7 Ways to Turn Your Passion into an Online Business – No Website Required

Bored of the 9 to 5 rat race? Not following your interests or passion?

We’ve all heard success stories of people “cashing in on their hobby” or “pursuing their passion” to becoming wealthy. And with the Internet opening so many doors for people, these stories are becoming more and more popular every day.

But if you’re the average joe, this may seem like an impossible dream to achieve.

You may think your hobby or passion might not be good enough. Or, you think it’s impossible to reach outside your personal network of family and friends, let alone the millions of potential customers on the Internet. Or, you may be at a total loss for how to setup a website.

Well, have no fear!

While the worldwide web has definitely opened doors for people, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and you don’t even need a website to still get in front of millions of customers online.

Here’s seven different ways or websites you can use to turn your hobby into a profitable business.

Imagine these websites as a shell for your business.

  • They already have secured the storefront in the “supermall” of the Internet.
  • These websites have already built a massive audience of shoppers ready to come through the store.
  • And, they can already take payments for whatever you have to sell.

The only missing ingredient is “inventory” to stock on the shelves.

That’s where you come in!

All these sites hinge on user generated content, where users upload their ideas or products or services to “stock” the shelves. Without your inventory, there’s nothing to sell to customers.

So, while I cannot guarantee you will make millions from any one of these endeavours, what I can guarantee is you will find a way to profit from your passion without having to do all the heavy lifting of building your own website.

1. Doodle a t-shirt design for Threadless.com

Threadless.com - user submitted t-shirt designs

Maybe you liked to doodle during lectures back in high school or university. Sure, they were no Mona Lisa or Sistine Chapel. But, they helped you pass the time and maybe even learned a thing or two.

Threadless offers you a way to get your “masterpiece” out to the masses. Threadless is a marketplace where you can submit a t-shirt design, the community rates a new design every week and if your design gets picked, you can earn up to $2,000 cash for each t-shirt design

Threadless initially started out with just t-shirts but has since expanded to include hoodies, polos, backpacks, notebooks and now laptop and iPhone cases.

Enter the next winning design at Threadless.

2. Write a book through Kindle Publishing Direct

Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing - self-serve book publishing platform

Maybe your passion is writing. You could be a writer professionally. Or, maybe you write in your spare time. Or, maybe you write a blog like me.

Whatever the case may be, you may be holding back on publishing your work to sell, as you’ve heard about how difficult it is to get a book published these days. And since readers are turning to Kindles and iPads, you may be asking yourself “are my national bestseller dreams gone forever?”

Well, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing might just be able to make your bestseller dreams come true after all. With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) you can easily publish your own book to the Amazon Kindle Store. You earn a 70% royalty on all book sales and customers can purchase your book either online through the Kindle Store, Kindle devices or Kindle apps for the iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Mac or PC.

And, if you still want to go the old fashioned route of getting your book to print, you can also checkout CreateSpace by Amazon too.

Publish the next New York Times bestseller with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

3. Invent the latest gadget through Quirky

Quirky.com social product development platform

Maybe you like to tinker in the garage. Or, if you’re an engineer like me, you like to disassemble and reverse engineer everything to learn how it works. This curiosity constantly challenges you to think up new inventions or things to simplify our daily lives.

Quirky.com (affiliate link) is just the thing for you. Quirky is a social product development platform that breaks down the barriers to getting your latest invention out in to the marketplace. All you need is $10 and a 140-character elevator pitch to get started.

As you move through the different stages of development, the “peanut gallery” of Quirky members chime with their comments and feedback, earning them influence rewards. These influence rewards are a dedicated portion of the profits evenly distributed across those members who give their feedback at each step of the process.

If your product makes it to the prototype stage, Quirky will hold a presale to gather qualified buyers while they source the manufacturing for your product. Once your product makes it to the big time and is ready to ship, Quirky will sell it in their online store for you. Quirky has also partnered up with big box retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Target and Toys ‘R Us to sell products too.

Submit the next”light bulb” idea to Quirky and join the likes Edison and Einstein.

4. Design a logo or website with 99designs

99designs - -crowdsourced website design marketplace

Maybe you can more than just doodle, and have legit chops for drawing or designing. 99designs is a way for you flex your artistic skills and help others at the same time.

99designs.com (affiliate link) is a design marketplace where people submit a design project, including a creative brief on the logo, business card, website, banner or mobile app they need designed.

You “bid” on the project by submitting your best compositions according to the design requirements. If the project owner likes what they see from you, they will give you real time feedback or maybe ask for a few revisions along the way.

Each project includes a predetermined prize value that is awarded to the winning designer. Prizes start as low as $299 for a simple logo design to as high as $1499 for a full website design.

Design the next kickass website at 99designs.

5. Build software through Elance

Elance.com - outsourced freelance development projects

Maybe you’re really in to writing code or building software. You dream in 1s and 0s and every decision you make comes with an “if… else” statement. And with apps being all the rage these days, you’ve got the techie skills to make an impact.

Elance.com (affiliate link) is one of several websites, where non-technical people can come and outsource their development projects to people like you. Elance works similar to 99designs, where a project sponsor will submit a brief outlining the work required and then you bid on the work if you’ve got the skills, passion and know-how to get the job done. Projects can range from functions or a piece of code within a larger project, whole websites or programs or simple mobile apps. And pricing for the projects can range from a per project price to a hourly rate and project budget.

Elance has also expanded into offering more than just development projects and now includes writing, marketing, accounting, design amongst other skills. So, it’s a perfect platform for the freelancer looking to launch their career with virtual clients.

Build the next biggest app or launch your freelance career with Elance.

6. Sell your handcrafted wares on Etsy

Etsy.com - world's largest flea market for handmade goods

Maybe you like to spend your weekends hawking your goods at the local flea market, street corner or craft bazaar. While this experience is a great way to learn your sales skills, your success heavily depends on two things – location and foot traffic. If you pick the wrong location without enough foot traffic, you’re going to have a tough time finding customers looking for your product. Imagine if you could have millions of customers right at your doorstep, ready to buy your product.

Etsy.com is the world’s largest flea market where artisans can sell their goods to world. You can sell everything from knitted scarves to pottery bowls to handmade jewelry to just about anything made with your hands (no assembly line or mass production products allowed).

Etsy will provide you with a “storefront” to list your products and advertise to visitors on the site. Once somebody decides they want to buy your crafty item, Etsy will take payment on your behalf. Then, the rest is up to you. You simply need to ship the customer whatever they just bought from you.

Etsy charges a small $0.20 fee to list each item for sale and then collects a 3.5% fee on the purchase amount to cover the credit card processing and overhead to run the website.

Start selling your crafts and wares on Etsy today!

7. Become an ace photographer on iStockphoto

iStockphoto.com - millions of royalty free user generated photos

Maybe you like to snap pictures on your weekend hiking trips. Or, take shots with your trusty, old school polaroid or new fangled Instagram app. If you’ve got an eye for photography, then check out becoming a contributor with iStockphoto.

iStockphoto.com (affiliate link) features millions of user generated images from contributors like you from around the world. Customers include agencies, bloggers, designers, entrepreneurs, marketers, webmasters – anyone looking for that right image to use on their website or marketing material.

By submitting your photos to iStockphoto, iStock doesn’t actually sell your photo to the customer. Instead, you consent to iStock selling a license for the customer to download and use the image. For every time your photo gets licensed, you earn a royalty ranging from 15-40% depending various different factors.

Keep in mind, iStock will only accept photos people want to buy and use for their website or ad campaigns. So, don’t be upset if your picture that’s out of focus or you forget the red eye reduction to remove those “devil” eyes. Take a minute or two to brush things up in Photoshop before submitting your best pictures.

Go shoot your portfolio and submit your best shots to iStockphoto.


Now, these seven sites are only a small sampling of the host of other crowdsourcing, outsourcing or freelance sites catering to user generated content.

What user generated content websites do you use to cash in on your passion, hobbies or pursuits?. Leave a comment below to tell us all about it.

[photo credit: 19138014 | iStockphoto]


  1. Pamela Dale says:

    This is a fantastic post…gives people options!
    I love the asthetics of the post as well…the photos are magnificent.
    Great work Blair…keep this stuff coming.

  2. LOVE Etsy! I was wondering Blair, in your opinion what is the best way to market? Google PPC?

    • Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for stopping by!

      There’s plenty of ways to market a website or blog and it really depends on your time, budget and resources. Personally, I’ve used social media outposts like Facebook and Twitter as the primary ways to market this blog with the most success. I have not used Google PPC at all to this point, but may consider in the future.

      How are you marketing your site today?


  3. This was a great article, never thought of using these sites to actually make a living, but why not? I’d never heard of the Quirky site before, so I’m definitely checking that out. I’ve got a few ideas I might add on there :)

    • Right on Marianney! Let me know what you come up with and I’d be happy to be part of the “peanut gallery” with feedback for you.



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