COVID side hustles: Some Americans are making money off of their pandemic hobbies

NEW YORK — Did you ever think, if you just had the time, you’d be so much better at your favorite hobby? Apparently, living in lockdown for a year did the trick. Six in 10 Americans have “leveled up” in one of their hobbies since the start of COVID-19, according to a new study.

The recent survey of 2,000 people finds 60 percent say they’ve improved their skills in one or more hobbies since last March. Also, 56 percent expect to be an “expert” by the time life returns to normal. Respondents took up an average of three new activities during quarantine. They noted improvements in active hobbies like running or yoga (35%), preparing food (34%), and making art by painting, sketching, or drawing (34%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Silhouette America, the survey also asked respondents to use a standardized competency proficiency scale to rank their previous and current skills in their most-improved hobby.

The typical respondent said that at the start of quarantine, they’d have ranked themselves as a “1” — meaning they had a functional awareness or basic knowledge of their activity. Ten months later however, the typical respondent would now rank themselves as a “3” — having intermediate skills that they’re able to use in practical application.

So how do you know you’re getting better at something?

covid hobbiesOf those polled, 48 percent say they make fewer mistakes or can fix them more easily. Another 45 percent said they work more quickly and efficiently. The same number added they’ve noticed mental improvements, like better memory or focus. Survey-takers also shared some of their proudest hobby-related accomplishments over the past year. These include knitting a blanket for the first time, learning and mastering a new recipe, or holding a conversation in a foreign language.

“I built a new dresser from scratch for my daughter,” one respondent reports. “She wanted a large dresser with some designs carved into the wood to personalize it. I felt it was an accomplishment because she gave me high approval and said it’s exactly what she wanted.”

One in four Americans even said they’ve received a prize, award, or money for their hobby since the start of quarantine. Forty percent think it’s “very” or “extremely likely” that they’ll be able to make money from their hobby once the pandemic is over.

“Mastering a new skill or craft feels empowering,” says Silhouette America Chief of Sales and Marketing Officer, Toshiyuki Unaki, in a statement. “It allows a person to take pride in what they are capable of accomplishing, which can transfer into stronger confidence in other areas of their life. When you can take on learning something new, it feels like you can take on anything.”

The right tool for the right job

covid hobbiesOver half the poll (57%) are itching to get better at something new, with 51 percent ready to try something that was intimidating to them in the past.

Overall, the average respondent has spent $165 and 181 hours on their hobbies since nationwide shutdowns first began in March 2020. However, 53 percent also say they spent money on a hobby they later abandoned. Another 42 percent purchased a tool they weren’t skilled enough to use yet.

“More than ever before, I’ve realized how great it is to have a few good tools that are versatile enough to be used across my various hobbies,” crafting expert Kelly Wayment explains. “Something like a digital cutting machine may seem intimidating at first, but the time spent learning how to use it pays off when I can use it for so many different crafts!”

So far, over half the poll (52%) have bought new tools for their current hobby that they didn’t even know existed before. Those include knitting looms, pompom makers, resin molds, yarn winders, and cutting machines.

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