How to turn your hobby into a career

So you have a hobby that you think might make a good business. You’re good at it, you enjoy doing it, and you can think of nothing better than getting paid for doing what you love — so why not turn it into a career? This is a huge subject that can (and has) been covered in whole courses elsewhere, but here’s what you need to know to get started.

The very first thing to know? You absolutely CAN do this. And you can be very successful doing it — but the end result may not be anything like you expected, so it’s important to go into the process with open eyes.   

“If you’re really committed to it, if you know in your heart it’s what you love and what you want to do, then it’s the best thing in the world. If not, I would say go and get a real job.”   —  Steve Bookbinder, Red Rag Pictures

1. Before you do anything else, ask yourself a few questions.

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First, does anybody actually want what you can produce with your hobby? This is the most basic question, but people often gloss over it. The truth is, if no one wants what you’re planning on selling, your business just isn’t going to work. So do a bit of research first to make sure there’s actually a market for what you’re thinking of selling.

Second, do you really want this as a job instead of just a hobby? Sometimes when you really love something, bringing the business aspect into it can make you end up hating it. It’s really easy to enjoy doing something when you want to do it, but do you love your hobby enough to do it even when you’re tired or you don’t feel like it?

Finally, ask yourself if you can fund the process of starting a business. No matter how great you are, you’re probably not going to be making much, if any, money for at least six months. Is this something you can afford to do? If not, then try doing it on a smaller scale first, and keep your day job so you don’t have to stress over money.

“I purposely didn’t rush into things and got the foundation in place over several months, initially part-time, before properly launching the new business. This allowed me to think carefully about where I wanted to position the business and how it would run.” — Mike Pead, Primary Image (www.primaryimage.uk)

2. Dream big, start small

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This is often the most enjoyable part of the whole process — dreaming about the amazing things you’re going to do with your business. When you’re still in the planning stage, don’t try to limit yourself. Think of the greatest possible outcome, that dream product or service you want to deliver.

Then narrow things down, and start with just one thing that you can get very good at. A lot of people make the mistake of offering a huge range of products or services right off the bat to try to look like they’re a bigger company than they are, or simply because they can’t choose what to start on first, but doing this means that you end up being sort of OK at a lot of things and really great at nothing.

Take Clear Books for example. We could have started out offering a huge range of financial services, but instead, we decided to start with just one thing: providing the best, most helpful accounting software to the UK’s small businesses. Because of that focus, we’ve been able to become great at what we do, which gives us a solid foundation to build on.

 

3. Research your target market.

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As part of your narrowing down process, you’re going to need to get very familiar with your target market. If you don’t have a very clear idea of the types of problems they’re having and the types of solutions they need, you won’t be able to create a product or service that is appealing enough for them to buy.

The good news is, you don’t have to spend loads of money paying a marketing company to research this for you — you can do a lot simply by asking people in your target market what’s going on for them. Find out where these people hang out, both in real life and online, and spend some time really getting to know them. That way you’ll know exactly who you’re creating your products and services for, and you won’t waste time creating something that you think they want, but they actually don’t care about.

4. Create your products and services.

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By the time you’ve done all this, you’ll likely have loads of ideas for products and services that you could create. They key is to prioritise your ideas and then focus on what’s going to give you the biggest payoff for the least time/money/energy investment.

Try listing out all of your ideas according to the matrix below and see what you come up with.

 Matrix

 Image via Primary Image

5. Figure out your business plan.

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Now it’s time to start getting a sense of how your business is going to play out. Start by creating a clear, focused mission statement — this is going to serve as the foundation of everything you do in your business, so make sure it really reflects what you want to do.

“Start with your core beliefs, purpose and mission. Knowing you purpose reminds your team why you’re all coming into work every day. If it’s just to get paid then that’s not very inspiring or motivating. But if it’s to save people time then that’s a higher vocation that’s helping the small business community. Setting your mission gives you a goal to work towards by a certain date.”Tim Fouracre, Clear Books founder

Then hammer out the practical elements of your business. Who exactly are you targeting? What are you going to sell to them, and why would they buy it from you instead of someone else? How are you going to finance it? Will you need funding or investment? What data to you have to back all this up? For more help with this, check out our resource How to Write a Business Plan.

 

6. Build your team.

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There’s just no way to run a great business on your own. Whether you work with employees or outsource parts of your business to contractors, you’re going to need a team around you.

The best way to do this is to make a list of all of the parts of your business that

(1) you’re not the best person to do

(2) take up a lot of your time or energy, or

(3) you hate doing.

Then think about ways that you can get those things off your plate so you can focus on the parts of the business that you’re naturally great at. Remember, software can help too — which is why Clear Books is a part of so many different business’s teams!

“I want to make films, that’s what I do. I don’t want to spend a long time bookkeeping or ringing an accountant and getting lost in the maze of tax returns. Clear Books just takes all the heartache and headache out of it because it simplifies everything by being so intuitive.” — Steve Bookbinder, Red Rag Pictures

7. Think about the future.

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Always be thinking about what’s coming next and how you can make that happen. You should especially pay attention to scalability: how you can provide your products or services to many people without you having to do it all yourself.

This will help you to avoid the time for money trap that so many other small business owners fall into — that situation where your business depends solely on you personally providing the product or service, meaning that you’re automatically limited in terms of the amount of money you can make and the number of projects you can take on.

Finally, never stop learning. Attend seminars, watch online talks, read up on industry news, join in on panel discussions and Tweetchats, etc. This will keep you up to date with the latest in your industry and give your business an edge that more static businesses lose.

“I try to attend web design and WordPress events every month, so I can keep my knowledge fresh and keep ahead of what’s happening in the web design world … If you look on a website like Eventbrite, you’ll see there’s lots of free or cheap business seminars or networking events, sometimes specialising in certain sectors, so do have a look at these. Broaden your knowledge and it’ll certainly help bring new ideas to your business.” — Mike, Primary Image

Pitfalls!

Going in blind. It’s incredibly exciting to start a business, but do take the time to really think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to make it work. Otherwise, that initial excitement is more than likely going to turn into disappointment.

Trying to appeal to everybody. Don’t be afraid to get very niche with your products and your target market. If you try to appeal to everybody, you’re not going to appeal very strongly to anybody.

Reinventing the wheel. If there’s a process you do in your business over and over again, write down the steps it takes to complete it, then do it that way each time.

Trying to work alone. This is a recipe for burnout, so don’t try to go it alone.

The time for money trap. Try to get scalable products or services on the table as soon as possible.

 

Remember…

You really can make a business out of just about anything — the only question is whether you really want to or not. Sometimes a hobby is better as a hobby, sometimes it can make you a really great business!

Get very clear on what you’re going to be selling and who you’re going to be selling it to, right from the start. Dream big, start small.

Plan ahead from day one; that’s what gives your business a strong foundation.

No man is an island, and no successful business is run by one person. Even those great “solopreneur” businesses are often run by teams of people working together, so don’t try to go it alone.

 

 

 

Posted by Darren Taylor

Darren is a Marketing Manager specialising in Digital Marketing

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