For years, I’ve been advocating people forget about their passions for a minute, and start an online business the boring way:
- Learn the relevant skills
- Freelance one of those skills to build income and confidence
- Then apply it to the more fun stuff.
This video outlines my thoughts on that process:
Why am I such an advocate of this process?
Frankly, because it works.
And things like professional blogging, affiliate marketing, membership sites, dropshipping apps etc. – those are all much harder than most people make them out to be.
I see it over and over again, someone gets excited about building an online business around one of those super sexy business models – then quickly get frustrated because they haven’t developed the necessary sales, lose motivation, and eventually give up altogether.
And I hate seeing this, which is why I encourage most people to freelance first – because it’s the easiest way for beginners to gain that confidence in their ability to be successful while learning the necessary skills in the process.
Did you hear all of that?
If making money as quickly as possible is the most important thing you’re looking for, start with freelancing.
Note: It’s also necessary to mention that freelancing isn’t easy either – and it takes a lot of work. BUT the process is simple and is more a matter of putting in hours and not getting frustrated by people saying “no.”
Now that we’ve established that, I have a new message I want to put out there:
I think everyone should build a brand around their greatest hobby in life.
This isn’t about making money quickly, or frankly, it may not even be about making money at all.
But it is about building an asset for yourself that will enhance your enjoyment of your hobby many, many times over.
In 2012, I started my golf site Breaking Eighty.
Since doing that, I’ve played dozens of the world’s very best golf courses (often, for free).
I’ve built meaningful relationships with some of the most influential people in the golf industry. And even met a few celebrities along the way.
I’ve taken trips that never would have been possible otherwise.
I’m on the short list for the latest review products and cool golf products.
Most importantly, having this brand has enhanced my enjoyment of the sport I’m so passionate about on a daily basis.
I’m not special. I didn’t have any connections in the golf world when I started. I’d never taken a golf trip before. I’d never played a private golf course before.
The difference between me and millions of other golfers out there?
It grew slowly, but even from the beginning, I was able to start seeing the benefits of adding my voice to the conversation.
The best part?
I’m not unique, and this isn’t about golf.
Regardless of what your hobby is, there’s a way for you to build a brand around it that will be meaningful in so many ways.
In this post, we’re going to look at 10 reasons why I think everyone should build a “Hobby Hacking” brand around the thing they’re most passionate about.
1) Become Better at Your Craft
My two primary hobby sites have been around photography and golf.
When I started my photography site, I took thousands of photos that I wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
I learned the ins and outs of how to do HDR photography the right way, which has become incredibly beneficial with both Location Rebel and Breaking Eighty.
Part of what helped me gain recognition with my golf work is because of photos like this:
These are skills I would never have had were it not for the photography site.
To take things a step further, to create content for Breaking Eighty, I’ve had to play more golf – which has brought my handicap down from an 18 to about a 7. Had I not started these sites, I’d still mediocre at best at both of these things!
2) Gain Access You’d Never Have Otherwise
I remember less than a year after starting Breaking Eighty, our community manager Liz was talking about going to a big PGA Tour golf tournament in her home town of Boston.
I told her I thought I might be able to get some tickets through my site.
I ended up getting approved for media credentials, and she got to take in the tournament inside the ropes – which is something very few people get to do.
Think about your niche and what kind of access you’d kill for that you can’t get as an ordinary person.
Russ Smith talked in this case study interview about how he’s received invites from tea farmers all over China to come visit their properties and taste their tea, which for him he mentioned has been a dream come true.
This would never have happened were it not for building a brand around tea.
3) Give Likeminded People a Way to Find You
You know when you’re just starting out with something, you’re constantly seeking out other people that are like you?
Whether it’s people you want to learn from, commiserate with, or just geek out about your shared interests – we’re always looking for those similar minds.
That’s why online forums can be such a positive thing.
Well when you start a site, people start finding you.
It’s been unbelievable how many people I’ve met through my blog and related social media channels. And I don’t have to do any of the work – they seek me out!
4) Turn it Into a Business
As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, I don’t think this is the best way to build an online business quickly – but if you’re in it for the long haul, this new brand can become an excellent business with multiple streams of revenue.
With Breaking Eighty I’m now making money from marketing consulting in the golf niche, affiliate reviews, and a membership community.
The site is at a point where on its own it provides a full-time income – but part of the reason it’s been successful at doing that is that for the first two years I didn’t worry about money.
I simply worried about building the golf site I’d want to read, and I tried to build up trust and relationships with my readers in the process.
5) With a Business Comes…Write Offs…
And one of the best parts about owning a business? Write offs.
So all of those fun new toys you want to buy? Now it can become a business expense 🙂
6) Get Review Products for Free
As you establish your voice, expertise, and trust with your audience one of the best ways to start getting tangible value out of the site is to review products that you use and enjoy.
I had at least a dozen golf products I liked (clothes, shoes, balls, bags etc) and I started writing reviews for them – from the average, amateur golfer’s perspective.
Not only did I start bringing in a little bit of revenue through affiliate marketing, but golf and PR companies took notice and started offering to send me products to review.
I can’t tell you how surprised (and elated) I was when that first shiny new $500 driver showed up on my door.
7) Become Well Known in Your Industry
A few years ago I was playing an extremely exclusive golf course in the Hamptons – the kind of place that I have absolutely no business being.
I was playing with a member of the club who found me through my blog, and we were paired up with two other people.
On the 3rd or 4th hole, one of them asked what I did and mentioned my website. And both of them turned to me and said “wait, that’s you! I read your site!”
I was shocked. But what’s become even more shocking is that this has happened over and over again.
A couple weeks ago I was out at breakfast for my wife’s birthday. As soon as we walked in the manager of the restaurant goes “Hey! Breaking Eighty!”
The stories like this go on and on. And I never set out to be any kind of celebrity of the golf world, but that recognition helps with so many of the other points listed on this post.
8) Build a Sellable Asset
I had no intention of building a brand I could sell when I started Breaking Eighty (and I still don’t have any intention of selling it), but I have had a few people make me offers on it – which was absolutely shocking.
It’s great to know that as the site grows and I continue to build it, it’s only going to become more valuable.
9) Improve Your Digital Skillset
What’s the first step of the boring way to build an online business I mentioned above?
That’s right, learn the relevant skills.
Building a website is the best way to create a training ground that will allow you to get hands on with those skills.
So if you’ve got the free time, building your Hobby Hacking site in tandem with starting a freelance business, will give you another avenue for learning essential skills, and give you something to shift gears to when you need a break from freelancing.
10) Have More Fun
Last, but certainly not least, what happens when you add all of this stuff together? Simply put? Golf is way more fun than it would have been without the site.
It feels like there’s more of a purpose behind what I’m doing, and if I want to go play 18 holes so I can review a new set of clubs? You feel a lot less guilty about it when you’re doing it for your business 🙂