When do your hobbies become more than just fun pastimes? When they start making good money for you.
In his latest book, Hobby Boss, guitarist Steve Mastroianni empowers you to turn something you love into a profitable business idea.
Steve built a six-figure annual revenue based on playing guitar. Whether you're looking to switch careers or make money on the side with your hobby, he has helpful tips to offer, some of which he discusses in this useful interview.
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Rock stars are a breed apart, and rock stars who are authors are even more special, which is why we lucked out on our latest guest.
We last saw Steve Mastroianni two years ago, talking on the show about his first bestselling book, “Practice Less, Play More”. He and James first met, however, at Ryan Levesque’s ASK Master Class in Texas, where Steve was an instructor. The two hit it off, and Steve went on to join SuperFastBusiness.
The book that prompted this episode
Steve’s latest book, and the reason James has asked him back, goes somewhat broader than his first title. Hobby Boss reaches beyond guitar playing to anyone who has a pastime they enjoy. The topic: how to make money from your hobby.
James puts the link out nice and early for those who already want to buy the book: hobbybossbook.com. He’s not an affiliate, but he does believe in people having opportunities beyond their current experience.
Fun fact: Steve wrote the book in a Google app on his iPhone, while rocking his twin boys to sleep. If you have lingering excuses not to produce something of value, that should pretty much dash them. Steve touches on it in his book, that you don’t need a big office, you don’t need a logo or a big business name to make something profitable.
The book came out of his experience building his own business in 2014, Rockstar Mind. He was caring then for his father and, having placed his rock star ambitions on hold, needed to pay the rent.
Rockstar Mind started as as a guitar coaching company. But it was, says Steve, from day one, also a guinea pig to teach people. He knew he was going to learn online business through Rockstar Mind, and then eventually find all the relevant frameworks and formulas and systematize it, so that he could eventually teach it. Everything he did with the business from the beginning was to model it towards that goal.
The year after Steve’s appearance on SuperFastBusiness, his business doubled, which gave him a lot of confidence. He knew he had to share what he knew, what worked for him, especially for startups, where it was difficult to find information all in one place. He wanted to lay out for people, in simple language, what got results for him and his clients.
Says Steve, he needed to get the book out, knowing how impactful it would be for people who didn’t know how to add new sources of revenue to their finances. He read somewhere that even 500 extra dollars per month for some people is life-changing. And to accomplish that without additional training and certification, doing something you already have a passion for, was a cool thing to do and to help other people achieve.
Accepting the inevitable challenges
When trying to start a business, says James, it’s very rarely someone hits a home run out of the gate. How important is it, he asks, for people to recognize that nothing will be handed to them, that everything has to come from within, and that it’s going to be tough?
Buying his book won’t get you a business – you have to execute. Fast action, quick and dirty.
“Prepare for things not always working out.”
And the resilience, Steve says in the book, is a damage plan. You have to prepare that things aren’t going to work out. You can be ahead of that, be proactive and say, Okay, if this happens, like my hard drive fails, here’s how I’m going to take care of it. Step one, step two, step three. If someone trolls my post, here’s how I’m going to take care of it. Step one, step two, step three.
“You’re responsible for every dollar that you make, at least at the beginning.”
One of the shifts that you make, the identity shift that you make as a hobby boss, as an entrepreneur, is that you’re responsible for every dollar that you make, at least at the beginning.
Even if you have someone help you out, you’re still responsible for masterminding the whole thing for the vision. It’s very different from a job, where if you show up and do the work, you get a paycheck. With a business, there could be salesless days for weeks.
Being your own best cheerleader
Also in the book, Steve mentions a technique he devised for helping himself through rough spots. On days when he feels really, really good, like if he closed a sale, made $1000, or was just really productive, he records a video for himself, saying, Steve, this is awesome.
It shows him how good it can be, and what’s possible, even with three kids and various stressors. On a bad day, watching that video is a strange thing, he says. It flips a switch, where he’s communicating with himself on multiple levels. Fortunately he hasn’t needed it much, but it’s there if he needs it.
James recalls the reminders he used back in his job to boost his morale, to serve as anchors. There was the Rolex Daytona he bought upon making general manager. And further back as a 23-year-old, when a customer shamed him for wearing a tie from Target, he spent $220 on a Gieves & Hawkes Savile Row tie. He’s now well past the need for such artifacts, and is happiest in bare feet and a T-shirt.
The thing about trolls like James’s fashion shamer, says Steve, is that you realize they spot things. And if they can see where you fall short, perhaps other people see them too, and that could be the reason you fail to convert. Whether you change things because of that, or whether you allow it to hurt you, is up to you.
When a client leaves, says James, he simply asks them why, and how he can improve. It’s a hard thing to do, but he realizes it caused them to leave, and that’s a hole in the bucket he’d like to plug.
Expecting and recognizing the tough bits
In the course of monetizing your hobbies and interests, says James, there are going to be obstacles, but you can expect them. Don’t be shocked or surprised when they come. Expect them and say, Hello, I recognize you.
“Celebrate the difficulty in business.”
That’s the barrier. That’s the moat that keeps everyone else out. So celebrate the difficulty. Because if it was easy, it would just level out. Three hundred million Americans would have their own hobby businesses. And then it would be commoditized and homogenous, and back to zero.
It’s great, says Steve, that it has a barrier to entry. It’s empowering for business owners, because you know that as long as you develop a bit of resilience, like doing a bicep curl, you’re strengthening that muscle. As long as you do that, a lot of the filtration will be automatic, because many people can’t handle it.
He wasn’t always strong like that, he says. Sleep deprivation is surprisingly very good for business. It kills the perfectionist, and gets you moving quickly. He wouldn’t say a productivity/life hack is to have kids, but it kind of is.
There’s absolutely no way, says James, that he would have the life he has now if he didn’t have kids. Kids make you a lot more responsible than you could be without them.
Can you get rich off your hobby?
That’s the question many will ask. Will you actually make money off your hobby? If you read the book, says James, you may notice there’s actual work involved. You actually have to speak to customers, you have to find out the language they’re using, something Steve draws a lot from the training he and James have been through.
Then, too, you may have to create your offer around an actual need, rather than your desire to sell something, which is scary news for some people.
There are two key questions as well, says Steve. You have to know if monetizing your hobby will affect your passion for it. Might it actually tarnish how you feel about your pastime? This is where moving fast can be a good thing, because it allows you to test things.
Also, if you’re into some obscure hobby, you may need to research whether there is actually a market for it. Have you competitors? And then carve out your own space, but making sure that it’s something that you actually want to do. You might like the idea of something, but you really want to picture what your life would be like.
If you’re making an extra $10,000 a month, what are you prepared to do to get that, and will you pay the price? It’s not easy. You have to show up and do the work.
“Increase your luck? Then increase your surface area towards luck.”
James remembers a nice saying he saw: If you want to increase your luck, then increase your surface area towards luck. More opportunities, like Steve said – move fast, push a few buttons, see what happens and be less perfect about it. And you’ll find it.
James has done it, and what you’ll see are the parts of his business that are left – SuperFastBusiness, SilverCircle, a bunch of revenue shares, a handful of domain names he sells. The rest, he turned off.
It’s something you may need to experiment with a bit. But Steve’s guide is great, says James, because it eliminates the learning curve. It’s an 80:20 blueprint with great perspective. He hasn’t seen some of the things mentioned in Steve’s book anywhere else. And he reads a lot of books.
Why storytelling and being real are important
James invites Steve to talk a bit about “us versus them”, choosing an enemy/storytelling. It seems to be an element missing from most of the offers James looks at when coaching.
That’s right, says Steve. It’s like banner blindness, like people are afraid to show any personality and any warmth. Steve gets message from people who can’t believe he replied to them, and it makes him cringe that other companies treat them like a number.
Steve brings people into his life. He’ll talk about his kids puking on him, then smoothly segue into a pitch for something, like for instance making a mess – a lot of guitar players make a mess when they’re practicing, figuratively, by doing… whatever the segue is. But it’s pulling people into a real story. People need real life.
What price would you pay for that income?
A very interesting thing, says Steve, is that when you go through chapter six, and the ideal outcome that you want, when you think about it, you don’t need to have $10,000 a month. You don’t need to expect that it’s going to be a huge business. Just start off and get things going.
And then when you start making those sales, what’s going to happen is, Steve experienced this back in 2017 – he actually sacrificed a pretty good consulting gig for half the pay, but he was much happier, because he was doing something that he loved.
When you’re doing what you love, and you actually realize the freedom that you can work when you want to, you can do all the fun things that you see with the laptop lifestyle.
Steve just wanted to touch on that, because it could scare people away to hear about some of the successes that he and James have experienced. And when you’re starting out, it seems a mountain away. But when you make that first sale – Steve still celebrates the first sale of every promotion, because it’s special.
When you see that your ideas can turn into dollars, it’s an incredible feeling. And as far as the marketing goes, the excitement that you gain makes you open up, you start to show more of yourself. And when you reveal yourself more and you help people, you always want to be serving your customer.
And the more that they get what they want, they’re going to keep buying, and you’re going to keep wanting to serve more, and it just keeps going and going.
And when you come up with a business idea, This would be so great if I could do this, you don’t have anybody to ask, it’s just you, and you just go and do it.
That’s an incredibly empowering experience, says Steve. And that’s probably what keeps him hooked into it, is that part never gets old.
It’s also a great reason not to have partners, if you can avoid it, says James. It’s one of the most liberating things about his current membership business model. And revenue share deals are different because it’s really someone else’s business. He’s the smaller partner in it, and he totally respects their authority, their ability to make their own creative choices. He’s just a guide.
The opportunities don’t just end
The intent of this episode, James thinks, is to let us all have a think, no matter where we’re at, whether we’re a startup or already established. Because even if you’re established, there’s still plenty of opportunities for you to have that second thing or a third thing.
Steve, for instance, did a book on guitar playing. And here he is now with a book on making money off your hobby.
James has a friend in a technical field who loves woodworking. He was disappointed because his accountant wouldn’t let him claim his woodworking tools on his tax return. James suggested he buy or set up a woodworking website, making it a business, which is just what the friend did. James imagines he could buy Steve’s book, follow the instructions and develop it further.
Don’t lose sight of the simple things
What’s very interesting, says Steve, is that he still looks at the book, and needs the reminders. What’s funny is entrepreneurs, he says, can be so stubborn. They’re set in their ways, looking for the shiny thing, but forget the simple things that got them to where they are in the first place.
Or they get expert error, says James, where they think they know all their stuff, and stop learning and optimizing.
One of the things James found quite touching in Steve’s book is that he mentioned, after quizzing customers about their needs, he spends a bit of time with them, helping them with whatever they need help with. That’s the kind of generous attitude, he says, that’s gotten Steve where he is today. And it’s what’s missing from a lot of marketers.
If you want to turn your hobby into a source of income, check out Steve’s book, Hobby Boss, at hobbybossbook.com.
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