This Rock Climber Turned His Hobby Into a $1,000+ Per Month Side Hustle. How He Did It

A rock climber works his way up the side of a boulder Courtesy of Sam Laird
Sam Laird is the owner of ClimbingShoeReview.com, a blog. The site makes him money on the side via affiliate links on his shoe reviews. Laird dumps the profits into buying more shoes, which can run from $100 to $300 a pair.
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Do you have expensive taste in hobbies? Let a side hustle fund your passion projects.

Sam Laird, a social media manager and website administrator, created Climbing Shoe Review, a gear reviews blog, as a way to finance his love of rock climbing. “My friends were always struggling to support their hobbies,” he says. “I didn’t want to have to worry about money when it came to my passion for climbing, so I decided to find a way to make money from it.” 

Laird says he learned about hobby websites and how people can make passive income through affiliate links by driving traffic to their blogs. “I figured I could do the same by launching a blog reviewing climbing shoes.” The climbing enthusiast’s income from affiliate commissions was $1,183.69 for September 2022, based on documents reviewed by NextAdvisor.

A website or blog can make you passive income using affiliate links, but Laird says it’s not for everyone. Here’s how the side hustle works, along with tips from a climber who makes money while he sleeps.

Choose a Niche That Actually Interests You

Laird notes that he never had any intention of starting an affiliate blog. He was happy with his career as a social media manager and website administrator. But with increased responsibilities at work, he says he seldom had the time or money to pursue his passion and meet other climbers.

“I launched my blog to stay connected to the climbing community,” he says. “I had tried a few different side hustles, which flopped. When I saw marketers churning out low-quality climbing content that wasn’t helpful, I knew I could do better.” Laird used his digital skills to create a website reviewing climbing shoes. He recommends picking a niche that you’re passionate about, because progress will feel slow at first.

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“Making money with affiliate sites comes down to choosing the right niche,” he says, “and from a business perspective, climbing shoes are a terrible niche. The return rate is high, and the sport is seasonal.” Laird kept reviewing shoes because he loves the sport, and over time Climbing Shoe Review gained traction. The increased momentum attracted not only more visitors, but brands and advertisers as well. 

“I’ve connected with athletes and industry experts, and built a strong community.” 

A photo of Sam Laird climbing. The social media manager originally started a climbing shoes website as a way to connect with fellow climbers virtually. The site reviews shoes and other gear, and includes affiliate links to the products, which pay Laird a commission. (Photos courtesy of Sam Laird)
Sam Laird bouldering in different types of climbing shoes to test them out.
“Entry-level climbing shoes start from just under $100, while high-performance, popular pairs can be priced closer to $300,” according to a blog post from Laird’s shoe review website.

How It Makes Money

Sam’s website monetizes by directing traffic to Amazon and other climbing shoe manufacturers’ sites. When a visitor purchases through Sam’s affiliate link, he gets a small commission from the sale. Content websites can generate income passively, because the owner only needs to create the content once. The owner will earn a commission from those sales if readers visit the site and purchase items using the affiliate link.

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Here are Laird’s top tips for creating a money-making affiliate blog:

  • Spend time researching your niche. Many people make the mistake of choosing a niche that is either unprofitable or has too much existing competition. Find a niche where you can add value by bringing new insights. 
  • Be prepared to go the distance. Building an affiliate blog is a marathon, not a sprint. If you start a blog only to make money, you’ll quit when things don’t pan out quickly.
  • Understand how product websites work. Product review websites can monetize in different ways, and each strategy has its pros and cons. Understanding the underlying variables will help you determine what products work best for your audience.

Use a Side Hustle to Fund Your Passions  

 A side hustle is a great way to make extra money, but what you do with that money is entirely up to you. Brainstorm ideas on how to generate income that funds your hobbies, and you’ll be able to spend more time doing what you love.

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