Do you paint miniatures as a hobby and wonder if it could make money for you? You’re not alone. Many hobbies can make money, but few hobbies are able to earn the kind of cash that miniature painting can.
In this article, I share my experience and knowledge as a commissioned miniature painter in order to help you figure out if miniature painting could be a good business for you.
One way to monetize your hobby is by offering your services on sites like Etsy, Fiverr, or Elance in order to get commissioned jobs from other people who want their models painted.
But there are other ways too! If this sounds interesting, here are key business things you should know before taking the plunge into making money with your miniature painting hobby.
- Painting miniatures as a fun hobby may diminish when you turn it into a “true” business
- It is worth trying to make money with your hobby side gig
- For a personally sustainable hobby that makes money outside of your day job, stay authentic to your style and approach
- Keep good records of your commissioned projects, whether they are making good money or not
My History as a Hobby Miniature Painter
I’ve always enjoyed making art, so for the longest time I would practice drawing or painting in my spare time. It was something I really enjoyed and didn’t think about doing it as a “job.” One day, a friend pointed out that painting miniatures could also probably make money.
In the beginning, I started off small with painting miniatures. My first gig was painting my friend’s figurines and he would pay me if they looked good enough to him when it came time for his next game session.
It felt amazing being compensated through something that had previously been just a hobby of mine. So after this experience, I decided to go on social media platforms, like Facebook, in search of more gigs where people might need their minis painted too!
Why I Enjoy Painting Miniatures for Other People
One reason I like miniature painting is because it forces me to be creative and think outside of the box when it comes to problem solving. As a commissioned miniature painter, I often have to come up with new ideas and adapt my style to the client’s preferences.
Of course, there is a limit to how much I can change from the way I make art, so it’s a balance of expectations. Hint: Clear and continuous communication is essential for any good commission-client relationship.
For a long time, I had no real direction or purpose when it came to painting miniatures but now that I am working on them for clients, I have more motivation to learn and improve my techniques as best I can. In fact, you can find what I’ve learned about painting approaches for professional work in this article and throughout this site, which is always growing!
Look, there is a definitive difference between something that makes money and a hobby. Hobbies are something that usually remains a hobby. It’s fun and you have no pressure to meet anyone’s expectations. There is always a little bit of concern when it comes to turning something you love into a business, such as losing your love for it or it failing at a job.
While it may be challenging to take on a hobby to business venture like this, there may be some clear signs that your miniature painting hobby (or any fun activity) could be a brilliant business. Let’s look at some of them below.
1. You are Investing in Your Hobby
When you develop your hobby, you may find that you are investing more and more. Whether it’s buying materials, starting an Etsy shop, or buying new (and expensive) equipment, you’re spending increasing amounts of financial resources into what was once a small budgeted activity.
There are also more business expenses that you may be investing in that fall outside the normal hobby expenditure like the use of a virtual post box like physicaladdress.com or US Global Mail. I’ve begun to use virtual mailboxes for collecting invoices, model kit packages, and more outside my home address.
Virtual mailboxes are the perfect option for anyone who is too busy to go down to their local post office. More importantly, you can receive any package at a virtual address of your choice. This means no one will be able find out where it came from or what was inside when they delivered it.
When you’re handling and creating transactions with pricey deliverables, like collectible miniatures and figurines, your hobby has taken on a level of responsibility that goes into the realm of “business”.
2. You Have Set Price Points or Designed Items for Sale
If you already sell your creations from your hobby, and you have started to think about price points then you have set the value of your work. This is a clear sign that you have the potential to be successful as an entrepreneur. If you’re already making sales and researching your market, then it’s possible for your hobby business to become much more financially rewarding if given the right amount of focus in time.
Make sure you do your research when it comes to setting prices, as asking friends and family for their opinions or what the competition is charging can help. Here in the United States, a good freelance miniature painter may charge a fair market value rate between $8-20 per hour. Of course, this depends on the complexity of the client’s project, your skill and efficiency in your work, and what you deem as fair value for your time.
Setting your commission painting prices too high might be a good way of getting commission clients that aren’t in need, but won’t get you many repeat visitors. Selling yourself short may mean not making enough money from those who are only coming because they want more than an affordable price.
3. You are Already Bringing in a Good Income
Not all hobbies bring in enough money to survive with a good standard of living–of course, this depends on where you live. If you’re trying to turn your hobby into a business, then you’ll have to examine the opportunity-cost. Opportunity-cost in this case is the loss of potential income that you could have earned if you didn’t do something else.
If you look back at your hobbies in the past, can you remember any hobbies that had the potential to make significant “I can leave my day job” money? This is rare!
Ultimately, this may be the most important thing to think about when you are deciding whether you should take the leap and leave a secure job. It’s possible to make a living as a full time miniature painter, but it is pretty damn rare! (I certainly don’t.)
Of course, maybe that’s not your goal. A miniature painting hobby can certainly be a good supplement your income. And, at the very worst, you’ll have a hobby that pays for itself. Buy any and all the paints you want. Invest in the fancier airbrush. Wouldn’t that be cool?
On the other side of the coin, if you are making an income from your hobby that is nearly matching, or is overtaking your regular income, then it may just be the ideal time to start turning it into a full-time business.
4. You Make More Money Than You Spend on Your Hobbies
If you already make more money doing your hobby than spending on it, such as painting and selling miniatures more than buying them, then it is possible to turn this hobby activity into a business. Of course, you’ll have to balance this observation with the calculus of whether transition would give you a liveable income without your day job (see sign #3 above).
For example, the model railroad trains I collect are hobbies. But, they’re hobbies only because I spend more on them than I make selling stuff online (mainly to fund other hobbies). If they were making me a small profit each month, then my model train hobby would surely become a business with a soft nudge, right?
If you can make more money than you spend doing a hobby, whatever it is, this is a solid sign that it could turn into a profitable side gig later on down the road.
5. You Would Enjoy it More Than Your Current Job
Oh, this is a scary sign to contemplate. You’ll have to admit something deep to your coworkers, your dependents, and whomever you work for (and with) that you’re quitting because you enjoy something else. You’ll have to be honest and vulnerable with yourself and others.
When it comes to making a big decision like leaving your day job to become a full time miniature painter (or blogger, novelist, muscisan, photographer, etc), your true feelings are what matter most. Well, almost. Consider your kids (if you have them), and other people who depend on you.
If you enjoy your hobby more than your current job, and already make significant money with it (see above), then this is also a sign that it may be time to turn the page.
Even if you enjoy your day job, love the people you work with, you may find that you may feel better being your own boss. Yes, you need to think about whether you will still enjoy your hobby as much if it was a business, and doing it every day. But if you think it could work, there is no harm in giving it a go.
6. You’ve Got What it Takes
A huge part of making hobbies into businesses is having the right mindset and skills. I’m not going to get into which hobbies make good businesses, and which hobbies don’t. Let’s just take one example that we’re all familiar with: blogging (or writing books).
If you enjoy writing, like expressing opinions, and don’t mind being in front of the computer for a few hours each day (or more), then blogging could be an amazing business venture. The right hobbies to make money include whatever you’re good at, or passionate about.
But there’s plenty of hobbies out there that are great hobbies which won’t make you any money. It’s hard to say which hobbies make money, because there are so many hobbies! It also depends on where you live and your culture. At the end of the day, you’ll have to try it. “Just do it!”
Again, if you know you’ve got the right mindset and determination to turn a hobby into a business, then you may just be ready to go for it! Don’t let others discourage you. This is for you.
7. You Have Skills to Offer
What hobbies make money that you can do? Are you a fast writer for example? Or, are you able to paint miniatures with extraordinary skill (or simply faster than other painters)? Whatever your hobbies, or whatever hobbies make money that most interest you, then think about what skills could help your hobbies make money in a burgeoning and successful business.
If you’re good at making and repairing computers, maybe this hobby could make money for you as some form of computer services or tech support. You could do the same thing with hobbies for VHS tapes, 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, floppy disks, turntables (vinyl), vinyl records, flash drives, compact discs (CDRs), and so on.
(I know I’m dating myself)
As a commissioned miniature painter, I’ve picked up a lot of skills that let me paint quickly and efficiently. I can paint entire armies faster than most casual collectors. This gives me an edge when it comes time to hit a project deadline or meeting the expectation of a client. I also don’t second guess myself when I have set a goal. I just run flat out and complete the job, as described.
Overall, here’s my thinking: If a hobby you do is something that you enjoy, then that hobby can make money if you have the skill to pull it off. I know I’m being vague. I don’t know what “skill” is in your context, only you do. But, I know it takes a bit of creativity on your part to figure out how to use your skills for your fun time to become your profitable (money-wise) time.
It’s a common question: What hobbies can make money? Can miniature painting become a worthwhile business? There are many ways for you to turn your hobby into an income-generating business, but there is no one answer.
Some people do it by painting miniatures for themselves and then selling them on the side. Others start blogging about their craft or skill set as a way of making an income. The key thing to remember is that this decision should be made with care because if you give up something else in order to pursue your new dream job, you might find yourself missing what came before!
Do you have a hobby that you want to turn into a business? What have you started looking at? Please share them in the comments below.
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