How to turn your hobby into a business

Business v HobbyThinking about turning your hobby or passion project into a paying gig? These steps will help you avoid some common mistakes as you set out to earn an income from your favourite pastime.

Unless you have run a business before, it’s easy to get carried away with the idea of how perfect it will be to get paid for doing what you love. Reality check: the stress of needing to earn an income from your hobby can quickly take all the pleasure out of it.

Running a successful business isn’t all long lunches, roses and endless indulgences. Unless you can afford to hire someone to take care of the bookkeeping, marketing, website, development, social media and sales, expect to spend a lot of hours on necessary tasks completely unrelated to your true passion.

Before you start investing in your hobby-to-business idea, take this online quiz to see if running a business is right for you.

1. Do your market research

If you’ve been gifted with the entrepreneurial spirit, you’re ahead of the game (not to mention I am insanely jealous). It is definitely a plus to be able to combine business know-how with your passion.

The question is, will people pay you for your great idea?  And friends and family saying it is a great idea is not enough.  You need people who will part with their hard earned cash for your products/services. If you love to garden, for instance, who will buy your herb garden kits, custom flower arrangements, or green thumb e-books?

One of the biggest mistakes home-based solopreneurs make is not doing their market research.

In a nutshell, market research is the process of:

  • identifying potential markets
  • understanding what your customers most want and need
  • matching up your products and services to those needs
  • examining the competition and
  • creating a marketing plan.

Remember, you will not make everyone happy.  Ever.  Not everyone will love your idea, but you still need to have enough customers to make it viable.  There will be times it feels like you are walking on a tightrope….teetering on the verge of success, but the drop down is also not far away.

2. Strategic marketing ideas

If you’re just starting up, odds are you’ll be running your business on a shoestring. You’ll need to be very selective about how you spend your marketing dollars (or how you spend any dollars if truth be told).  Which is why it’s so important to know exactly who your customers are right off the bat. Get super clear on that.  Who are they, where are they hanging out, what do they love, what resonates with them? Then it’s all a matter of making it as easy as possible for those people to find you.

A website and social media presence are essential for any small business (and often these days social media trumps website conversions). Consider craft fairs and trade shows, sponsoring a community event, joining a local business association, influencers, or partnering up with a compatible business as low-cost ways to get the word out.

3. Will the numbers stack up?

When you are running your hobby, often the numbers are not super important.  You are doing what you love, in your spare time and it is all just a bit of fun.

However to turn from hobby to business, the numbers become far more serious.  Will you be able to make enough money if you turn it into a business, can you give up your other job if you turn this side hustle into a full time gig, will you be able to afford more supplies/stock, how will you accept payments, what if customers don’t pay, how do you price your products/services for retail, is it worth all the hassle.

Those questions (plus more) will be on your mind constantly.  Constant review and analysis is your best friend in those early days to ensure you stay on track financially.  Surprises, in the financial sense, are never usually a good thing.

If turning your hobby into a business seems right for you, test the waters first. Start slow and ensure that once you jump into the deep end of business ownership, you are fully aware of all the hats you will now need to wear.

Running a hobby is usually fun and stress free.  Running a business is usually the opposite in those first years as you navigate all the hurdles.  But unless you have a plan, how will you know when you have achieved your benchmark for success?