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Moonlighting- turning your hobbies into cash

A search on the word “moonlighting” reveals the 80s famous show starring Bruce Willis and Cybil Shephard. But I am not writing about that show here. Basically, this article is about doing what you love part time while you are having a full time job. Then once you have enough client base and contacts, you can quit your day job and persue your passion full time- turning it from a hobby to cash.

Why moonlighting
For family breadwinners, leaving the job just to work on an unproven business idea may be too risky. There’s just too much to lose and fixed expenses/bills that have to be paid. When kids come along, everything becomes very complicated- you can’t risk being kicked out of your home and not being able to send your kids to school.
And, almost everyone I speak to have a hobby that takes up a lot of their time and energy and they will very much like to make a living by doing what they love. The issue: is one willing to sacrifice the time and effort requires to accomplish it?

Paths to moonlighting
Proper Research
You will need to conduct research on your area of interest. Go to a local library to borrow books and read up on them. Internet also contain a lot of good source of information, forums and disccusion groups.
For instance:

  • Freelanceswitch is a site that offers lots of advise for people who are thinking of going freelance. The articles are constantly updated and is very relevant to freelancers, especially those considering to go into freelance writing.
  • Problogger– an excellent site providing tips and information on how to turn blogging from a hobby to making a living.

Advise offer in these sites are free, but very useful and relevant- that’s what makes them the best. You will need to take time to search in the net for those areas that interests you. Participate in forums to find out tips and experience shared by others. For instance, years ago, I was really into handicraft and plan to sell my handicraft full time- everyone love hair accessories by Evita Peroni. However, I’ve learned through participating in forums that “made in China” products which are produced in bulk and sold for a much lower price are killing the craft industry in America. When I observed, it is also killing the industry in Malaysia too. So I’ve learned there is no point of even venturing into this area. After that, I’ve moved on to other areas.

Planning stage
You need to plan on how to accomplish your dreams into turning your moonlighting ventures into a full time job. If you have decided that your hobby/interest/idea is worth a shot, then have very systematic step-by-step on how to accomplish your objectives. It may take weeks, months or even years, but proper planning will help propel you forward.

In order to ensure adherence and ability to stick to your plans, it should be realistic. If you draw up a plan that’s too strict, without any time in between for fun, family time, etc, sooner or later you will give up or burn out. Trial and error will enable you to continually tweak your plan for the better.

Execution
Many people dream of doing what they love. But moonlighters will need to make lots of sacrifices. Sadly for many, things will always remain in the planning stage and ever move on to action or execution stage.

You will need to understand that moonlighting helps you to ‘test the waters’ – you are not yet betting your entire lifehood on whether your hobbies/interests will pay or not. If you do not execute the first step, you will never move anywhere. And we can never be 100% ready or 100% prepared- even if you read the best book in the world, you will never know until you try it out for yourself.

Example of the stages:

1. Product development- how you can develop and effectively package your product into something that people may want to buy.

2. Getting your product/service out in the market.

How are you going to find those first customers? Do you have courage to sell and market your own product? If not, you may want to read up more on sales books, join seminars and research through the internet. You can also request to be transferred to the sales or marketing department- at least you will be paid and given free lessons on sales/marketing. You will gain invaluable experience from there. No matter how good your product is, if you do not get the word out there or market it, how are you going to find customers?

You can also consider joining local support groups or social groups to gain exposure and get to know more people. I’ve known many people who got the word around about their work through giving free seminars and talks and eventually, having enough client to make that full time transition. But, to do that, it will require lots of working weekends and insufficient sleep- if you believe in yourself, you should at least give your effort a try.

3. Doing the moonlighting gig, building up your portfolio and experience

As you get your clients and work with them, you will have the opportunity to built yourself a portfolio. You may not land on high profile clients in the beginning, but by providing good service at a fair price, it may lead to referrals and your work may get noticed. This would take time, patience and ability to handle rejection before you can succeed.

By building your portfolio and experience, you are also able to test out to see if that’s what you want to move on. You will also know what is expected in terms of dealing with the client and if you can envision yourself doing the same thing for the next 10 or 20 years down the road.

Making the transition from moonlighting to full time

After you have gained confidence through having sufficient demand and clients to work with, it is time to make the transition to full time. Still, going into a self venture entails certain risks and you will need to calculate carefully to entire your savings or someone will help to pay the bills in case things don’t work out. If you plan your move well, have carefully laid out risks and backup plans, you will have more courage to make the move.

Examples of people who made the switch:

I will give you an example of two Malaysians who have made the switch into turning their interest to full time in the internet industry:

The 50 top Malaysian blogs can be obtained from Sabahan.com.

Also, example of my people I know who made the switch:

Wee Boon– has been a friend of mine for many years. He has been working in the corporate world for years before deciding that teaching yoga is truly his passion. He spent time after work learning yoga via classes by real yoga masters on every Sunday. At the same time, he also provided tips to many of us on how to stay healthy, how to perform detox on our own and lots of tips. After he was comfortable teaching yoga and had his own client base, he then made the transition. He has quit the rat race for about 5 years now and has no regrets as he is doing what he is genuinely passionate about. He had even gone to India to deepen his knowledge and when he teaches yoga, he also helped his clients by giving them tips- especially some ladies client who like to know how yoga can
help flatten the tummy, etc.

Janet

Janet was previously working in the same company as I am. But she also sold cookies baked by her sister-in-law. Initially it started because her sister-in-law (home maker) was baking the cookies to help pay for Janet’s brother cancer treatment.Sadly, Janet’s brother passed away from cancer, leaving 2 young children. They baked delicious cornflakes cookies, fried seaweed and crabsticks that are more delicious than what is sold outside- and orders tend to peak during festive seasons. Not long after her brother passed away, Janet made the decision to quit her job and go full time with her sister-in-law to make a living baking cookies. She also supplement her income by becoming a Tupperware dealer. She had left since last year August. I’ve asked her how things were after making the transition.

She told me- what she earn is about what she used to get when she was working in the company but minus the medical benefits (our company have quite a comprehensive medical coverage). But life has been much less stressful and she was able to spend more quality time with her children and her husband. She is also able to work on her own time.

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