If you’ve spent years at a day job daydreaming about how you can pursue your hobby instead, maybe it’s time for you to change your hobby from a pastime to a business. Lots of creative people from writers to crafty people have successfully launched their own small business built around their hobby, and there’s no reason you can’t succeed as well.
Questions to Ask Yourself
That said, launching a small business is not an enterprise without risk, so you’ll want to ask yourself some questions before you get started.
First and foremost, will you be happy running a business that revolves around your hobby? There’s a moderate risk of ruining the hobby’s joys by turning it into a business, so be sure it’s something you can be passionate about doing.
Are you committed to launching your own small business that connects with your hobby? Many small businesses fail for all sorts of reasons, so if you are going to launch a small business, you need to jump in with both feet.
Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Most people are far more comfortable working in regular jobs than they are in running their own business. Know yourself, and consider whether you have enough entrepreneurial spirit to take risks.
What Can You Do?
The next issue is to examine your hobby and figure out how to monetize it. Freelance writers earn money by selling their writing. Craftspeople might make furniture, jewelry or other physical products that can be sold, either to other businesses or individuals. Some people offer motivational speaking, consulting or otherwise teach as their primary business. Actors are paid for their performances, either on stage or on camera. Still, other people might enjoy fixing things, so repairing specific items like watches or vacuums might be up their alley. The important thing to keep in mind here is that you must be prepared to sell yourself, whether it’s your skills and experience or the products you make with your own hands.
The Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Business
Starting a business is a significant career change, so it’s important to be prepared before you begin. An excellent place to start is the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is the governmental agency designed to support entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the United States. The SBA has invaluable resources on starting a business, writing a business plan, engaging financial resources, and growing your business. The SBA even has a great guide explaining the differences between a hobby and a business, and where they may intersect.
Once you’ve done your initial research, it’s time to make a plan. This might involve creating a business plan, mapping out a timeline, finding investors, or securing goods. It’s a good idea to be constantly evaluating your plan as well, to see where it might be improved. Next, you’ll want to build your team. Will you need employees, an accountant, or an attorney in order to launch your business?
There are also other factors to consider when transforming your hobby into a business. What costs will you incur because of launching your hobby as a full- or part-time business? If you plan on making or manufacturing products, how will you distribute those products to customers? What do you need in terms of marketing expertise or collateral material to promote your business?
It’s also critical today to have a strong online presence. Anyone can throw up a website but the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who engage authentically with their customers, whether it’s by email, on social media, specialty services like Yelp or simply are available to speak by phone. The more you can build a community around your hobby/business, the more successful your small business will become.
One last pitfall that escapes many new entrepreneurs has to do with sales cycles. It’s important to be prepared, especially the first year, for cyclical sales. If you sell a product, your output could increase dramatically during the holidays or the summer, while the winter might be slim pickings. After the first year, you’ll have a better sense of how your particular sales cycle looks at different times of the year. Then you can start to forecast your sales cycles instead of merely guessing at how much business you’ll do.
The flip side of this notion is being prepared to scale your business up. You can only make 10 custom pieces of jewelry every month and suddenly your customers want to buy 200 a month, you’ll need to figure out a way to replicate your creative process to meet demand.
It goes without saying that you should also get all the licenses, certificates or other official paperwork that your small business may demand. It’s also worth perusing this IRS Guide as to whether your hobby is a for-profit endeavor or not.
Above all, be original, be unusual, and stay true to the spirit of your hobby. Going about this business any other way simply exchanges one form of work for another. By tapping into the aspect of your hobby that got you excited in the first place, you’ll be able to share that passion with customers and engage with an authentic excitement that is hard to miss.