Yes, you can make money from your hobby. Have you ever wished you could just make money doing what you love?
Steve Mastroianni’s new book, HOBBY BOSS is a simple step-by-step system for creating a profitable online business out of your favorite hobby, by teaching that hobby to other enthusiasts. Based on his own success and building a six-figure annual revenue with his hobby business, HOBBY BOSS walks you through Steve’s four pillars of profit for creating and growing any online hobby enterprise.
Use them to quickly create your first solution, your first sale, and your first customer success story.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Applebaum and I’m excited to be here today with Steve Mastroianni, author of HOBBY BOSS: Turn Your Passion Into Profits Online. Steve, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Steve Mastroianni: Thanks so much for having me, man.
Drew Appelbaum: Steve, why don’t you kick us off, can you give us a rundown of your professional background?
Steve Mastroianni: My background is I’m a musician who kind of stumbled into business. Very often, I say that I’m more of an entrepreneur that got into the area of music because with my guitar playing, I always made it about touring the world and getting into a band and not really necessarily about just making music. Obviously, that’s important but basically, I achieved all that and I toured the world, I got signed to a major record label, I got signed by Gene Simmons, and toured the world, opening for bands like KISS, Hinder, Finger Eleven. That was all going great, we were an up-and-coming band.
What happened in 2013, my father got sick, and my father was my favorite, he was my number one fan, and so when he got sick, I had the choice of either pursuing music further and touring, or taking care of him and being his primary caregiver. He supported me so much and it wasn’t a hard choice. I had to do what I had to do.
So, I took care of him, and while I was taking care of him, I needed to pay rent, I needed something, an escape. Because I was touring, I was waking up in a different city every day, and going from that to being in the same city every day, I had kind of an identity crisis.
I ended up getting into an online business. I started an online business called Rockstar Mind. It started off as a guitar coaching company, but I had the secret plan–I wanted to learn online business and I wanted to use Rockstar Mind as a guinea pig to learn it because I knew that I’d be helping people do the same thing. I just had this instinct that said, “Okay, I’m going to help people do this, but first I have to learn how to do it.”
Anyway, to make a long story short, through a bunch of trials and tribulations, I ended up finally getting the business to six figures in annual revenue. I published my first book, Practice Less, Play More, in 2019. That led me to bring the business to six figures and I learned all these lessons along the way. Over the course of seven years, things started really taking off. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been a consultant, I’ve been a coach for many years, but since I pressed pause on my music career, it’s really the online business ended up taking over.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you just said you’ve been in the business for a little bit now? Now, why was now the time to share the stories in the book? Was there something inspiring, did you have an “Aha!” moment? Or was it that you hit the six figures, which is a great goal and a lot of success, and you wanted to share that success with others?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, that’s a great question. As I said, you know, at the beginning of Rockstar Mind, which is 2014, I knew that I was going to share the lessons, and having people learn from my mistakes, I knew I was going to share all that stuff at some point. But, if I’m making 20 bucks here and there, it’s not necessarily something that would garner a full coaching program or anything like a book.
I hit six figures with my first book and the book was a catalyst to growing my business, and what happened in 2019, I felt like, “Okay, you know what? I’ve got the credibility and the confidence now to actually do this.” Because there are a lot of lessons that came along with it.
But it wasn’t until 2020 hit, specifically March, when everything started going into lockdown, I actually was going to push everything else aside and start coaching people before finishing this book because I knew, as soon as the pandemic hit, that with the spread that happened, I knew people would be out of work.
Just like with the lockdowns, it was inevitable that people would be losing their jobs. And because I had something where I was–I don’t want to say “forced” into a situation, but I put myself in a situation where I couldn’t get hired by anyone. I was my father’s primary caregiver, we were in the hospital all the time, in and out, and it was unpredictable. It’s also why I didn’t continue with the band because, at any point, anything could change, and so I had to have my laptop in hospitals, I had my laptop in a million different places. I needed something that could be anywhere. I knew other people would be in a similar, chaotic situation.
In 2020, that’s when I thought, “Okay, well, I have to do this!” This is something that I just have to buckle down, I have to finish this book, and I need to get this thing out yesterday, basically, because people are going to need these strategies.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you said, “Okay, I want to put down these strategies, I want to share my success,” but when a lot of authors have the idea of the book in their head, you might outline the idea, you might start the writing process, but oftentimes, by digging deeper into some of the subjects, you come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you have any of these breakthroughs or learnings in your writing journey?
Steve Mastroianni: 100%. Actually, I think this might be pretty common that right at the 11th hour, I finished my draft. I was going to submit it and then at the 11th hour, I came up with the overall framework. So, I had to take a little bit more time to integrate it all and package it because there was so much. Business is a big thing, especially business in general, but even online business, even hobby businesses, a business is a big thing.
The book was around 11 chapters, but the chapters were just way too long because there were subjects that were involved in each, but there was no real overall framework. So, at the 11th hour, I came up with a framework called, “The Four Pillars of Profit” and it nicely, very eloquently, organizes each of the sections of the book and puts it into four phases–you have Profile, you have Produce, you have Promote, and you have Propel. It was like this “Aha” moment that happened and you kind of feel stupid. I realized, “Whoa. This was here the whole time,” but it’s something that just needed to happen the way that it happened.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you were writing this book, in your mind, who were you writing this book for? Is it for people looking for a side hustle? Is this something for the next main source of income from a hobby?
Steve Mastroianni: I love that question because, first and foremost, I was writing this book for myself in 2014. When I started, I was searching everywhere for clear answers of what to do and I might find it from somewhere–it’s like the YouTube phenomenon–you find one little snippet of information, and then you have to go searching for all these other things. So, I wanted everything in one place. I realized, “What if I could write myself a manual? Not just things that I think might work, but things that actually did work?” I documented, primarily with the intention of “Okay, well this is for me, in the past.” Because if anybody is in my shoes where you need to make an income, then this is something that will work.
Now, you mentioned there’s the part-timer who wants a side hustle? If you want to make a few extra hundred bucks a month to supplement your income–an extra 500 bucks a month for some people is life-changing. If you want something like that, that’s totally cool, you could do that. Or if you want a full-time income–I needed to pay the rent, I needed to pay for all these different things and so that’s where I went with it. And then, once I achieved that, then I took it to six figures and then beyond.
It’s really for anybody because even the words hobby business, technically, I made mine, hobby businesses. I’m in the guitar market so that’s a hobby, but some people have a hobby business that the business is their hobby, so it’s something that they do on the side. It’s kind of the double entendre that happens that you really make it what you want it to be. The strategies, they’re very simple principles that go into any business. The short answer would be–yes, either someone who wants to do a side hustle or someone who wants to do this full-time.
Your Hobby Business Plan
Drew Appelbaum: Now, what is the goal of the book for readers? What do you hope the takeaways are?
Steve Mastroianni: Yes. The goal for readers, basically, is to create what I call your hobby business plan. The business plan, it’s not like a business plan that you take to the bank and you get a loan or something like that. It’s not one of those. This is your plan, this is your map.
Inside the book, there are 24 chapters, and that might seem daunting, but when you split it up and you see how it’s all laid out with each chapter, each chapter focuses on one thing and each pillar of profit is basically one area of your business. And when you have that, what happens is, you go through each pillar and you go through each of what I call ‘The Six Strings’, that are connecting you from one place to another. If you get these 24 areas of your business, and then, if something goes wrong, or if you want to grow something, or you want to duplicate something, you have this reference that you can go to, this business plan. This is your plan, this is your map.
My goal is that when someone reads the book, they’re going to have this business plan that they can refer to. And again, this is something where I was flying by the seat of my pants when I was doing business. This is why I was hustling really hard, way harder than I needed to at the beginning. And when I finally reached six figures and I wrote a book, and I simplified my approach. There were a lot of things that I stopped doing and that’s what ended up creating success.
I’ve condensed that all down into these 24 different points. So, when you have that, you don’t fly by the seat of your pants anymore, you know where the problems are, you know where the opportunities are, and it really empowers you as an entrepreneur.
Drew Appelbaum: You have a really great section in the front of the book and it does two things–one is that you talk about how to get the most value from your book, and the other thing you say, as a forewarning, is what isn’t in the book. Let’s tackle the first one first–what is the best way to get the most value from your book?
Steve Mastroianni: One of my mentors, Ryan Levac, taught me this really great strategy for going through a book. So, when you first go through the book, because it’s a lot, I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot to it, but it’s a very simple and conversational read. I’m acting like a huge dork in it, and probably a lot of dad jokes, and I think it’s a cool book.
When you go through it, at first you don’t have to get overwhelmed by doing everything or paying attention to everything, just skim through. That’s the first thing, you just skim through the book, and you’ve also got to get an idea of the overall premise. And then, the second time you go through the book, this is where you’re going to do the exercises, this is where you’re going to really extract the stuff for your business, and all the different ideas and really compile things.
Then, the third time that you go through the book, it’s not that you have to go from start to finish, it’s more like a reference, like, “What was that thing again? When we were talking about promotion, where do we go? What do I do for this?” And so, you basically use it as a reference and you have it on your desk.
It’s really multiple passes, but the first one is more like a preview, the second one is where you’re actually really going through the book and doing the work, and then the third one is just in case you need to refer to something.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, what about what’s not in the book?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, because a lot of people are going to hear about a business opportunity, or in some circles, it’s called biz-op. As an author, I really wanted to repel anybody who thinks that this is some get-rich-quick-type solution, or that you’re going to read the book and make money. Or you have something where you will do work for seven days and then all the money’s going to come.
Anybody who isn’t willing to do the work, there’s no point in reading it. Unless you want to hear about me, and my business, and some ideas, maybe some funny stories, it’s not going to be the book for you because any business, even a side hustle, any business is going to require work. There are different levels of that and what I’ve done is short-circuited it because when you’re focusing on your passion, it doesn’t even feel like work. That’s actually kind of the trick.
When I show up, I look forward to Mondays, I look forward to working on things because I love it, and so, it’s work, but it doesn’t feel like work. It’s the saying, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
What Are You Passionate About?
Drew Appelbaum: Can you narrow down what you mean by hobby? Does it necessarily have to be a talent, can it be knowledge of a subject? For example, somebody just knows a lot about cars?
Steve Mastroianni: Yes, for sure. ‘Hobby’ could mean anything. As many people as there are, there are hobbies, because people could do anything in their spare time. And, really, I think one of the insights that I had, or one of the big aha moments when the pandemic hit, was I think what scared me for other people was if they lost their job, then what really sucks is if they’re skilled in a trade. Let’s say they went to school for something, whatever it might be, let’s just say it was travel and tourism and they can’t do that anymore and that’s where their expertise is, well, there aren’t necessarily going to be other companies hiring for that. You know, I have one guy who told me that he’s passionate about Excel spreadsheets and it’s like, “Great, yeah, if you want to geek out on that, that’s awesome, man.”
I mean if I actually went through all of the hobbies that I have, there would be weird stuff. Everybody’s got a weird hobby, but it’s anything that you just really escape in. And so, when I am thinking about that person who, let’s say, lost their job, or when they’re thinking about what to do, if they’re trying to go outside of themselves and trying to learn something new, they have to get a new certification or a new thing that they are learning, that’s not the place.
I think that things are a little bit, like to some degree, direr than that, where you have to start looking at what you already have, and you don’t have to be an expert, but it is something that you just have to be passionate about. And, when you look at things that you’re passionate about, there are other people in the world who are passionate about those things. I’m sure there are other people who are super passionate about Excel spreadsheets.
So, when you teach them how to use Excel spreadsheets, and how to do all the cool things that you know how to do, and help them save time, or whatever, the result is then you are doing them a great service. And then, in exchange, they are doing you a service by giving you money, so it’s an equal exchange of value.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, how much time and, I’m not sure if this component is involved, but how much money would you say you have to put into testing out and using the techniques and strategies that you layout in the book?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, that’s a great question because it really depends. There’s this whole idea of money by speed–if you throw money at something then you can generally get to an answer a lot faster, whereas if you invest the time then it’s just going to take a little bit longer. And so, when I started out, I didn’t have any money, I was actually over $20,000 in debt. When I started out, I was looking for different creative ways, to get the word out there about things. So, there are different strategies.
For example, let’s say you know someone who has an email list of people who are interested in a specific topic. This is actually how I got started. You start meeting different people, you message them, you tell them you’ve got something that you are working on and if they promote it to their list and let’s just say their list replies, then you either split the profits or you split the whole thing. There is a lot of different ways to do it where you don’t pay upfront.
You always do pay or invest something. You always invest in money, you invest in energy, you invest in time, there is always some investment that is being made. You don’t have to start with thousands and thousands of dollars. I would say that if you had, let’s say, a thousand dollars, if you had a thousand dollars then you probably would be able to take that pretty far, at least to start generating some income.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you mentioned this before, but by using the Four Pillars and breaking each section down by the Six Strings, you aim the reader to use this as a form of the hobby business plan. Can you talk a little bit more about what the hobby business plan consists of? And how much of a better place will someone be in for making it?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, having a hobby business plan is going to basically protect you from randomness. There is a lot of predictability that happens in business. Very often, creative types or entrepreneurs are going to suffer from shiny object syndrome or imposter syndrome, all of these different syndromes, the focus is really the most important thing. It’s like a magnifying glass–when you put sunlight through that it could start a fire. You know, if you put that in the right thing, your focus is really powerful.
Many different entrepreneurs, they’re going to try a bunch of things–you can’t see me right now, but I am raising my hand–because one of the reasons why I didn’t make as much money at the beginning stages was because my focus was all over the map. So, whenever I did focus, I always knew, “Steve, this is the right thing.” And the results would come from it. So, it just confirmed that idea, but then I’d always let myself get distracted.
Anyway, having a hobby business plan, basically, when you go through those different sections, when you have the Four Pillars and you also have these Six Strings, what happens is you look at each section and, again, whatever it is that you’re doing that day. If something great happens and you want to maximize that opportunity, or if something not so great happens and you want to do some damage control, then you could look through that hobby business plan and you’ll be prepared to best navigate that situation.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you mentioned earlier that this is something you wish you had when you were starting out. What do you think would have changed for you if you had your book when you were starting out your business?
Steve Mastroianni: Oh man, I mean everything would have changed. You know, 2014 was a really stressful year. There were a lot of ups and downs. Taking care of my father as his primary caregiver, that was my number one priority at that time. I had a girlfriend, who later became my wife. She was supportive and she actually got this laptop that I am still using to this day. This was my birthday gift, and she’s just incredibly supportive, my wife. And so, when I was taking care of my father, and also being a boyfriend, and just trying to stay mentally healthy, if I had a plan then–I can always execute on things really well.
If I know what to do step-by-step-by-step, I’ll be a workhorse. This book is a pretty large endeavor and writing this while running a business, and during a global pandemic, and we had twins in February, so there was a lot that went into this. If I know what the steps are–that’s why I invested a lot in coaching. Over the years, I invested in coaching for this very reason, because if I know what to execute, then I’ll be able to maximize opportunities and I’ll be able to profit a lot faster. By the way, ‘profiting’, not necessarily even just financial, even profiting from all the time that’s now created or the energy that I have.
So, if I had this from day one, well, what that would mean is I definitely wouldn’t be stressing out as much. I probably would be able to spend more time with my father and with my now wife, Desiree. I would have been able to do more things, whereas what happened, the darker side of it was, whenever I was working on my business, I was stressed out, or I was frustrated, confused, and every month started at zero.
Whereas what ends up happening when you have the right tools is the months become more predictable, so you can plan a lot better. Your month or your life isn’t just about the 30 days at a time, you start to expand that window and you can plan further for the future.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, it is not just about making a biz plan, I think your book differentiates itself because you also talk about the mindset shift that’s needed to really transition into making your hobby a main source of income. I think for most folks, it’s probably scary to pivot their lives or careers into making their hobby their business. Are there any words of encouragement you can give to really push folks into going all in and treating their hobby business like a business and not a hobby anymore?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, and I love how you phrase that. That’s such a great question because the mindset really is everything. As I said, when I was my father’s primary caregiver, I was a mess. I was a fish out of the water, waking up in a different city and I had to do so many adjustments. But even if I started a business without all of that stuff, it’s still really, really tricky to do it without any guidance. There are so many variables at play. The mindset of keeping it simple, even that is enough, just focusing.
I talk about protecting your focus, removing friction, preventing overwhelm, these are the things that are really, really important in the mindset of an entrepreneur because we just don’t do this. We are distracted, we make things more complicated for ourselves, and then we end up burning ourselves out. So, if we protect our focus, we remove friction, we prevent overwhelm, and then ultimately, we show up and do the work. Not just any work, we do the work, the most impactful work.
Then with that, and with a good guide–whether it’s a book, whether it’s this book, whether it’s another book, whether it’s a coaching program–it’s never going to be easy, but at least it’s going to be a lot easier having all of those things in place.
Imposter syndrome is going to creep up. You know I had that three times this week already and I’m so far deep into the experience. I’m a recovering perfectionist. I really had to loosen my grip, especially as a father of three. When I was writing the book, there were three kids under three running around the house and it’s insane, and so you really have to loosen your grip.
Probably the best piece of advice, kind of just summing everything up, is make this fun, really make it fun for yourself. Remember that a hobby, the thing that you are passionate about–that is why it’s called ‘True Passion that Profits Online’, that is why I put that at the top of the cover because it is your passion. It is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be enjoyable. So, as long as you keep it fun and you approach things with a loose grip and you work quickly, show up and do the work, then you are going to be fine.
The other piece of advice is always to surround yourself with people who are winners, people who can help you, who can support you, and make you better. Because if you’re surrounding yourself with negative people, that is the worst thing that you can do for your mindset. The things that I mentioned about protecting your focus, removing friction, preventing overwhelm, showing up and doing the work, but also that successful mindset, you need other people around you and your external world supporting the internal world.
A Coach at Heart
Drew Appelbaum: Now, at the end of the book, you offer customized help to folks who have gone forward and made their business plan. Can you talk about that and what you offer?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, so I think I’m a coach at heart. I just really love working with other people and this either comes from me being a songwriter and a collaborator or maybe I am just a songwriter and collaborator because I love that type of work. So, working with other people is really great. I help people with anything as simple as validating your hobby market, or coming up with your idea for your solution, or even just building your entire business with you. Whether it is getting your first sale or beyond, because really, you sell something once, you could probably sell it a thousand times. It’s actually just multiplication.
So, there have been some cool things, like recently I helped someone quit their job and do their business full-time, and things like that. Whether it’s something as big as that, which is so huge, I love that stuff, but also inspiring people to get started when they feel like they’re not an expert, because you don’t need to be an expert.
There is one guy who I helped, he actually wanted to do the same thing as I do with teaching guitar. The first guy quit his job. But with another guy, he wanted to teach guitar, and you know, he said, “Well maybe next year? Or maybe in a year? Do you think you can do it?” I said, “What about now? Let’s do it! What about right now?” And so, anyway, when he got his first client, which was in a couple of weeks after getting started, it was huge.
That in a way, might be a bigger win than the guy who quit his job, because especially when you don’t feel adequate enough, it’s really empowering, and I love seeing people light up like that.
Drew Appelbaum: Steve, we just touched on the surface of the book here. And, I just want to say that writing a book that’s really going to help folks understand how to transition from hobby to business, or just understand that their hobby can be a business, is no small feat and you really put yourself out there in the book and talked about everything you did, successes and failures, so congrats on having the book published.
Steve Mastroianni: Thank you so much.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, I hope you have time for the hot seat question–if readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, show up and do the work. It’s just really the only way. Just show up consistently, and if you show up consistently and you do the work, you do the most necessary work, the most impactful work, both for you, your business, and your customers, as a side effect, you are going to be happy with the results.
Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure and I’m really excited for people to check out this book. Everyone, the book is called HOBBY BOSS and you can find it on Amazon. Steve, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Steve Mastroianni: Yeah, if you go to hobbybossbook.com, then you could find links to the book, some really sweet bonuses, and then you could hook up with me as well.
Drew Appelbaum: Awesome. Steve, thank you so much for coming on the show today, and best of luck with your new book.
Steve Mastroianni: Thanks so much, Drew.