Projects That Pay: Spare-Time Shooting: Making Hobbies Pay Off

Make some spare change shooting leisure-time activities.

When looking for money-making video projects, many of us think that businesses
and schools are the best places to ply our services, but people’s hobbies
and local volunteer organizations are an untapped, potentially lucrative
market whose time has come. From amateur sports leagues to community theater,
from the local Shriners’ parade to community college evening classes, you
can make money videotaping other people’s hobbies in your own spare time.

Memorable Moments

Take a look around you. All the people you know do something unique,
interesting, fun, important or memorable in their free time. Your brother-in-law
may be the coach of a junior soccer league or play guitar in a local band.
Your sister may be a member of the local chapter of a women’s organization.
Maybe your Aunt Lucy shows her quilts at crafts fairs or your neighbor teaches
an adult education class at the local community college.


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Although they don’t often realize it, most local volunteer organizations
and hobbyists can use video as a promotional tool, for archival purposes
or for fundraising. Your job is to scout out these individuals and groups
and convince them that a videotape that shows them "doing their thing"
is a worthwhile investment and that you are the person to shoot it for them.

"The key to working with hobbyists and volunteer organizations is to
focus on their memorable moments," says Daniel Harris, a freelance
hobbyist videographer. "Public events, games, performances, master
classes and guest speakers are all important to the people who participate
in them, sponsor them or watch them." Of course, memorable moments
that are important to many people provide you with the bonus opportunity
to sell profit-making copies of the tape to the participants, audience members
and those enthusiasts who couldn’t make it to the event, but wish they had.

Start Close to Home

You don’t have to look far to find potential customers for your new
spare time project. Do you have any hobbies or belong to any volunteer organizations?
According to Harris, whose favorite and most lucrative projects come from
his own hobbies and interests, that’s the best place to start looking. If
not, ask your family and friends about their hobbies and the organizations
to which they belong. Explain your services and ask if they can get you
started. Be flexible: if a group can’t afford to pay for a half-hour video,
offer a shorter version. Adjust your pricing to reflect your skill level
and the time you expect to invest in the project. You might suggest to trade
your video services for membership or special discounts.

1. Local Amateur Sports

If you or your family and friends are sports fans, local amateur athletic
groups are a ripe market for your spare-time business. Every town hosts,
at the very least, a Little League team, if not several adult and juvenile
sports teams or clubs from football to basketball to street hockey. Many
towns and cities even sponsor marathons, road races, car derbies and other
non-team sporting events that also provide amateur videographers with great
money-making opportunities.

Investigate the amateur athletic groups and events in your area. Approach
the coaches or sponsors and offer to tape the important games, races or
even the whole season. If you know individual athletes, offer to record
their winning event for a small fee. Consider partnering with another videographer
or two to capture footage from different viewpoints.

Whether you decide to videotape the Little League playoffs or a local 10K
run, you’ll be surprised to see how eager both the coaches and the athletes
are to see themselves scoring the big goal or crossing the finish line.
If you sell copies of the tapes to participants and spectators for $10-$20
each, you can make your sideline interest a real winner.

2. Community Arts Groups

If the performing arts are your thing, community arts groups are a rich,
untapped market for your new project. Most areas have local non-professional
singing, dance, musical or theater groups that would love to have a videotape
of their upcoming performance or rehearsal. And if live music is your passion,
hook up with local amateur rock, folk or jazz bands who are always looking
to record their gigs for use in obtaining new bookings or recording deals.
Since most of these events take place at night, be sure you have adequate
lighting equipment. Audio is critical for performing arts videos. An external
microphone is a minimum requirement and an audio mixer can give you detailed
control over the quality of audio.

The arts and music listings in your local papers are the best way to find
your community arts groups. Contact the groups, live music clubs or individuals
directly and explain your services. Offer to tape their next performance
for a reasonable fee. If performers or audience members would like copies
of the tape, offer to sell them.

3. Special Events and Meetings of Local Organizations and Clubs

If your hobbies or those of your friends and family are community-oriented,
videotaping special events hosted by local organizations is a sure-fire
way to make some extra money. The Lions Club, The Shriners, and even the
Fireman’s Union all sponsor community events like parades, children’s fairs,
guest speakers or lawn parties that they would love to have taped and would
be willing to pay you to do it. Simply call these organizations and find
out what they have planned. Offer to tape the events for a small fee and
you’ll see how easy and profitable it is to get the community spirit.

If you or your friends have special subject interests, look for smaller,
specialized community organizations. Maybe your local Chess Club, Garden
Club or Book Club has an event coming up. Scan your local paper for press
releases or call these clubs directly and offer to tape their event. You
may choose to charge a taping fee or sell copies of the tapes to make your
money, but either way, you’ll make a good profit as you indulge your own

Check your local public library for events like author appearances or children’s
performances that need taping for the library’s archives, sales and fundraising.
Maybe you can arrange to videotape all the library’s events for the year
and fill your mind as well as your wallet. But before you agree to videotape
a visiting author or performer, make sure the library has an OK from the
guest. Chances are the visitor will be thrilled to have a video of his presentation
and will even pay you for a copy or two.

Churches, synagogues and other religious groups are also good markets for
the amateur videographer. Holiday concerts, guest speakers and other special
events are memorable occasions that you could record. Contact your local
religious organizations for a calendar of upcoming events and offer to videotape
those that are interesting to you.

4. Arts and Crafts

If quilting, ceramics or basket-making are your avocations, check out your
local crafters’ or artists’ guilds for potentially lucrative markets. Individual
crafters and artists often need videos of their work to apply for grants,
gallery showings and craft fair demonstrations and they are often more than
happy to pay you a reasonable fee to shoot one for them. Local crafts and
artists organizations also frequently sponsor events like gallery openings,
guest presentations or awards banquets, which they would love to have taped.

Local craft stores, fairs, galleries and hobby supply stores are good places
to find potential customers. If there are arts and crafts organizations
in your area, call and ask for their calendar of events. If you can get
their mailing list or put a flyer in their next mailing, that’s a good way
to reach other artists and craftspeople directly.

5. Adult Education Courses

Maybe you have an interest in American History or Art Deco. Do the stock
market or health issues fascinate you? If your hobbies or those of friends
and family take you into the academic world, check out your local universities,
community colleges, hospitals and other institutions for scores of adult
education courses in subjects from Buddhism to Baby Care. Many of the course
instructors and their hosting institutions would be very excited to have
a tape of these classes for archives or promotion.

Check your local newspapers for announcements of adult education courses
and contact the sponsoring institution about videotaping. If you know the
instructors of the courses, approach them directly. Tapes of these classes
serve many purposes and you can easily sell copies to the instructors, the
hosting institution and the students. At $10-$20 each, you can make a tidy
sum and learn something new in your spare time.

Making Your Hobby Professional

Whichever hobbies you choose to pursue in your spare time, Daniel Harris
says it’s important to remember the basics of video production–lighting,
composition, sound recording and storytelling. And since most of the memorable
events you will be covering only happen once, be prepared at your shoots
with extra batteries, tapes and microphones. If you plan to sell copies
of the tapes of special events, Harris suggests pre-selling them at the
shoot by setting up a table and providing an order form for people to fill

Add a little professionalism to your videos through editing, titles, music
and other effects and you’ll find your services in high demand. Many hobbyist
videographers find that most people are willing to pay a little extra for
these special touches, and when they see how well the video turned out,
frequently call you again next time. Who knows? With so many people and
hobbies to choose from, in no time you may find yourself with a profitable
full-time job in your spare time.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.