The whole hobby-to-business proposition is a little misleading—primarily because we need to rethink the word “hobby.” When we hear it, we think of those fun, voluntary pastimes that bring us enjoyment and help us make the most of our free time: reading, collecting stamps, community theatre—they’re all things that we do because we enjoy doing them. But is simply enjoying stamp collecting enough to translate your hobby into a successful, thriving, and sustainable career?
What we’re really talking about here is “passion.” When your hobby becomes something all-consuming— that thing you think about all day long during work and jump right into as soon as your time is yours again—that’s more than a hobby; that’s a passion with potential. And that passion is what represents something that can be both personally and professionally sustainable.
Here are a few areas to consider before taking the leap.
Your first stop on this journey from hobby to business is unquestionably: Get Social. In my view, social media is still a relatively untapped resource—and it’s one tool every hobbyist already has at their disposal to do the most basic market research. Start with Facebook and search for people with businesses like the one you’re considering. Since it’s unlikely your idea is going to be of Tesla-level uniqueness within the small business community, there will be many similar businesses you can learn from. Which appeal to followers the most? Which are most successful and why? Steal ideas with pride and connect with followers to learn as much as you can.
When researching this topic, I immediately turned to my Twitter community for insight. Using the hashtag #hobby2business I posted a photograph, tagged eight of my followers from the small business world, and asked for their advice on turning a hobby into a business. Within an hour, coworkers from my office were retweeting and tagging others, and my feed was full of #hobby2business content and advice. My favorite?
What makes a good business? Remember the seven P’s of marketing: product, price, promotion, place,packaging, positioning, and people. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to define all of these things in order to figure out where you stand in the marketplace—and how you can do it better than everyone else.
First, intimately understand the product you want to sell. Even if it’s a service, think of it as a product— what are its features? Why are they appealing? What is the size of your target market, and what percentage of that market do you anticipate will buy it? What are others charging for something similar?
You’ll also need to consider the logistics of getting your product to the people who want to buy it. If you’re selling online, where would your consumers naturally go to get your product? eBay? Amazon? Your own website? What apps will you need to collect money and get paid? Will you need storage, packaging, or shipping services? These channels are your routes to market, so defining them will also help you build a strategy for finding customers and making it as easy as possible for them to buy from you.
And while it’s important to identify these things, don’t overthink it. Unless you are inventing a patented product (which is rare in the hobby-to-business landscape) you’re probably going to differentiate on price, service, audience, and the product itself in comparison to what’s already out there. Embrace these things and use them to help set yourself apart from the competition.
Fun is a small word with a huge impact on our lives, so it makes sense that we’d prioritize injecting fun into our business lives whenever possible. And, if you’re thinking about becoming your own boss, the ability to capitalize on fun is definitely one of the advantages: you can wear whatever you want, play music while you work, control the tone and presentation of your product—you’ll be in control of a lot of fun, new components of your business.
However, even the most fun business is still just that—a business. There are a lot of decidedly un-fun and dull responsibilities that your business requires to remain successful and profitable. Finance, administration, inventory—these are all things most small businesses owners do not go into business to learn how to do. That being said, there are ways to help minimize the impact of these dull tasks so you can focus on the fun stuff:
Get a bookkeeper or an accountant from day one. Explain that you are a very small business on a shoestring budget, and that you don’t need corporate advice—you just want to get the basics right.
You’re going to want mobile and online offerings first, so find a bookkeeper who does the same. You’ll get the advice and help you need without spending time and money travelling to meet them in person.
Use an accounting app that your bookkeeper recommends. Every dollar you spend on your business counts towards your success.
Learn the basics of accounting, invoicing, expense management, tax returns, and cash flow.
Accept that your success depends on it. You don’t have to be an expert but you will fail without mastering the basics of accounting.
For everything else you need help with, use sites like www.upwork.com and www.peopleperhour.com to get freelance help. These sites offer experts on demand and at an affordable price.