The leap from doing what you love to making money doing what you love can be a big one. It can take time. Courage. And sometimes you can wonder if it’ll even happen at all.
I spoke with 5 different entrepreneurs in the geek space to learn exactly how they crossed the bridge from hobby to business, and got their biggest pieces of advice for people hoping to do the same.
Watch the video above, or keep reading for the text transcription.
Prefer to listen to the interview? Download the Geeks Who Get Paid Podcast version of this episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, or scroll to the bottom for a podcast player.
The Pim | D&D Viking
Skål bróðir! I am a Dutch writer, editor, and podcaster in the tabletop community.
For some years, I was part of several Discord and Facebook role-playing groups. There, I got inspiration for my D&D games, and in return, I helped others with their homebrew by offering advice or writing. I kept in contact with these groups and kept on writing, hoping that I could one day work professionally in the tabletop community.
Then, I got such a chance when I saw a post for a one-page adventure from Crosshead Studios. I offered to proofread it and help with the writing. We had some back-and-forth discussions, and I did some tryouts writing short encounters.
This was the start of collaboration on several projects, which eventually led to writing, editing, and publishing adventures and other content on Roll 20. This was for both Big Bad Evil brands and Crosshead Studios. And that is how I made my first dollar making roleplaying products. You can too.
If you want to be a writer: Read, write, and design to your heart’s content. Get in touch with the tabletop community, see what projects are out there and whether you can offer your help. Before you know it, you too will have made your first dollar doing what you love.
Kat & Tat | Co-Owners of All Ages of Geek
All Ages of Geek is a multimedia website and company that hosts all forms of geek culture content, like anime reactions, gaming, podcasts, articles, and more.
We are an LLC. We have been an LLC for about two years now, but before being an LLC, we were literally just a YouTube channel doing video games and not knowing what the hell we were doing.
So, I remember I opened a Patreon, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Back then, it was a lot different, so shout out to Patreon for being amazing. It was such a weird experience for me because I was so unorganized, and I was just doing it solo.
From there, I’m like, “This feels wrong. I want to build a team.” So Tat got on board and a few people like our amazing manager FroYo. And honestly, since then, we’ve expanded from just a channel doing Let’s Plays to a full-on LLC company that also provides all forms of like, even like fiber services.
For anyone wanting to get into this realm of geekery that you can actually make money off of, is–You know, I’m not going to say like, “Do what you love and then shine.” It’s not going to be like that. Be more logical about it. You want to be logical about your goals. You don’t want to say like, “I’m going to do like five games at once, and then we’ll do all the trends.”
We used to do that, and trust me, burnout is a thing. I had eight burnouts in one year. It was not fun.
The most logical thing I can give you is to do the trends at first. There’s going to be a lot of things you don’t want to do. Even with us, we’re still growing, and we learned the hard way that you want to do some of the trends, but do the trends that fit with you—quality over quantity.
You don’t want to upload a hundred videos and just be like, what the hell am I freaking doing? You want to have quality content and make it about your personality. That’s my advice. You want to be yourself, but you also want to have your own energy.
Also, don’t mask somebody else. Don’t try to be another YouTuber because it does show.
Tat: And my two pieces of advice are: Do research. So, if you want to be a reactor, or a writer, or anything like that, do your research first. There’s a lot that goes into everything you can do in this space. You need to know what you’re doing before you can actually do it.
And the second thing is: Edit. That can go for anything, podcast, writing, video, anything, edit your stuff before you post it, because you might do something in the reaction or the podcast or your articles that you don’t agree with. Then you have to go back and edit it later.
So make sure you edit the content to make it presentable, like a TV show or a professional podcast or a book, anything like that, all that stuff is edited. Edit your content before you release it to the public.
Kat: Stay weird, stay wonderful, stay awesome. Embrace your inner fangirl, and your inner fanboy, and you inner fan person, every single day!
Related: Read Our Full Interview with All Ages of Geek
Logan South | Actor, Cosplayer, and Professional Fangsmith
I am a nerd. I am a big nerd. I’m a huge comic book fan, superhero fan, always have been. I probably started cosplaying when I was about 13 years old. I made myself my very first Spider-Man costume by hand. Hand-stitched. It even included the raised webbing with puff paint and all sorts of stuff. I did Superman, the Crow, anything that I could piss my parents off by running around on the roof with.
So, I am fortunate enough to be making money off of the industry that I love and all of those nerd hobbies and activities that I’ve had for years.
As far as making my first dollar off of it, it’s gotta be somewhere between playwork and acting as a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator. So, I worked as both Brad Majors and Frank N. Furter in a live production of the Rocky Horror Show and got paid for that, believe it or not.
And in addition to that, I worked as a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator for a long time, and later an Elvis impersonator, even did some shows in Vegas.
So now I am happy to say that I am an actor and voice actor, appearing in film, TV, and video games. And I also have a craft of fangsmithing, which is creating dental prosthetics, fangs, teeth, for vampires, werewolves, movie characters, superhero characters, mutants, villains, all sorts of things.
So, I’ve been doing that for about ten years and have made, you know, some pretty decent money. It’s been a real joy to be able to support myself through the passions that I’ve always had. And especially as someone who grew up when, you know, being a nerd, wasn’t so cool before we took over the whole Hollywood film industry and everything.
I had a lot of people, relatives included, that told me I was never going to get anywhere with that kind of thing. And I did. It makes me happy that they were wrong. It makes me happy that I get to do what I want to do and enjoy my life the way I want.
So that’s a little bit about me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Be nerdy and proud!
Related: How I Got Started as a Video Game Voice Actor
Tabi | Geekful Creations
I am the owner of Geekful Creations, a crochet business, and also a journalist and creative freelance writer.
It’s hard to think about my first sale specifically because I’ve had so many different initiatives over the years. But as far as crochet goes, my first sale came when I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it a business yet. I had been posting things to Instagram that I was doing, and someone reached out and asked if they could buy it. And the rest is history.
For someone who’s starting out, it’s hard to come up with one piece of advice. But I would say use social media to your advantage. Connect with other people who are doing what you’re doing, share your work out on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter so that people can see it, and research what other people are doing price-wise.
You’re never going to end up with exactly what other people are doing for your prices, but it gives you a good place to ballpark when you’re starting.
This leads to my second piece of advice, which is don’t undervalue yourself. Don’t undersell your work. We all put our hearts and souls into everything that we’re doing. And depending on what it is, there are material costs to consider. There’s the time spent in it.
In most cases, when you start to undersell yourself, you’re likely to end up dealing with more complicated customers who have higher demands and burning out because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
Most of us running small businesses know we’re not really gonna make it on those businesses. And by making it, I mean, it’s not going to be a solid income for all of us. So you don’t want to lose that passion by underselling and undercharging, and putting yourself in debt for something that is a supplementary income.
Your work has value. What you’re doing has value.
So I guess those would be my biggest two pieces of advice. Don’t undersell yourself and use the tools that are there to help you promote yourself. And don’t be afraid to connect with other creators to see what they’re doing.
Sol | Sole’s Roles
I am a TTRPG content creator, independent game dev, Twitch streamer, and health and wellness coach.
I got started in this industry because I burned out of my career in public health education. I was coaching individuals over the last two years of the pandemic, and I hit my limit. When I hit my limit, I looked to other things to do. At the time, Spencer Campbell from Gila RPGs was running a LUMEN jam.
I decided, “Why not? Let’s go ahead and give it a shot. I’ve been playing and running games for 30 years. I might as well try making something for once.”
I joined the jam, and I was successful. I created Black Hole Era, and that’s where I got my first sale. I got chills. I still get chills for every sale. It’s really, really exciting.
For anyone else out there starting out, just know that you have to persist. You’re going to spend a lot of time on marketing. You’re going to spend a lot of time trying things that don’t work very well. You might not get your first sale for a while. I got very lucky. I’m very aware of that. But if you keep putting the hours in, if you keep putting the effort in, you will find success. You will have that sale, and you can’t know how that feels until you get that validation.
It’s really incredible. And I’m really excited that more people are sharing this journey. Thank you.
Related: How to Become a Professional DM (And Be Good At It)
Thank you again to Pim, Kat, Tat, Logan, Tabi and Sol for sharing their stories and advice! As you can see, no matter what area of the geek space you occupy, be it TTRPG, cosplay, gaming, crafting, or anything else, there are opportunities to start making money with what you love.
Let me know in the comments how your hobbies are going. Are you making money, or do you hope to in the future? I want to know about you!