Everybody has a hobby. Whether you’ve discovered it or not, each and every one of us has a talent or an aptitude for a particular pastime, be it quilting, painting or something more obscure. However, not everybody has the inclination or the foresight to make money from their avocation; even when our skills are marketable, we are either unwilling or unclear on how to do so.
This fear is unfounded; while turning a hobby into a business is not easy, it’s also not impossible. The secret is to have tenacity, patience and a well-researched game plan – elements that are not beyond anyone considering taking the plunge.
So, if you’ve ever heard those prophetic words, ‘You should sell those – I’d buy one’, this is how to go from casual hobbyist to successful entrepreneur…
1. Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
As with any venture – business or otherwise – thorough preparation is essential. The first thing you need to ask yourself is how much time you are willing or able to commit. If you’ve only got a couple of hours to spare each week, then you either need to make sacrifices elsewhere or realise that your project won’t be getting the attention it requires.
It’s not recommended that you quit your day job until your business is viable and sustainable, so until then, try to create as much free time as possible for yourself. Remember: the more you can put in, the more you’ll get out.
2. Consider That You May Ruin Your Own Pleasure
For most people, hobbies are a way of unwinding: a simple form of pleasure that creates enjoyment away from the general stress of work and life. Therefore, you should consider the impact that monetising your hobby could have.
If you enjoy baking, for instance, it’s one thing to make a few cakes for friends on a Sunday afternoon. But when you are frantically trying to deliver multiple large orders to meet a series of deadlines, you can soon lose sight of that basic enjoyment.
Of course, this may not be the case – many entrepreneurs continue to get the same pleasure from their work as they did before. But it is certainly something that you should seriously consider before you go any further.
3. Find Out Who’s Buying
Preparing yourself is one thing but you also need to research the market; it’s pointless going to all the effort required if nobody is buying what you’re intending to sell.
Of course, big companies have the advantage of market intelligence analysts to gain this information, but you can still achieve a rough idea. Research competitors to get a feel for what demand is like, and try to identify your potential target audience. Offline, you should try to attend fairs, clubs and events related to your hobby; always try to network as much as possible. The more information you can gather from different sources, the better.
4. Maximise Everything
As part of the preparation process, sit down and brainstorm where else you could earn revenue from your hobby. For example, if you paint watercolours, don’t just focus on selling the paintings – you could also offer classes and tuition, paints and equipment or even agent services if you have contacts within the industry. Think outside of the box and you might be surprised at the returns.
Apply this to your general approach, too. On your lunch break, instead of reading Hello, read sales and marketing guides; on your commute home, turn off the radio and engage in some TED talks. Take every opportunity to learn as much as you can.
5. Write a Business Plan
Once you’ve figured out your schedule, done your market research and have a solid idea of the direction you want to go in, you should write a business plan.
As this will be a totally new concept to you, try not to focus so much on the format and presentation but rather on the content. Lay out your vision and what you hope to achieve, what you’re going to sell and how you’re going to operate. As you become more experienced and gain a better understanding of how businesses work, you can then change things accordingly.
Once you grow into a more established enterprise, you will need external capital from banks or private investors in order to scale; this is where a strong business plan will be vital to securing funding.
6. Build an Online Presence
Selling homemade jewellery at craft fairs might earn you a small amount of revenue now and then, but if you are serious about growing your business, you need to have a strong online presence. This means setting up a website and establishing yourself on social media.
If you’re not tech-savvy, don’t worry; you don’t need to spend £300+ on a web designer. WordPress is designed to be easy to use and offers professional-looking designs, and is perfect for starting out. Best of all, it’s free, too – all you have to worry about is the hosting costs and the domain registration.
At the same time, utilise the social media platforms that are most relevant to your hobby. For example, aesthetic hobbies such as painting or baking may find a more fruitful audience on visual mediums such as Instagram and Pinterest.
The key is to do your research. Online marketing is a mammoth topic, with an array of intricacies and constantly changing guidelines, but with an estimated 85.9% of millennials preferring to shop online, you need to have a general understanding. For the basics, Moz and HubSpot are great places to start.
7. Make Sure Everything Is Legal
Once you’re up and running as a defined, structured business, it’s vitally important that you don’t fall foul of the law. Even if you work from home, you need to be clear about your legal and accounting responsibilities.
The first step is registering your company. While operating as a sole trader means less paperwork, it also means that you personally take on any debts of your business; therefore, opting for limited company formation could be a safer choice. As well as protecting your personal assets and finances, it is also a more attractive business proposition for potential clients and customers.
Additionally, don’t neglect the little things. Create a separate bank account for your finances, keep receipts for everything and ensure you are aware of your obligations. For example, if you work from home, you need to notify your landlord or mortgage provider and obtain the right type of insurance.
If you’re unsure, you can enlist the services of an accountant, although many people prefer to do their own bookkeeping in order to minimise costs.
8. Make Your First Sale!
Getting your first sale is a momentous occasion – and it should be celebrated! After all, convincing a stranger to buy something that you’ve produced is a big achievement; it’s also a vindication that you are on the right track.
Don’t rest on your laurels, though. Using Google Analytics, find out where the majority of your visitors are from, what kind of platform they are using and the peak times they are visiting your site. Keep reading and learning about marketing techniques. Take your existing customers and turn them into repeat customers; utilise all the information that you have and target sales accordingly.
And, finally, as the orders come in, your venture grows and your profit margins increase, don’t be afraid to step away from your job and become full-time self-employed. As soon as it’s obvious that your business has legs, commit to it and work around the clock to multiply your success!
As you can see, turning your hobby into a business is not beyond the realms of realistic possibility. Even if you’re not looking to forge the foundations of a full-time business empire, a second revenue stream doing something you enjoy is an attractive prospect for anyone. All it takes is a few good ideas – and a bit of belief – to get things off the ground.
Have you made a viable business out of your hobby? Let us know your experiences in the comments below…