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It infuriates me when someone says they’re bored. We live in an interconnected world with the largest database of pretty much all of humanity’s knowledge at our fingertips — it is quite, quite impossible to ever be bored. You can learn literally anything on the Internet — and one of those might just go on to pay your bills someday.
Sharpening your skills online is an open door to improving the quality of your life. You could be surprised at how the Internet could help you shallow out the learning curve once you decide to start with and learn about a new hobby.
Here are my pick of 8 hobbies you can get started with online, which might eventually pay you back one day in the future.
The obvious one, but something you’ve probably scoffed at before (“oh, you write online? So you don’t have a real job then?“). Can you really make money blogging? Yes, actually, and there are a variety of approaches you can take.
For one, if you can find the right niche market or mass appeal, there are mountains of advertising revenue ready for the taking. I’d like to emphasise the point about knowing your market though. My own little gaming site earns over $500/month profit for a few hours work, and that’s with only 100k monthly page views – but I cater to iPad gamers, who have already purchased an expensive tablet device and are more than happy to spend $5-$25 on a game or two for it. The same could not be said for Android – developers often make less than 5% compared to the same titles on iOS, so the advertising revenues that you’re hoping for a slice of will be far smaller.
Even if you’re unable to directly monetize your blog, don’t forget that simply having that blog and getting yourself out there will often lead to other opportunities in life. When I noticed MakeUseOf was hiring a few years ago, I applied for the job with an archive of my own tech tutorials already under my belt – I’d never made much money from that particular site, but the fact that I could point to some high quality content and prove my writing abilities meant that I was hired – and went on to become the lead developer too. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t started that little blog 5 years ago.
The main thing to bear in mind with blogging is to use it as a creative outlet for your skills — whatever those may be. Write about how to be a better photographer; publish those cookie recipes that friends and family tell you are absolutely divine; share those DIY woodworking plans – just don’t make the mistake of writing about your daily life and sharing opinions on unrelated topics, because really no one cares.
If you’re going to start with a free hosted service like WordPress.com, at the very least purchase your own domain name so you won’t lose all your work when you eventually upgrade to self hosted WordPress.org. Just so you know, there’s a difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
Where to Start:
eBay Auctions / Etsy
You needn’t go out and purchase costly retail space to set up shop on the Internet; you can set up an online store for the entire world, overnight, and for very little initial cost. It’s easy to get started, and you’ll learn how to sell better in time. eBay has free listings nearly every weekend nowadays, so you’ll only pay a percentage of the final sales price.
Etsy is for those of you with more crafty abilities: if you can make something arty or unique, someone somewhere will probably want to buy it. It’s costs only $0.20 to list an item on Etsy for 4 months, with a 3.5% fee on sold items.
Where to Start?
Drop Shipping / Wholesale
You needn’t actually make your own goods, but it’s certainly harder nowadays since manufacturers have taken to listing their own goods directly. Drop Shipping means setting up a shopfront to use your sales skills without actually handling any merchandise — you sell the product, supply the manufacturer with an address, and they ship it. Wholesale means purchasing in bulk at a discount, and selling on eBay or locally, perhaps at car boots or local markets.
The core concern when starting an online store is that you’ll need to differentiate yourself somehow, because it’s very likely there are already others selling the exact same thing, cheaper. This certainly isn’t the easiest hobby to start online.
Where To Start?
- Drop shipping FAQ and scams to avoid @ WholeSale Forums
- 10 Things You Should Do When Starting an Online Store
As the architect of all things Internet, the web developers job will always be in demand. The good news is that you don’t need a degree to start – just a computer, which I’m going to take a wild guess and say you already have.
For a design-centric approach, such as customizing WordPress themes, start with HTML and CSS, move on to jQuery, then look at PHP and MySQL to develop your backend skills too.
For a scaleable custom web application, consider Node.js – it’s still a developing technology, so building your skills with it now means you’ll be in a great position when it gains popularity in the future.
Where to Start?
Mobile or desktop apps — it doesn’t matter; once you learn one programming language, the others are pretty easy too. There are a huge number of programming tutorials available for free online, so it’s basically down to choosing a platform then following a few basic guides for the right language.
For mobile platforms, statistically you have more chance of making money if you’re developing for the Apple iOS platform, and the Objective-C language. However, there’s a mandatory $99/year developer fee if you want to actually be listed on the App Store, so keep that in mind. The barrier to entry with Android is far lower, and you’ll be programming in a more familiar and easy Java language.
For desktop apps, your choice of languages is more broad – Java will run just about anywhere but not very well, C++ is tough to pick up but much faster, and languages like Visual Basic .Net or Visual C# are a good middle ground but limited to Windows programming.
Where to Start?
This really depends on which platform you’ve chosen:
Aside from blogging, the internet is the perfect medium to practice and publish your creative writing. From Harry Potter adult fanfiction to technical manuals, there’s always a market online and lots of people ready and willing to critique your work and help you improve.
Once you’re confident enough to write your first novel, it’s easy to self-publish on the Amazon Kindle service.
Where to Start?
- Free Guide to Self Publishing
- 5 Tips to Writing Faster Online
- 3 Online Communities to Get Feedback On Your Writing
Assuming you have a fairly decent camera, photography is one particular topic thriving online. Start a portfolio to have your work seen by others, or sell your photos on a stock photography site. Thanks to wonders of digital cameras, you can take as many shots as you like until you get a good one. It costs nothing but time to make mistakes!
Where to Start?
- The Essential Guide to Digital Photography
- Top 5 Photography Tips for Absolute Beginners
- You Told Us: Your Favourite Photography Tips
I love Garageband. We use it to edit the Technophilia podcast every week – and it comes free with new Macs. Not only is it incredibly easy to sequence your own samples or use any from the supplied library, but you can also compose your own or record from an external microphone. You can play all the instruments yourself, if you want, or have your Mac play along with you.
For composing your own pieces, a cheap USB keyboard can be had for around $50, and Garageband comes with a huge selection of software instruments. Even an iPad can be used with the right adapter.
Garageband also has some great quality tutorials on how to play the piano, the few of which are which are free so you can have a go. I’d love to say there’s a free alternative for Windows, but there’s simply no comparison.
Where to Start?
Tell Us About Your Hobby
These are just 8 hobbies, of course – I’m sure there are a lot more. Did you learn a hobby online, only for it later to become a paid job? Are you learning something online now? Let us know in the comments and share your favourite resources!