How to turn your hobby into a business with Kelsey Rodriguez

Tune in on:
Apple podcast iconSpotify iconGoogle podcast icon

Kelsey Rodriguez is a full-time artist, YouTuber and all around content creator. She started out on YouTube back in 2020 and has since been able to build an audience of over 160k subscribers. She has managed to turn her hobby into a career by helping other artists build their businesses and developing different revenue streams.

In this episode of Creators on Air, Kelsey shares how to use Social Media as part of your creative practice, overcoming impostor syndrome and deciding when to monetize as a creator.

Thank you to our sponsor @StoryblocksCo!Take back creative control with Storyblocks' unlimited royalty-free stock library and tools today:

Follow Kelsey:

💻 Website

🎥 YouTube Main Channel 

🎥 YouTube Second Channel

Episode Transcript

Akta: Today's episode is sponsored by Story Blocks. As a content creator, sometimes you'll find yourself in a situation where you need B-roll sound effects, music images, or motion graphic templates, but you might not have the time or budget to create them yourself. If that sounds familiar, then check out story blocks.

With their flexible subscription plans, you can get unlimited, high quality downloads without having to deal with paperclip pricing or additional licensing costs. Everything you download with your plan is royalty free, so you can use what you need without having to stress about any copyright strikes.

Creating can be stressful enough, so check out story blocks. How do you turn your hobby into a business? And is it even possible to make money from your passion without losing your love for it?

Kelsey: You really can make social media a part of your creative practice. You can make videos a part of your art. I think of my content sometimes as an extension of my art.

Akta: Kelsey is an oil painter who started sharing her art journey on YouTube. She's now built an audience of 160,000 subscribers by helping other artists to build their businesses and by building different revenue streams. She's on track to make $150,000 this year. In this episode of CRA on Air, Kelsey shares how she turned her hobby into her business.

Kelsey: Yeah, so I was a political science major in college and I was really focused on international affairs and security studies and. I was trying to do internships that first, um, COVID summer of 2020. That was my junior year of college. And when the pandemic hit, everything kind of fell apart. All of my applications didn't end up being accepted.

Those internships were put on hold and no one kind of knew what was happening. Basically that first Covid summer, like no one knew how long this was gonna last, and I had always been interested in art as kind of. Like a relaxing thing for me. It'd always been like an amazing hobby. And I decided to start my channel because of that.

Just kind of to have a backup plan possibly. Like I figured I had nothing else to do that summer. Why not just kind of try in a way that I hadn't really ever before. And I'd actually been watching a video by Catherine Manning who really popped off that summer for lifestyle and kind of YouTube content and.

Yeah, she was a huge inspiration to me, for me, and I just started my channel and it really kind of blossomed from there. Yeah. And what do you 

Akta: think has made your channel grow? Because I feel like there are so many artists, YouTubers out there that. It can sometimes be difficult to stand out. So what do you think has helped you?

Kelsey: For sure. I think it's absolutely the business content. There is no one quite in the community who is as focused on business content as I am, who has built up a massive library of advice videos for MAR for artists surrounding business and marketing. And I think that's really where I've been able to stand out in ways that I think.

Like I wish other people would, would make that content, but they're not. And I found this gap in the market and I took advantage of it the best way that I could. And 

Akta: what's the main piece of business advice you wish more artists knew that could help them grow their 

Kelsey: business? Honestly, so many things. Um, Like there are just so many misconceptions when it comes to marketing yourself.

Online artists see marketing as like a chore or even not authentic, that they can't both be on social media and also be themselves authentically. And I think that is a massive misconception. I think that you really can. Make social media a part of your creative practice. You can make videos a part of your art.

I think of my content sometimes as an extension of my art, and I think that's a much better approach to social media. And I think that oftentimes artists view creating content as, again, a chore. But really if you're smart about it, you can create content. That helps keep you accountable for your unartistic goals, kind of creating content around your goals and what you want to achieve as an artist anyway.

And that consistency and that accountability will both help you grow your business and help you really stay true to yourself and your own goals. I 

Akta: love that. I love how you've mentioned, um, accountability as one of the benefits of using social media. How else has YouTube helped you as an artist and as someone who's running a business?

Kelsey: I mean, it's helped me take my, my channel and my art full-time for one. I mean, that was a, that was a huge thing for me. I was a college student. I didn't come from a lot of money as a kid. And just being able to take my art full-time, being able to be a full-time creator, that was, that was life-changing.

And like in so many ways, I'm able to spend the day painting and making stuff and helping people, and that is just, that is. Such an incredible job that I'm so grateful to have. 

Akta: And how did that actually evolve? So when you started posting online, how did the, how did your income streams start to develop along the 

Kelsey: way?

For sure. Yeah. So I started again in May, 2020, and I got monetized, I think in. It was last November. Um, not this past, but the one at, but from before that, um, so November, 2021 and it took, you know, A good year and a half for me to get monetized. I was making basically nothing. I was working as a freelance virtual assistant and a video editor at that time and just trying to like, kind of make ends meet.

Basically my boyfriend was paying for most of our expenses, which I'm so grateful for that. That really helped. And once I got monetized, um, I started making I think about a hundred dollars a month those first two months, and then my channel really took off. I went from making a hundred dollars a month from AdSense to 1500, and then $4,000 a month from AdSense, which was Wow, just insane like that.

That summer of 2021 and 2022, just like, sorry, 2022 really helps me in so many ways, just like really take off and. It was, it was life changing. Luckily at that point I had some digital products in my online shop and I was able to take sponsorships and everything is kind of, I don't know, it's all added up, you know?

And so this year I am on track to, I think make about $150,000 in gross revenue. And 

Akta: that's quite, I mean, that's a lot, but it's also a lot in terms of like the number of revenue streams that you actually have to make up that amount. How for sure do you actually. Balance the time for creating art and the time that you, you know, spend focusing on contacting brands or, um, you know, building digital products.

Like how are you organizing all of this and keeping track Yeah. So that you're gonna meet your goal. 

Kelsey: I'll admit, I think my schedule is much more like lax than other people's. I kind of run on vibes, for lack of a better word, I guess. Um, luckily I am parted with Squarespace for the entire year. Oh, wow.

Which is a massive help. Yeah. They signed a 12 month deal with me, which was fantastic, and that's gonna help a ton. And I already have digital products and I do print on demand for my art prints and my online shop, and that requires basically zero maintenance. So, When I feel inspired and I wanna make like a new product, I do that for like a weekend and then that can generate like an infinite amount of products with an in infinite, an infinite amount of revenue, um, with essentially no additional effort, which is fantastic for someone that has a busy schedule like me.

And whenever a brand reaches out, I, we, we negotiate together. Um, normally I'm booked one to two months ahead, so it's often like a kind of a game of just like, how do you feel about working with me in May rather than like, February. Um, so it's always kind of a, a juggling game like that, but mm-hmm. Sorry, what was your question again?

Akta: Oh my God, what was my question now that I've completely forgotten? Oh, it was about, um, how you're balancing like art with like focusing on each of your revenue streams. 

Kelsey: Oh, right, right. Okay. Yeah. So I think. A big way that I'm able to balance all of that is just by virtue of, again, making content that really links tightly to my goals as an artist.

So if I want to launch my online shop, for example, I will plan out a series of videos centered around that topic, aiming to provide value to people, and kind of show the behind the scenes process, all of that stuff. And luckily now I have two channels, so I'm able to kind of divide my efforts. And really focus on providing value on the main channel, and also share my journey on the vlog channel, which is awesome.

And with those two channels combined, I feel really creatively fulfilled. I'm able to really create whatever content that I want. Surrounding my goals, and I'm at the point right now where I'm outsourcing editing for my main channel, and I'm able to create videos two, three weeks ahead, which is awesome.

And then I have more time for painting, more time to level up the quality and the creativity of my content. Yeah. 

Akta: But I find it's still a lot of creative work. So you're doing, you're creating, which is, is hard enough. Yeah. But then you're also an artist too. Do you ever struggle with creative burnout? Or how do you prevent it or deal with it?

Kelsey: I think right now my business is such that if I took a month off, that would be basically fine. Um, because my income, so my income streams are so passive, and because I have such a wide. Variety of content in my library. It. Really means that I can take a break without having to worry about it. So for example, if I wanted to go on a hiking trip or like a YouTube creator camp, I could do that without having it hurt my performance, which is fantastic.

And whenever I feel those feelings of burnout, when I know that I need to take a break, I just take a break and I come back feeling inspired and kind of ready to go again. But all in all, I mean, A lot of my day-to-day is just painting, like watching YouTube videos and every so often, maybe once or twice a week I film something, um, like me talking to the camera, but most of my work is me painting and filming that instead.

So it's really like, it's very manageable. Like it's not a ton of like really high intensity effort. Yeah, 

Akta: and there's some people who, once they start to monetize their hobby or passion, they almost lose that love for it because they then have that pressure to be earning from it. How do you avoid that happening?

Or like Yeah, how are you coping with that personally? Sure. 

Kelsey: So, Before, just a couple weeks ago, I was not selling prints of my artwork. I was able to create really whatever artwork that I wanted, whatever subjects I wanted, really experiment however much I wanted, and that really helped me kind of divorce the two things like content and art.

I was able to kind of avoid the. Pressure to perform, influencing the art that I was creating. But I also think of my content as kind of like a. A TV channel. A TV channel has multiple shows on it, right? So there are multiple formats and topics covered on a TV channel. There are multiple shows, different visual identities and different kind of aesthetics to them.

And so I think of really content across my two channels as like kind of programming. Each channel has different series that I focus on different points of the year. So my main channel has a series that is just like me talking to the camera. Just very casual art shots. And that is very low effort to produce.

Mm-hmm. And doesn't really impact my art at all. And I kind of try to switch between these high effort and low effort formats that I might feel inspired to do at different points of the year, different points of time, and kind of. Go forward that way. It really helps me just balance everything out so much more, and I'm able to just really stay true to myself without having to worry about performance impacting the kind of art that I wanna make necessarily.

Yeah. I think that's really 

Akta: good because I feel like it's so easy for social media to influence decision making, especially when it comes to your artistic style. So it's amazing that you've. Been able to avoid that. Um, I know a lot of artists and creators struggle with things like perfectionism and imposter syndrome.

How, how have you 

Kelsey: dealt with that? Yeah, I mean, I think as an artist, I'm kind of overwhelmed by those feelings all of the time. And being an artist has forced me to just kind of reckon with that throughout my entire life. And so it wasn't all that different creating content. Um, but I mean, I. I'm 23 years old.

I feel like I have my entire life and my entire career ahead of me. I'm not worried about being perfect or right all the time. I'm just confident that with every single new video and with every year, I will just get better and better and continue to improve and advance. And yeah, I don't feel a ton of, um, pressure to be perfect.

I just feel the pressure to be the best version of me, I guess, and kind of working toward that. Yeah. 

Akta: And one of the things that I really admire about you and your channel is how transparent you are. Um, so I love like that you actually have business content that you share. You know how much you're making and the fact that you even have like your passion fruit page, you know, like in your links it shows that you're very open about the fact that you are earning a living both through your art and your content.

But I know a lot of creators struggle with that. They don't, you know, they feel a bit. Weird about their audience knowing that they're making money. Like what advice would you give to them 

Kelsey: about that? I think that if you really love what you're doing and you want to have it be your job, like I, I hate the term selling out, right?

I think there's like a spectrum of selling out. Certainly there's like taking on sponsorships for companies that you don't actually believe in or that you think are unethical, but then there's like sponsorships that. Are valuable products that suit your audience, that genuinely help you pay the bills and make more content that you love.

And I think audiences are growing increasingly accepting of realizing that like content creators just have to make money to keep making content. There is like no. Exception there. If you want to have this be your job and consistently deliver quality content for an audience, you have to think about revenue.

You can't create amazing masterpieces if you live on the streets. That's just not feasible. For example, I would not be able to consistently deliver business advice or oil paintings if I didn't have an apartment, if I didn't have a job, if I didn't have money in the bank. And I think, I don't know, I'm just, I'm not.

Particularly receptive to the idea that creators shouldn't make money. Um, I think that for any kind of creative work, if you want it to be your job, you have to think about revenue and you have to think about running a business that generates profit. Yeah. So 

Akta: at what point do you think creators, like, do you think there's ever a right time to start monetization?

Because I know some creators feel like, okay, I need to reach X amount of subscribers before I can start monetizing. Like has that ever been a concern or have you always thought, okay, the sooner I earn money injury, that's like a business, the long where I can actually sustain this? 

Kelsey: Yeah, I think it really depends from person to person.

I think if you have products that are like not super expensive to stock or to start a business with, like for example, I would not suggest investing a ton of money in a warehouse or storage or like packing stuff. For a lot of artists, I recommend print on demand or like kind of automatic fulfillment and manufacturing that kind of route for beginners, just because it is a very.

Low startup cost to do that. But I think there's really no best time to start. I think whenever you feel like you are ready, you are ready. And probably you were ready much earlier than that, but whenever you feel like you can monetize, you should do that. Um, I think there are so many options out there to make money that.

You can really start whenever you want. Mm-hmm. And how 

Akta: do you go about things like pricing, so you know, pricing your prints or you know, pricing, how much you want to do brand deals for, like how do you. How'd you go about that and know that you know you are setting those right figures? 

Kelsey: Yeah, I have a lot of creative friends and I'm very lucky for that.

So when it comes to brand deals, a lot of it is like, Hey, what did Notion pay you for? You know, this video? And we're kind of able to price ourselves that way. But I also rely on a formula. So my formula is basically like per thousand views. I wanna charge a sponsor about $25 or so. So I average out my last maybe five or 10 videos and try to find like, You know, maybe I'm averaging 50,000 views.

So 50 x 25, like 50 times 25 is a number. I add maybe 10% to that, and that is a good like ballpark rate to start out with. When it comes to products, I'm really focused on covering costs, expenses, and pricing for value. Value-based pricing is a little bit separate from like the normal idea of covering costs and expenses and generating some amount of.

Some amount of profit, but value-based pricings, we centered around like how much value your customer is getting from a certain product and pricing it that way. So online courses, for example. Likely follow the model of a value-based pricing model, whereas things like art prints and stuff, I'm really focused on just covering costs and generating a little bit extra from that.

I'm not focused on having like a high margin on those goods. 

Akta: And what I love about what you do is you. You seem to have like a very good overview of your business and like how much you're making and then setting your goals. How often do you actually look at the numbers and, you know, see how each revenue stream is doing?

Like how often are you taking that step back? 

Kelsey: All the time. All the time. I like, I, well, you asked that question. I was like, I can't think of a time where I've deliberately sat down and looked at everything, but I have. Such a habit of checking in on various little things all of the time that I feel like I have a very good picture of the overall direction.

And I think maybe every quarter or so I might take a step back and look at kind of the overall picture. 

Akta: Mm-hmm. And what are you hoping for your revenue streams? Like where do you want the business to go? Like what can you see? What, what do you hope will 

Kelsey: grow? Yeah. I'm really hoping to amp up my sponsorship revenue this year.

That deal with Squarespace will be a massive help. I'm already on track to more than double what I made from that last year. Wow. And this year especially, I really wanna focus on my online store. So art prints, digital products, maybe thinking about merch or something, and kind of going more in the direction of kind of selling my work and putting my art out there in my audience's hands.


Akta: I think the deal with, um, Squarespace is really interesting that it's like a year long. Is that something that you asked for or negotiated or 

Kelsey: did they come to you? Uh, they came to me. They, um, wow. We did a three month deal last fall and yeah, as far as I know, this is kind of bog standard for Squarespace.

They love to book creators for the entire year. Once they have a, like a track record of performing well together. 

Akta: And what else are you doing to try and make sure that you increase that revenue 

Kelsey: stream? Yeah, for sure. Um, I'm building a lot of brand contacts, so in January I had a ton of brands reach out and kind of building relationships with them, getting to know like their representatives and the people that you know, I'm in contact with there, trying to kind of make friends and kind of business acquaintances, for lack of a better word, and.

Yeah, I think overall if you are like very nice in the negoti, in the in the negotiation process, they are more than happy to work with you again. 

Akta: That's really interesting. I like that you actually think about it as building business relationships because I feel like not enough creators actually think that way.

Um, and going back to the online store, what advice would you give to someone about setting up an online store? Like were there any mistakes that you had made and that you learned from, or anything that you think people should 

Kelsey: think about? For sure. One thing that's really helped me actually has been to think about product design quite a lot to try and brainstorm product ideas that would actually benefit my audience and solve problems for them.

So for example, my notion templates right now sell far better than my art prints because, Those solve problems for people. I show them my videos all of the time. You can see how they work for me. And my audience is also made up of other artists, right? So they also have the same problems that I had that caused me to make those notion templates.

And I. I think that was a very national product for me to offer that was not related to my art necessarily, but very much linked to who I am as an artist and that identity. Mm-hmm. 

Akta: I love that. I love how, I mean, you said earlier that you link your content to your art, but you've also managed to link your revenue streams to your content and art, so I think that's a really, yeah.

Amazing way of doing things. Um, I'm gonna end now with a quick fire round. So I'm gonna ask you five questions that I ask all creators that come on air starting with Sure. What's your favorite thing about being a 

Kelsey: creator? The flexibility, the fact that I can wake up at 11:00 AM and just do whatever I want for the day.


Akta: And what gives you the most inspiration for what you create? 

Kelsey: Other creators for sure. Um, artists like Valerie Lynn, Ryan NG Films, wholesome Simon, Natalie Lynn, just amazing creators in the community really inspire me. 

Akta: Yeah. I love the examples that you gave there. What's one tool that helps you as a creator?

Kelsey: Final cut and notion. Really notion. I I'm, yeah. Notion. 

Akta: That's definitely our most popular answer. And what's something that helps with your creator work-life balance. 

Kelsey: Just turning the computer off. My boyfriend gets home and making dinner together and watching a show and just kind of relaxing. Mm-hmm. 

Akta: And what advice would you give to other creators, and especially, I wanna say, especially creators who want to turn their hobby into a business?

Kelsey: Yeah, to really understand your target audience and focus on providing value for them, both in your content and in any products that you offer to kind of structure your business around like you and your own goals, but also providing value for that target audience and having that be your North Star. Hmm.

Akta: That's amazing advice. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for coming on air Of course, and sharing your art journey and how you've managed to build that into her business. It's been really interesting. 

Kelsey: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. 

Akta: You can find Kelsey on her website and on YouTube, and if you are a creator and you are doing sponsorships like Kelsey, check out Passionfroot.

We help you do sponsorships without the hassle.