How young workers are monetising their hobbies

More than moonlighting: How young workers are monetising their hobbies

Not long ago, people with more than one job kept quiet about it. That’s because ‘Moonlighting’, as it used to be known, assumed people’s day jobs would suffer if they worked in the evenings.

Today, things are very different as more digitally-enabled entrepreneurs turn their pastimes into pennies. But more than taking a second job though, they’re creating small businesses which they run around their work commitments.

Research by Barclaycard suggests the average Brit has three hobbies outside of work, but those between the ages of 18 and 35 have four. 

Millennials are leading the way in monetising their personal interests and have been  labelled ‘slashies’ due to the number of ways they identify themselves on social media profiles, for example, ‘accountant/foodie/author/adventurer’.

The trend is driven by two forces: one is the rising cost of everyday essentials, which makes money for hobbies a welcome addition; the other is easy access to marketplaces via free online tools, websites, communications channels and payments software.

A recent Barclaycard study found that almost a quarter of Millennials are actively generating sales from their interests to build on income from their day job.

One such budding entrepreneur is 23-year-old Hollie Jack, who works at a PR agency in London. She loves her job and subscribes to the truism that if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. 

Early in 2016, she started an Etsy shop called Hollie Craft after friends and family suggested she turn her passion into a business. Hollie sells personalised gifts, including artfully designed picture frames, and has seen growing interest in her products. 

Hollie says: “I spent months in my workshop drawing up design ideas, sourcing the best quality materials and looking at consumers I wanted to target. I started to make products and uploaded them online. People began to take note, so I contacted some local gift shops and interior design companies online.

“I had my lucky break when an interior design boutique in Essex wanted to bulk order a particular frame from me to stock in their showroom. It was such a lovely feeling knowing someone had something I had made in their home. From that point, I spent a lot of time pushing existing products on my social platforms and business slowly but steadily came in.”

Jane Cooper, a 28-year-old social media consultant, started her business 12 months ago under the brand name Hex Cavelli. From a tiny workshop in her home, she creates hand-made jewellery pieces from silver, as well as wall prints which she sells from an online shop.

Jane grew tired of the nine-to-five and decided to revisit her passion for creativity, which she had nurtured during a textile design course at Falmouth University.

“I had not used my design skills for a few years,” she explains. “It took a while to find the right head space to develop my designs but once I started to explore carving and jewellery design, I felt so inspired and the brand grew from there. 

“Now that I am designing it has become an essential part of my life, more for my happiness than my bank balance. I find it fascinating to understand what people are looking for and see their response to new designs. When I make more money than expected I put it back into the brand.”

Jane and Hollie both use a wide range of technology to run their businesses. Jane began with an Etsy store but migrated to Shopify, an ecommerce platform and website builder. She posts pictures of her work on Instagram, which she says greases the wheels of her business via online networking, exposure and feedback.

Hollie uses Instagram to promote her work too, and has developed a Facebook page additional profile. She says business tools offered by these websites support her to track engagement in real time and see who has expressed an interest in her pieces.

She also thinks that  eBay proved invaluable for sourcing materials at a good price, helping to keep costs low as she establishes the business and begins to grow it. 

Ollie Tunmore, is a 20-year-old student at Bournemouth University, currently on a 12-month industry placement as part of his course. He started working as a photographer at just 13, shooting school events, music gigs and private sittings.

“I started photography as a fun hobby that got me doing something different and meeting new people. The fact that around the age of 17 I started actually being paid for my work and getting a name around was unexpected and exciting.

“I kept my photography up all through my studies, and now do it whenever possible, on placement and in my free time. I shadowed some friends who work as photographers and started doing bigger jobs like weddings and proms, and from there it's just kept going.”

Ollie admits he wouldn’t have a business without his suite of online tools, which include a Wix website, Wordpress blog and Adobe Lightroom, which is affordable photo-organising and editing software.

He says these help him focus on his core obsession: photography. While on work placement, he is taking as many gigs as he can in his spare time.

“This weekend I’m attending a festival in Portsmouth which I will photograph and write a report on. Next weekend I am photographing a wedding in the South Downs which I cannot wait for. I look forward to seeing where I can take my photography and videography skills in the future, and how I can factor it into my daily work.” 

All of this is evidence of how attitudes to jobs are evolving. Young people in particular see themselves as wearing several hats with their role existing as part of that mix rather than the be-all and end-all of their career. With technology improving all the time, the next opportunity could be just around the corner.