Making Money from a Retirement Hobby

by After 50 Finances Reader Contributors

You’ll have more time for hobbies in retirement. Why not use those hobbies to make some extra cash?

Dear Gary,
My husband and I are about to retire. We both have hobbies. I make doll houses and he does woodworking. After retirement, we’d like to use our hobbies to make some extra money from home. Can anyone give us advice on how we go about making money from a retirement hobby? Are other hobbies better for making money?
Reba

How Do You Go About Making Money from a Retirement Hobby?

We turned to our retired and soon-to-be-retired hobbyist readers for their best tips and advice for making money from a hobby. Here’s what they had to say:

Look Into Craft Fairs

Crafts can be a very good source of income. I have been making a living on my crafts for 30+ years. I make pottery and durable goods using recycled materials. A rule-of-thumb that I learned in the early days is that you should charge four times the cost of your materials. If you sign up for a craft fair, you should take in ten times your booth fee. Some people are happy with less, but you should never be satisfied with just making your booth fee back. That is like giving away your work. Try different craft shows. Churches and schools often have them, and it’s a good place to start. Shows that have been going on for many years are most likely the best.

As far as what to make, look at skills you already have and what you can do with them. One thing you will never make money on is afghans. If you knit or crochet, try making stuffed animals because craft shows are usually low on quality things for kids. Wooden toys are great, and custom signs are also a good bet. Be prepared to take custom orders. Make something that will be useful or decorative, but not silly, political, and deprecating.

Take a look at websites like Etsy.com or Instructables.com or ones dealing with your particular interests for up-to-date ideas for crafts. Do not copy what you find, unless you make significant changes that will make it your own.
Jennifer

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There Is Opportunity

You might want to look into local festivals and craft shows. Many small folk and music festivals have craft areas where vendors can display and sell their crafts. Some charge a small fee for space in the craft area. I have purchased many wonderful things at such places, everything from jewelry to a hand-carved walking stick.
Judy

Sell Online

To make some extra money with your doll houses and woodworking projects, check out Etsy.com. Take photographs including close-ups and at different angles of the object, and post on Etsy’s website. Set your price, and see how it goes. Another idea is renting a booth at your farmer’s market and/or at flea markets.
Kim

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Consider Charitable Contributions

I think doll houses and woodworking could definitely make some money. Try advertising on eBay, Etsy, Artfire, etc. I loom knit and crochet hats, scarves, leg warmers, and shawls. I’ve sold a few and given more to charities that give me an acknowledgment letter, so we save on our taxes with these in-kind contributions.
Celeste

Make Sure to Sell During Holiday Season

You should google “flea markets” for the state that you live. This is an excellent way to sell your homemade goods, meet new people, and network. I would visit several of them first to see if you see a lot of newer items or if it’s the old antique/garage sale type flea market. You definitely need to go where there is a market. Also, a few months before Christmas is the perfect time to sell, as people are looking for “new handmade gifts.”

There are also many online avenues for selling goods like eBay, Etsy, etc. You have to consider shipping costs and all. However, this gets your goods out there and all over the world basically.
Jamie

Look for Places to Sell Your Items

Visit the local library for a book on starting a craft business. Build up your inventory. Also use the following to look for places to sell your stuff: EventLister.com and NationalCraftShows.com.

If you form a business, you may be able to travel to events, sell your products, and claim a tax deduction. Please check with a tax advisor. Alternatively, you can host your own show and list your event in the directories above. Also don’t forget Craigslist for a free listing.
Aurelia

There’s a Big Difference Between a Hobby and a Business

I worked as a small business consultant and your question is far more complex than you might think. First, are there license requirements in your state or city you must get before you do this? Check with the local and state government.

Second, you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. Is this something you want to do by setting up tables at fairs, etc.? Or do you want to use a store on consignment or open your own? Each has different opportunities and skills required.

Third, you must consider taxes. How you will collect them per each state you sell within and how you will pay on the profit you make? You might need to create an LLC or Inc. That might change how your taxes will be paid.

Fourth, how much money do you expect to earn? How much liability will you have? How much are you willing to risk until you create a profit?

Fifth, I suggest that you schedule an appointment with a business counselor via your local SCORE, which is a free service, or see if your state offers something like it. Going into business is complex and can be risky. Most new businesses do not take a salary for at least two years and/or fail. I owned and ran two businesses and was executive director of Taneytown Chamber of Commerce for eight years before I retired. I saw many new businesses fail because they did not prepare ahead. You can probably do this but realize there is a big difference between a hobby and a business.
D

An Avenue Worth Exploring

I would like to suggest making wooden soap dishes and selling them on Etsy. Also, wooden soap molds and soap cutters bring in money as they are in demand for soap makers. Hope this helps!
Cindy B.

There Is a Market

If you want to make money from woodworking, there is a ready-made market for Waldorf-inspired toys for babies and children. To research this, go to Etsy.com and type in “Waldorf wooden” and you will see all sorts of beautiful offerings for people who want such items specifically. They are simple, elegant, non-toxic, and high end. Some offerings are for large, time-consuming items that sell at high prices. Others are for wooden toys that can be turned out by the dozen, but are exceptional in their cleverness and fetch a good price. If you look on Etsy again under “craft supplies,” you will find wooden blanks and parts, even moss, twigs, stones. As a Waldorf teacher, Etsy is my first go-to because I prefer to support the craftsman over the commercial Waldorf-type catalogs.

As for doll houses, people who offer the really fabulous ones sell them for thousands of dollars, and there are buyers as surely as there are collectors. But if I were working in doll houses, I would keep one or two of these projects going in the studio for an eventual bonanza. For more regular income, I would concentrate on accessories for doll houses. Because each item is in miniature, you can get a good price with a minimum of materials. One year, my niece was making a large replica of my childhood home for my sister for Christmas. It was a rural house, so I bought materials to make tiny glass jars of canned fruits and vegetables as a kitchen accessory. How fun! They sell for real money to those who have no time or inclination to do it themselves. The same is true for miniature framed photos of a customer’s family, miniature favorite books (there are blanks for this), linens, towels, curtains, etc. If you could source an entire room of remembered things, you wouldn’t even need to make anything. You would just package it. In fact, kits that you put together for dollhouse collectors who do want to make their own is yet another possibility. Personally, I love kits and will pay for somebody else to get everything together. Just package all materials for your miniatures plus instructions in a plain zipper baggie or muslin bag (online). Hit the craft shows with this!

Your husband’s woodworking skills could fit in here, too, if he would consider making the big dollhouses for you to outfit. That would give you total control over style and perhaps you could produce doll houses that are replicas of actual homes.
Earlene

Do You Have Any Advice for Making Money with a Retirement Hobby?

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Reviewed August 2019

How do you go about making money with a retirement hobby?

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1 Comment
  1. Very well written post. Check this out. What’s the best way to learn how to be successful as a business owner? I’m trying to start a landscaping company but I’m really worried because I know the failure rate for new businesses is really high. Have a good one. :]

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You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

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