There comes a time when hobbyists experience a light bulb moment – “why haven’t I tried to turn my hobby into a business?”
Whether you just woke up from an inspirational dream or you’ve finally been convinced by your friends or co-workers that it’s time to put your talents out there, you’re probably wondering how to turn your lifelong passion – your hobby – into a lucrative business.
While not all hobbies will translate into a steady stream of income, turning potential money making hobbies into a full-time business is a difficult decision to make.
With numerous factors to consider, starting a hobby business takes more than just natural talent and passion. If you want to turn your hobby into a career, why not start today?
Here are 10 tips on how to get started.
1. Define Your Goals for Your Hobby Business
It’s hard to tackle a vision without laying out a game plan. So, before you update your LinkedIn and write out a business plan, carefully write down all your thoughts.
Is this going to be a temporary way to make some extra income? Or perhaps are you thinking you might scale and grow your hobby to be a large business with employees you manage one day?
While it may seem counterintuitive to try to plan the fine details before you fully know what you want to do or how you’re going to do it, outlining your goals beforehand will make the rest of the process 100x easier.
2. Think of Ways to Monetize Your Hobby
While you’re defining your goals, research all the possible ways that you can use your skills to make money.
For example, someone with a passion for drawing may start by learning how to use Adobe Illustrator. Some possible ways to make money with graphic design are:
- Designing logos or materials for businesses.
- Printing off digital art to sell at local art shows or e-commerce websites.
- Selling designs to other companies who might be interested in using their artwork on a t-shirt or skateboard design.
- Starting a graphic design website and monetizing your blog.
- Teaching classes on sites like Udemy.
The possibilities are endless. Do some digging on Google, Facebook groups, forums like Reddit, etc. to find others who are into your niche or hobby. Ask around to see if anyone has any ideas on how you can monetize your passion or skill.
3. Set a Budget and Estimate Business Expenses
When weighing your options, determine what costs you might incur. Here are some expenses you might want to take note of to help create a business budget:
- Overhead costs (rent, utilities, insurance, etc.)
- Manufacturing costs
- Shipping costs
- Storage costs
- Software costs
Think about how much you would be able to charge for when selling your hobby as a product or service. Realistically, do you think you will be profitable after expenses? If so, you’re in good shape.
Another question to ask – how are you going to fund the business before you start generating revenue? Can you afford to frontload the costs up front with your personal income? Are there any expenses that aren’t absolutely necessary to start with? Ask yourself these questions before you fully commit to your idea.
4. Starting a Hobby Business Has Its Downsides
While some people are lucky enough to never burn out, the truth is that it happens frequently with people who try to turn a hobby into a full-time job.
When your hobby becomes your business, that could mean dealing with picky clients or rude customers, managing day-to-day operations, marketing or selling your services or products, meeting deadlines, etc.
Before you know it, your hobby just became slightly less enjoyable. So before you dive in, make sure you consider the pros and cons.
5. Don’t Quit Your Job Yet
As exciting as it is, it’s usually not a good idea to quit your job right away. Mainly, you’ll want to ensure that you are able to make a livable income from your hobby business before you start writing your resignation letter.
Aside from that, starting a business takes a lot longer than you might think. You’ll need to file and register your business with your state which could take multiple weeks. You might also need permits or certifications from your county or city, etc. which can also take weeks. Setting up your business properly takes time, so it’s a good idea to keep your job until you can make sales.
If you do decide to quit your job right away, make sure you are able to financially support yourself until the income starts flowing in. Assess your current savings accounts and assets and have a contingency plan in case things don’t work out.
6. Think About Potential Business Partners
If think your hobby business idea is scalable, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead. Consider bringing in people within your network that would potentially be interested in partnering with you down the road. Surrounding yourself with like-minded, motivated business partners is one way to help you get your company off the ground. It helps to find partners they have different strengths than you do so you can build a robust team with diverse qualities and skills.
7. Create a Complete Business Plan
It may seem like a chore to write out a business plan, but it’s a necessary roadmap for long-term growth. You can get as detailed as you want, but you’ll gain more value by adding as many details as you can.
Even though this document is a must-have for startups trying to raise funding from investors, it’s a critical document that can help even the smallest of businesses to tactically plan out how to differentiate themselves in the market.
A full-fledged business plan typically contains the following sections:
- Executive Summary
- Business Description
- Organization/Management Plan
- Market Analysis & Market/Sales Strategies
- Competitive Analysis
- Services/Product Development Plan
- Financial Projections
- Funding Request
If you don’t know where to start, here’s an excellent guide by the U.S. Small Business Administration on how to write a business plan.
8. Meet with an Attorney and a Certified Public Accountant
This crucial step is one that many people don’t think about until a legal or tax issue comes up.
As a preventative measure, you should meet with an attorney before you potentially get into legal trouble. Before making purchases, signing contracts, or obtaining permits, it’s a good idea to sit down with a business attorney to help you navigate local, state and federal business laws.
Some businesses need a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), while others don’t. According to AccountingCoach.com, “A CPA would be needed if the small business must have its financial statements audited or reviewed in order to obtain a bank loan, to apply for a grant, to bid on a job, or some other unique requirement.”
If you don’t need a CPA, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be beneficial to consult with one. They can help you with tax advice and suggest accounting tools that would work well for your business. If you can afford to meet with one, it’s always a good idea.
9. Focus on Building a Brand
Building a brand takes time and lots of hard work, but a well-built brand is better positioned to retain existing customers and acquire new ones.
Creating clear messaging and a uniform experience for every touchpoint or encounter that your customers have with your business will go a long way.
Your initial brand strategy might not be this complex, but here’s an example of how you can incorporate your brand experience into every touchpoint:
Image Source: BrandingForThePeople.com
If you are selling the same exact type of product or service as someone else, the customer is going to choose the brand that they like the most.
Compare likely future competitors with a brand competitive research spreadsheet. Outline how you can fill gaps that they aren’t filling and how you can provide a unique experience for customers.
Taking the time to build your brand and remaining active on the channels where your customers spend their time will allow you to grow your business exponentially faster.
10. Understand That You May Have to Swallow Your Pride
If you start selling your hobby as a service, it can be hard to get started without prior customer testimonials.
For example, if you love producing music for yourself, but you don’t have any examples of work you have done for clients, it may be difficult to get your first client.
If you are finding it difficult to land clients, you may have to charge less than you would like in order to build up your reputation. For many skilled people who have honed their craft for years, this can be a tough pill to swallow.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you must settle for less.
You can start by building your social proof before reaching out to new clients or customers. If you have a website for your new hobby business, you can fill it with “why you should choose me” content. Tell your story on your About page. Write articles that showcase your knowledge on the subject. If you have anyone who can attest to your skill or services, ask previous clients to write a review.
Additionally, tap into your existing network. Let them know that you have started a new business, and kindly ask for referrals if they come across anyone who could use your services/product. You can also each out to friends and family and let them know about your new business.
Once you get your first few clients or sell your first few products, it’s much easier to build your business from there.