5 tips to monetize your passion project

I was 16 when I had my first paid, freelance client.   It was for a music label owned by a TV producer.  I still have him on my LinkedIn.

How did that happen?  From around age 11/12, I spent a great deal of time creating and editing images using Adobe Photoshop and doing websites using Notepad.  I dabbled in ActionScript and Flash, but ended up falling in love with Photoshop.  I took part in Photoshop contests.  Next thing I know, I have made a few hundred images.  The tip of the iceberg of those images ended up in an online portfolio that my first client found.

There is a way to monetize the things that you do as a hobby or in your spare time.  Build up the profile then make the move to monetize.

Even if you decide to change course, there is no reason to hesitate doing this all over again.

When I built Brisbane Creative Industries, I was not successful in monetizing this but it did lead to other opportunities.

When I started building up this blog (it was a completely different ‘brand’ a few years ago and before the blogging break), I started getting offers from content providers to sponsor posts.

After spending a few years online posting replies to expats, migrants and so on, I decided to sign up to ExpatGenius to see if I can monetize something that I enjoy – giving advice.

I love going to art, architecture and design fairs and keeping up with the art news worldwide.  I plan a majority of my trips around these events.  I talk to the exhibitors, other show goers and gallerists.  I take notes of how they display the artwork, the lighting, promotions, how they sell it.  I used to have a blog where I published these notes but haven’t had the time to update it.  I will keep on doing this because not only do I enjoy it and because it’s part of who I am as it combines two things that I enjoy – travel and art.    It may evolve into a business, a consultancy, a network.  Who knows.

I like to travel, live and work around the world.  With this freedom, has its challenges.  I am trying to figure out the monetization aspect of this.  It’s the type of thing that one can gain via life experience only.  You can’t read this in a blog, or in a book.   However, there is a ‘core’ to this.  I am working towards building up my knowledge, skills and experience in this ‘core’.  I have a business card of an entrepreneur tacked on the wall in front of me as inspiration. I am thinking that this is going to be me in about five or so years’ time.

With this in mind, how do you exactly monetize your ‘passion’? Or on a less intense note, how do you monetize your hobby?  Your side project?

1. Create one main hub and channel your efforts into keeping this hub updated

In all instances, I’ve kept one hub online where I upload my work, add my notes, and I add my own profile there.

2. Talk and network with others in that area

I went to Monaco for a luxury packaging event and I decided to catch a helicopter from Monaco back to Nice where I was staying (Nice is more interesting by the way!).  I had a great conversation with someone on the same flight, she was looking for a branding consultant for a launch in Harrods (or Selfridges) in London and wanted someone in marketing based there.  I was in marketing and was also based in London and provided her my business card and we parted ways.  During that time, I was interested in the luxury/digital industry enough to do this.

At the end of the day you gain a lot more by going out there and building valuable relationships.

3. Don’t oscillate too much between one item and the next

I remember instances where I’ve found myself getting in too deep with a particular area.  When you completely delve into an area, it’s very easy to get lost in the research, the websites, the newsletters, blogs, groups, networks.  And you then lose track of what needs to be done.

The thing with oscillation is that it takes time, and that time that is taken could be used for monetization efforts.  You are displaying symptoms of SOS – Shiny Object Syndrome.

4. Find someone or a group to be accountable with

I’ve written a couple of posts about working with a professional coach and it has helped me in being accountable to someone.  I get into a session and the questions that I am being asked helps provide some clarity into the situation.  It takes a lot of discipline and effort.  It’s the reason why people sign up to classes, or university courses, purchase the services of coaches or tutors.

Once you have someone or a group to be accountable with – be it a mentor, a coach, a small group – it helps solidify what you have in mind into something more concrete and down the track, into a paid service offering.

5. Price your services accordingly

The issue with knowledge-based work is that it’s not easily replicable, it’s limited to my own constraints (in terms of time, experience, and so on) and it’s probably going to be hard to automate.  The pricing in these types of areas generally run per hour.  Then, you take into account the time spent in developing the relationship with that person.  They ask questions, you provide answers.  But the answers are the value that need to be priced.  However, how else are you able to get that client?

I know of services where they allow a 5 to 10 minute phone call to ask the preliminary questions.  Then following the phone call, they determine if they can help you.  If they believe that they can help you, they then allocate 30 minutes or 60 minutes with you which they then charge.

Then following that, is some sort of advance and/or unbundled package offering detailing of what’s involved.

Therefore, having a systematic approach may help.  And knowing your limits regarding time spent on work.


Signing up to ExpatGenius


Since 2012, I have been involved with the expat online communities and blogging about the process on this website.  For me, I generally like to publish blog posts – allows me to write things out, while at the same time help others.  Much of it has been to the side in my free time, but I have been thinking about how I can monetize this.

The first idea was some sort of international recruitment type of agency but with a focus on the youth work visa arrangements. Then, I had another that was more of a concierge type of service for highly specific items like getting a VIP invite to an art fair, or finding a tax accountant with knowledge of bilateral agreements.

However in one of the LinkedIn groups that I belong to, I came across a startup that has been launched very recently called Expat Genius. It is a peer-to-peer marketplace and network connecting expats with locals.  It’s currently in early beta stage right now and I decided to try out what being an ‘Expat Genius’ entails so you can read my profile here.  Since it’s beta stage, they are soon releasing a few other features which I’m excited to learn more about!  Setting up the profile is quiet streamlined.

Ever since I posted my profile and offering my services aimed at expats/relocations in Canada, Britain and Australia I have had several responses and questions back – however these responses were outside of the platform and occurred on third-party sites.  The thing here is that a few of these want migration and visa consultancy services and is something that I am not registered to do as it involves answering legal questions that is specific to them.  ExpatGenius does offer legal and tax services but these are only reserved exclusively to professional lawyers and tax accountants.  What I do when I get a response back outside the platform is that I get them to seek out legal counsel for their own situation and once they get to the stage where their visas/immigration is all sorted out, that is when I or an ExpatGenius can come in. However, there may be the opportunity to come in the early stages – for example, if someone requires advice adjusting their profile to the target country market.

Another item that I have in mind is the blur between doing something that is ‘contained’.  For example, if I am assisting someone with their CV or developing their online profile, it does not necessarily mean that I recommend them.  I’m not sure if this is going to be a big deal, since the times where I have helped someone with their CV or profile, I would usually also recommend them since I would already know that person.

KYC (Know Your Client)

Another reason why I decided to go with a platform is that it helps decrease the potential risk of running into anyone wanting to commit migration/visa fraud.  There is an underbelly in that there are scams operating around the whole visa industry especially around high-value countries like the UK and Australia.  In an earlier post, I wrote about being in the cross-roads of a college doing visa fraud as a witness. I don’t want to run into those willing or encouraging to take part in fraud and there are also those that exploit out of greed.  The migration/border security folks do as much as they can to stamp it out, as is the case with this college, but some can fall through the cracks.  Therefore, I’m only working with those that are verifiable and is the reason why I’d prefer a platform like ExpatGenius. I am also sure that across the whole process of them obtaining their visas (if they have not done so already) it would nonetheless help clean up the stream for the aspiring expat.

I will give this a try, then I may end up switching to being a customer of their service!  It looks like they require people to either be the Expat (one who needs the service) or a Genius (one who offers the service).