How to make money with creative side hustles, from people who earn thousands on sites like Etsy and Twitch

"I didn't think I had the skill set to be marketable on Etsy."

Courtesy Sereda

In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post asked its readers how they'd been spending their time in quarantine. More than 250 people responded with anecdotes about picking up a creative endeavor like learning calligraphy and starting a YouTube channel.

Many creative endeavors can also be turned into side hustles. Know how to play an instrument? Try teaching people how to play it on Lessonface. Love making graphics? Try offering your service on Fiverr.

If you're looking to pick up an artful hobby that can also bring in a little cash, here are lessons from three hustlers who were able to turn their creativity into moneymaking endeavors.

Figure out if you have a skill that's marketable

Consider the artistic skill set you have. No matter how offbeat or niche it might seem, there could still be a market for it.

Nicole Harrington, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two kids, never imagined she could make substantial money selling crafts on Etsy. "I didn't think I had the skill set to be marketable on Etsy," she recently told Grow. "I'm not a maker."   

The Harrington family.
Photo by John Connelly

Still, realizing even a small stream of income from the site could make a difference in the family's monthly finances, she decided to try selling some items anyway. After first experimenting with selling jewelry, Harrington realized she had a better option. Since Tucson residents could no longer recycle glass bottles, she had noticed there were lots of those around, and Harrington's grandfather had left her the equipment to cut and fashion bottles.

Her business, Looking Sharp Cactus, which now refashions bottles into household items like serving trays, brings in tens of thousands of dollars per month.

Show people how your art is made

Sometimes the process of creating art is just as interesting, and potentially lucrative, as the final product itself.

Singer-songwriter Sereda had been working in music for nearly a decade without much traction. She'd sold songs to a few movies and commercials and even acted in Netflix's "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile," but wasn't able to find official representation as a musician.

Despite the myriad rejections, Sereda kept honing her craft and investing in equipment to help make the best-sounding music she could. "I had been investing all the money that I made from these little music things into building my studio here in my own home," she recently told Grow.

Sereda streaming on Twitch.
Courtesy Sereda

In May 2019, a friend introduced her to livestreaming platform Twitch, and Sereda decided to start livestreaming her songwriting and creative process. The idea caught on. Today, her Twitch channel boasts more than 200,000 followers and brings in an average of $4,500 per month.

Sereda attributes her success, in part, to really opening up the songwriting process to a wider audience. "It's like this aspect of the music industry that is so shrouded in secrecy," she told Grow. "You almost never hear about major artists and what they're doing in the studio. ... I will show people how a song is made from scratch."

Figure out how to fill a need

The internet offers countless ways to connect, including some that are creative and unexpected — and that can be particularly useful, and even lucrative, when people are feeling isolated.

Cate Meade has been building her business as a personal chef for years, bolstered, in part, by being a top four finalist on season eight of the FOX show "MasterChef." Before the pandemic, she was cooking for four families every week, consulting local businesses, and making media appearances to grow her brand. But when the pandemic hit, many of her weekly activities were curtailed or stopped altogether, and she needed to rethink how to rebuild her business.

During a dinner party she cooked for, a woman in attendance asked Meade if she had any ideas for fun, food-based activities employees at her office could do together even as they social distanced. Meade suggested a virtual cooking class to make fajita bowls.

This personal chef transformed her business during the pandemic

Video by Mariam Abdallah 

The class, which she offered on Zoom, was a hit.

"It was really fun," she recently told Grow. "I did it in my own kitchen and set it up and we cooked a whole meal together." She has since done a handful of virtual cooking classes and charged $1,200-$1,500 for each.

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