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Making your Arts Hobby Pay

Many people take up artistic activities in their leisure time without any thought of financial reward. But there are others who make their hobby pay. How do they achieve this? How can someone with an artisitic hobby develop it into a profitable sideline ?

Jane was a university student living in a northern English town. She decided to learn to play the electronic keyboard. Like most students Jane was hard up. She needed money to buy at the keyboard itself, the music books and the lessons. So she decided to earn money playing her keyboard at childrens' parties. One month after she started her keyboard lessons she had managed to learn four popular childrens' songs. She advertised in a newsagents' windows and in the free press as an entertainer who could help amuse children during parties. She soon began to get commissions. She would arrive at the house with her keyboard just before the children. As party began and she would help the mother of the family organising: games, races and competitions. At several points in the party she would tell the children to sit down and would play for them while they sang. No 'request numbers' were allowed ! Her repetoire was only 4 songs. But that didn't matter because children never want to sit still for very long - they soon want to run about and play games again. They were satisfied with two sessions of singing, each comprising two songs. Jane also improvised when some music was needed during games. Jane received 10 for each party. In six months she had made enough money to pay for her keyboard and her first half dozen lessons. She now knows many more than four tunes and she regularly plays at parties, but not just for children. Although she has a well paid professional job she is in demand for all kinds of events requiring live music. She is able to develop her musical interests AND make some money while she does so.

Mark decided to take up photography. As a middle-aged man living in Surrey he felt he needed a hobby to get him out of the house and allow him to make new friends. He joined an local photographic club and bought a simple 35mm SLR camera. Before long he had an idea. He would offer to attend weddings and christenings as a 'supplementary photographer': someone who would add to a photographic record of the event while the official professional photographer was busy taking the 'formal pictures'. As he always dressed like a guest at the events the official photographers were unaware of his presence and did not object. As he was not a real guest at the event he could concentrate on phography and not get too involved in the party. He charged the host of the event just the cost of the films and development plus a 10 personal fee. A few days after the event he would deliver a pack of 40-50 quality colour prints to the host. If anyone wanted a personal copy, or an enlargement, Mark would provide additional prints, adding a small service charge to the cost of development. In this way Mark enjoyed developing his skills as a photographer AND earned a modest income from his work. Six months later he bought a better camera and went on a 'photography' holiday - paid for out of his earnings

Peter decided to make a study of the architecture and history of his home town He wanted a research activity to occupy him during the winter months. He enjoyed the research and meeting local historians. He wrote a short history of his town with photographs of important buildings. He included references to famous people who had lived in the district, or visited the town, in the past. Then one day some of Peter's colleagues at work asked him if he would mind acting guiding a group of foreign visitors to the town. Peter was delighted. He took group on an improvised tour. When the tour ended to his surprise the leader of the group handed him a 50 note and thanked him profoundly. Today Peter has a part time job guiding visitors around his town. He has continued his researches into local history and has recently published a full-length book. He plans to write another soon - on how to research the history of your local area.

Neither Jane, Mark nor Peter are making a fortune from their hobby. But they are paying their expenses and putting money by for the occasional treat. They are also using their new skills in activities which bring them into contact with other people, fellow enthusiasts as well as 'customers' - in short their hobby is becoming a feature of their social lives.

Why not do the same?