Helping business owners with mental health issues, Start Small but Dream Big
From hobby to business
Hobbies are an important part of many people’s lives. For me, reading, cooking, walking my dog, and writing are an integral part of my life. A hobby is often a distraction from the challenges and stresses of life. Important as they are when things are going well, they’re even more vital when I’m finding life difficult.
I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to convert my love of writing into a business. My main source of income now is from working as a ghostwriter. As well as getting to play with words, I love the variety of subjects that I get to write on. These have ranged from blogs about tree care in the southern states of America, to 50,000 word online courses on data protection.
A significant number of businesses start as hobbies. According to smallbusiness.co.uk around 37% of British entrepreneurs based their businesses on their hobbies. While many are still small, some hobby-based businesses have become major successes. When Bill Gates discovered an interest in programming in his teens, it was just a hobby. Walt Disney enjoyed doodling. Orville Gibson loved making mandolins before diversifying into banjos, lutes and, finally, guitars.
So, if you want to turn your hobby into a career, what should you consider?
The most important thing is if you can make money doing what you love. The whole point of business is to generate an income. The first – and probably hardest part – is to make sure that your product is good enough. If it’s not, it won’t sell. However, make sure that you don’t underestimate the quality of your work. Try to get independent feedback.
My post ‘Eight steps to choosing the right business idea’ outlines what else you should consider when assessing if you can make money from an idea.
How you will make money
When thinking about hobbies that can be turned into businesses, most of us think about turning crafting into something more professional. Obvious examples are cakes, jewellery, clothing, and candles. Photography is another popular hobby that can be converted into a moneymaker. However, there are other ways that hobbies can become businesses.
One alternative is tutoring, for example running classes teaching knitting, or playing the ukulele. Online courses are becoming very popular in today’s busy, time-poor world, and offer the advantage of a passive income. Something to be aware of, however, is whether you need qualifications to teach your particular specialty. Music teachers must be qualified to a certain level, while ice skating instructors must be both qualified and registered with the sport’s governing body.
Another possibility is sourcing and selling items related to a hobby. Dancers, skaters, and animal lovers, frequently buy clothing and accessories that demonstrate their love of whatever their interest is. Zumba, in addition to its class franchise, also has a profitable sideline in branded clothing. Alternatively, you could sell supplies for hobbies, for instance, selling thread or yarn, or jewellery making equipment.
How will you feel about your hobby if you HAVE to do it?
Doing something for fun, as way of relaxing is one thing. Having to do it can be a completely different experience. Deadlines, customer expectations, producing the same item multiple times, can cause a once-loved hobby to become a chore. Some people even end up hating what they do. Think hard about how you might feel when faced with these situations. Are you good with deadlines? If you take commissions, how do you feel about producing something that you don’t necessarily like? Will you get bored making the same thing over and over?
The following businesses were kind enough to share their experiences of turning their hobby into a business. Check out their websites to find out more about them.
Black Dog and Ginger Cat
Blackdogandgingercat is owned and operated by Lydia Needle, a feltwork specialist. She not only produces her own artworks, but also sells felting kits and runs workshops, so taking advantage of a number of revenue streams.
‘Getting to spend much more quality time making, crafting, and perfecting my skills. Then, if you’re lucky, people will pay for it. There’s incredible peace that comes from creating something that someone falls in love with and wants to keep in their home.’
‘Admin – you have to be really disciplined with paperwork, emails, applications and accounts. Little and often wins the day.’
Maddie and the Bear
Maddie and the Bear is an Australian business, which produces origami art for weddings, homes, and offices. In 2016, the business was awarded silver in the Ausmumpreneur awards.
‘A definite positive is being able to work around or children and their schedules.’
‘Learning to mentally shut myself off from work each day, which is hard as I normally relax on the couch and fold my origami while watching TV. And having the chaos of a normal, untidy studio visible in the house instead of being able to walk away and go home. It can be a bit contentious sometimes!’
Before turning your hobby into a business, the key factors you have to consider are:
- Can you make money doing it?
- How can you make money from it?
- How will you feel if you have to do it?
The last point is particularly important if your hobby is your main escape from the pressures of life. The last thing you want is for it to become another chore.