“I know what I like to do,” the little thinker smugly says, “but I couldn’t possibly make money doing it.”

Many of us carry around a belief (often hidden) that earning money is only appropriate when we’re not having too much fun doing so. What nonsense. If you look around, you’ll see that some of the most abundant people are also those who are having great fun with their work.

Of course, you need to examine your own thinking and see if you’re carrying around outmoded ideas about what is and what is not possible for you. Even more important, you need to begin with the assumption that any passion you have can become the basis for earning money, if you so desire.

A useful exercise is to write down a broad passion (e.g., working with teens, flying airplanes, collecting china, writing essays), and then start a list of all the possibilities you can come up with to make money.

My friend Chris Utterback was the publisher of the Herban Lifestyles newsletter. She once created such a list of possible ways that a passionate gardener could earn money. In fact, her first venture came about because of her love of gardening. She says, “I was overjoyed when my first harvest of French tarragon grew. I was overwhelmed when it grew into a huge patch. Not having any idea how I could use up all of my crop, I thought I might interest some Denver chefs in it and earn myself some extra income. Not only were the chefs interested, they were delighted. My tarragon was my entree into the world of making a living without a job.”

Chris was so delighted that her avocation could also be the start of a new vocation that she kept generating new ideas about other ways garden lovers could make money from their passion. Here’s her list of wonderful ideas:

Lecture to garden clubs and other small groups. The most inventive use of miscellaneous talent that I’ve seen was a lecture given to our garden club by a man whose flyer read, “Gardener, Photographer, World Traveler.” He was also a member of the Actor’s Guild in New York. His slide presentation of “Monet’s Gardens at Giverny” was a perfect mesh of his talents. While narrating his show, he drew upon his acting ability to play the part of Monet. This enterprising man received $125 for his time. Moreover, he had created a “product” he could market over and over again.

Sell your passion. If you love to photograph gardens, for instance, but you hate the thought of teaching, sell your slides to those who would like to lecture but haven’t the visual aids to do it. I’d love to teach a garden design class (a subject in great demand), but since my gardens aren’t completed or it’s the wrong time of year to take garden photos, I lack the visual aids I need. Purchasing the photos of others would get me going.

Perhaps woodburning is your hobby. Why not make custom herb garden markers and sell them at weekend flea markets? Other products of interest to your fellow gardeners could be marketed at summer fairs, garden shows or farmer’s markets.

Sell your excess. My abundance of tarragon was unbelievably easy to sell to chefs. I started by making a list of all the restaurants that were French or that I knew used fresh herbs. Then, on a Saturday, I cut my tarragon, divided it into quarter-pound bunches and placed them in buckets of water in our van. My husband drove me to each restaurant on the list, where I knocked on the kitchen door, tarragon now in a large flower basket, and was greeted enthusiastically by the chefs. The chefs sniffed, caressed and tasted my tarragon. They were impressed by the freshness and wanted more. I had to make it clear that I could only produce random amounts and that they should continue to get it through their usual distributor. They appreciated my honesty and continued to buy from me when I had it available.

You could sell flowers, seedlings and many other self-produced items this way, too. Here in New England, gardeners put a table and sign on their front lawn to sell berries, flowers and excess produce to passing motorists.

Enter county fairs. A friend of mine tells me that every year her entire family enters houseplants, pies, herb vinegars, jellies, etc. in several local fairs. They win numerous ribbons and money for their entries. Check with your local extension office for dates and applications.

Write. Many newspapers, newsletters and magazines include an article on herbs in every issue. If you find writing enjoyable and are willing to learn what it takes to get things published, then you could easily start to bring in income for your efforts. You may be able to circulate the same article over and over to noncompeting markets, too. After you’ve written a number of articles, you may decide that there is a book in you, thus producing long-term income through royalties. Writing also gives you the recognition that could lead to many open doors in the future.

Flaunt your garden. That masterpiece that you have toiled over just may produce added income if you enjoy the company of others touring your garden. Display gardens are very alluring to other gardeners. Even if you have a full-time herb farm, bookshop or restaurant, a garden adds to its attractiveness. You may also be able to attract media attention and/or create other opportunities such as consulting and lecturing by opening your garden to the public and gaining visibility as an expert.

Don’t overlook related interests. Even though my primary focus became writing an herb newsletter, I also became proficient in another field, desktop publishing. Because of this I have been able to pick up freelance publishing and typesetting jobs and have been asked to teach seminars for the local computer store.

An idea-starting list such as the one Chris wrote for her gardening passion can start your imagination working. You may find that your passion leads to several undertakings, each with a satisfaction of its own. As Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling reminds us, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” Maintaining an ongoing idea file is a necessary means for keeping track of ideas as they come to you. Not only will such a file become a valuable personal resource, challenging yourself to add to it on a regular basis will generate fresh and innovative notions that can become the seeds of great enterprise.

There’s more where this came from.
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