Finding a hobby you love can change your life — and for some, that can even mean changing careers. 

The list below features individuals who turned things they love to do in their free time, from perfecting pastries to playing video games, into successful, full-time professions. While a few channeled their passions early in life, many took the leap later.

Feeling inspired to pick up a new hobby? Check out these 31 activities you may not have thought to try. And if you’re interested in turning your hobby into a job, read these helpful tips from Indeed

Zach Wigal | Gamer and Nonprofit Founder

Zach Wigal has built a career on a love for video games and a belief that “the world is better when kids can play.” In 2008, he founded the nonprofit Gamers Outreach, which provides gaming experiences to children in hospitals across the world. The idea was born from Wigal hosting a high school video game tournament that doubled as a fundraiser for charity. 

At the time, the gamer realized there was a need for bedside entertainment for young patients who couldn’t leave their hospital rooms, so he brought the games to them via a portable, medical-grade video game kiosk called GO Kart. “I’ve always felt games bring people together,” Wigal told Game Rant, adding: “We want video games to be fully integrated with health care facilities.”


To date, over 400 hospitals are supported through Gamers Outreach, and more than 4.3 million gaming experiences are provided annually. 

Sharon Stone | Actor and Painter

Sharon Stone turned painting hobby into career
Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images

After acting for over three decades — starring in thrillers like Basic Instinct, Casino, and Total Recall — Sharon Stone went off-script and started a new career chapter as a painter. “I didn’t have any real intentions, except just following my passion,” the 66-year-old artist told CBS Sunday Morning.

Last year, she presented her abstract paintings in her debut exhibit, “Shedding,” in Los Angeles, and participated in her first international exhibit in Berlin this year. 

Although Stone made art during her childhood and years at university, it wasn’t until a friend gave her a paint-by-numbers kit during the COVID-19 pandemic that she rediscovered her passion and began sharing her paintings on social media and elsewhere. 

“Everybody told me to stay in my lane, and my lanes started to just get so narrow,” she said. “I don’t think I’m just an actress, or a writer, or a painter. I think I’m just an artist.”


Joanna Goddard | Writer and Lifestyle Blogger   

Joanna Goddard went from blogging as a hobby to creating what the Wall Street Journal called “a blog empire.” Her blog, Cup of Jo, has been around since 2007 and continues to be a cozy corner of the web filled with kind words on all things parenthood, relationships, and simple pleasures.

In a post back in 2012, Goddard admitted, “Never did I imagine Cup of Jo would be anything more than a fun hobby.” Over a decade later, her blog is still going strong with “4.2 million monthly page views and over $2 million in annual revenue,” per WSJ, and a dedicated collective of readers who share their thoughts about a myriad of topics, including aging, therapy, and cinnamon rolls

Last year, Goddard also launched a new weekly newsletter called Big Salad, which she described as a place “for thoughtful, warmhearted people who love discovering the surprises and delights, big and small, that make life meaningful.” 

Jesse Jackson III | Pastry Chef Instructor

Pastry chef instructor Jesse Jackson III’s interest in cooking started as a teenager when he was helping out his mom and grandmother in the kitchen. In an interview with the Restaurant Scientist, Jackson said his mom would give him cake mixes as “a way of showing me how to follow directions.” 



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♬ Le Festin (From “Ratatouille”) – Movie Sounds Unlimited

With cooking experience at home under his belt, he was drawn to culinary arts in high school and quickly fell in love with the cooking process. From there, he went onto culinary school and became an executive pastry chef before becoming an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, where he showcases his pastry skills in the classroom — and on TikTok. 

Ingrid Nilsen | Candlemaker

After Ingrid Nilsen retired from her career as a YouTube creator in 2020, she found her way back to pursuing creative, hands-on activities. One of those turned out to be candlemaking. Shortly after trying it out, Nilsen was hooked and turned the pandemic project into a business. 

Alongside Erica Anderson, Nilsen co-founded The New Savant, a Brooklyn-based “scent studio” featuring imaginative candles inspired by her life. For example, Mixed Feelings is a candle influenced by Nilsen’s mixed heritage while Library in a Forest represents her love of nature, books, and fantasy. 

As for advice when it comes to pursuing creative projects, Nilsen emphasizes the importance of resilience: “If someone doesn’t like me or my work, I’m fine with that — I don’t want universal appeal, I want my work to land fully with the right people,” she told Eater. “Not only does that make me a stronger artist, it makes me a happy one.”


Dan Pelosi | Food Creator and Author

Dan Pelosi is the smiling sensation behind @grossypelosi, a feel-good pocket of social media filled with heartwarming and hunger-inducing videos, ranging from holiday cookie recipes to the beauty of eating meals on a stoop.  

In an interview with La Cucina Italiana, Pelosi — a former designer — explained his shift from cooking as a hobby to cooking as a career began when he started sharing food posts on Instagram during the pandemic in 2020. “Without a doubt, the best part about this whole experience was that over the course of those months, people were telling me I helped them get through, made them smile, and taught them something,” he said.

Pelosi has since launched a recipe-filled website, a bestselling cookbook, and a line of swag that raises money for SAGE USA, a national advocacy organization supporting LGBTQ+ older adults.

Leslie Frelow | Wine Entrepreneur

A fondness for wine became the foundation of Leslie Frelow’s present-day career. Per CNBC, Frelow started leading virtual wine tastings and tours to Maryland wineries as a side hustle. Later, in December 2020, she launched The Wine Concierge, an online wine store featuring wines produced by women and minority winemakers, which quickly became her full-time occupation.


When it comes to entrepreneurship, Frelow said: “It’s given me the ultimate flexibility to be there for my aging parents, to pursue something I really love, which is seeing people’s excitement from trying wines they didn’t know existed.” 

Janine Kwoh | Greeting Card Designer and Author

Janine Kwoh is the founder of Kwohtations, a small business specializing in greeting cards and gifts that “embrace the diversity, complexity, and kinship in our lived experiences, and always with humor and empathy” per its website. From a pride collection to her friendship cards, Kwoh’s designs radiate inclusivity, kindness, and realness. 

Per Street Trotter, Kwoh started making greeting cards “on a whim” in 2011 — and continued to pursue the hobby as a creative outlet and side business. Fast forward to 2018, and she made the leap to running the business full-time, noting that the time in between was integral: “It gave me time to refine my products … to learn more about how to run a small creative business, and to begin to build up a customer base before I made the big leap,” said Kwoh.

She also channeled her talent with words and art into Welcome to the Grief Club, a book filled with moving illustrations and empathetic prose based on her own experience with loss. “I hope this book brings a spot of comfort in hard times,” she writes on her website. 


Nora El-Khouri Spencer | DIYer and Nonprofit Founder

For Nora El-Khouri Spencer, what started as a DIY home repair hobby has grown into a career and movement. In 2020, Spencer launched the nonprofit Hope Renovations to provide free construction skills training to women and nonbinary individuals while also helping older adults with their home repair projects — and she was honored with a CNN Heroes Award in 2022.

On her website, Spencer explains that she noticed a lack of women in the construction community and wanted to help narrow the gender equity gap. At the same time, she saw a growing need to help older people stay in their homes — also known as aging in place. “So I figured it made a lot of sense to solve both problems at once,” she wrote.

Helen Levi | Ceramic Artist

Helen Levi is an artist based in Queens, New York, whose love for ceramics goes way back. She told Glamour she started making things with clay in first grade and kept exploring new techniques into early adulthood, including making pieces “on the side” while she pursued various other part-time gigs, like waitressing and working as a photo assistant. 

In 2013, she pursued pottery full-time and continues making a range of unique pieces — from “mugnorahs” and wall clocks to Do Good Mugs (50% of the sales go to different organizations), all the while finding joy in the process. “I’m doing what I love and making a living while being authentic to me,” Levi said. 


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