write in an aesthetically pleasing manner are in demand. Online artistic outlets like Etsy are replete with dozens of artists selling custom calligraphy. These calligraphers create custom greeting cards, wedding invitations, inspirational quotes, and more. Such hand-written items can sell for as little as a few dollars each to over $50 for larger prints and wedding invitation sets.
9. Graffiti art
Graffiti blossomed into an art form in 1970s New York City. Though often done illegally, graffiti is now considered a legitimate art form, and some of the more skilled graffiti artists can fetch a high price tag for their work. Graffiti artists can now charge over $1,000 for a wall-covering mural either on the outside of their business or on a print for someone to hang on their wall at home.
10. Going to the movies
Going to the movies can be an expensive hobby, but those who sign up to be a theater checker, can actually get paid to go to the theater. Checkers can get paid to review the trailers being shown, counting the people in the theater, collecting demographics of moviegoers, or the audio and video quality of the film. Checkers get between $10 to $20 per hour. Best of all, they get to stay for the entire movie.
11. Robot making
Building robots once seemed like a far off sci-fi endeavor, but now amateur robotics is a hobby that just about anyone can enjoy. Developing these skills can help hobbyists turn their side project into a full-time job if they are discovered by a robotics company like Boston Dynamics. There are also amateur robotics competitions, one of the most famous of which is BattleBots. This competition pits techies and their creations against one another, each attempting to destroy the opponent’s bot. Teams that make it to the tournament have in the past earned $500, and the winning team took home $25,000.
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12. Trading card collecting
Trading cards are meant to be collected, and the differences in values from one card to the next is part of the appeal for many, so it should come as no surprise that savvy collectors can make some money off their hobby. Baseball cards, at least in the United States, may be the most sought-after type of cards. Baseball cards gain their value from the player on the card, the card’s condition, scarcity, age, and if there are any errors on it that make it especially unique. The most valuable baseball card of all time featured Honus Wagner and was sold for over $3 million, and several others have been valued at over $500,000.
There are plenty of other cards to be collected, whether they are for other sports or card games such as “Magic: The Gathering.” The most expensive Magic card ever purchased is believed to be a Black Lotus card that was sold on eBay for over $87,000.
13. Rock climbing
Professional rock climbers earn their money by getting sponsorships. Climbers who become high-profile by making difficult climbs in new and impressive ways can be signed endorsement deals with climbing gear companies. This career path is only available to the absolute best climbers in the world. Climbing magazine Rock and Ice reported that though the top climbers can earn six-figure incomes, most earn less than $5,000 per year.
Wood carving. (Photo: guldem / Flickr)
14. Wood carving
Wood carving is one of the oldest art forms in the world. It has served many practical and religious purposes throughout history but now is primarily decorative. There are many local, state, and national wood carving associations that bring together hobbyists to share techniques and display their work. Wood carvers can make money from their hobby either by selling their sculptures online or going fully professional and opening a gallery or shop. Some smaller carvings can cost around $20, though larger, more ornate pieces can run into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
15. Stamp collecting
Since the 1840s, stamp collecting has been among the more popular hobbies in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Even today, as the use of traditional mail has declined dramatically, the American Philatelic Society has over 28,000 members, so there is still a large market for stamps. Like other collectibles, a stamp’s value depends on its condition, rarity, and age. Many of the most valuable stamps became highly prized because of mistakes. The most expensive American stamp features an inverted airplane and was sold at auction for over $1.3 million in 2016. The most expensive stamp of all time was the British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta stamp, which sold for $9.5 million in 2014.
It is easy today to just go to the store and buy any necessary piece of clothing, or order it online. So while knitting was once a crucial skill, it has been relegated to the status of a hobby that just a small share of Americans know how to do successfully. Those who can knit have the option of selling their handmade blankets, scarves, and sweaters online. As this is a time consuming endeavor, hand-knit items often sell for over $100, depending on what they are, the materials used, and the size.
17. Building a computer
Many gamers build their own PCs as a way to increase the machine’s computing power or simply as a way to develop tech skills. This hobby can save money by providing users with better computers than store-bought ones, while also being cheaper. If one is good enough at building PCs, he or she can make good money by doing it. Computer assembly specialists offer their services to those who want a custom PC, but want someone else to do it for them. These specialists charge anywhere from $10 to $75 per hour of work.
18. Model train construction
Model train construction may be declining in popularity as a hobby, but there are still many dedicated hobbyists putting together sets all over the world. These sets can become extremely elaborate, featuring intricately designed and painted trains sailing across massive replica landscapes, complete with flora, fauna, and stations. While many people derive satisfaction making the sets themselves, some hobbyists would rather have a fellow enthusiast make the layout for them. Some professional model train building companies charge $5,000 or more for the construction of larger sets.
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