Now is the perfect time to turn a hobby you love into a side hustle or full-time business.
We all know that our career plays a major role in determining our life satisfaction.
We spend a significant portion of our waking time at work. So, if you’re not jazzed to get up in the morning when starting your day, then it’s time to re-evaluate.
Everyone dreams of having a job that they love. So, if you’ve got a hobby that you’re passionate about, and you’ve been wondering how to start your own business or about small business ideas to try, it may be time to put the two together.
Here are 6 tips to turn your hobby into a successful business.
1. Assess how to make money from your hobby.
Up until now, your hobby has existed only to give you enjoyment.
There may have been some planning involved, but there’s a good chance that there wasn’t.
But, now that your hobby is about to transition into a new role, it’s time to approach it differently. The key difference in “hobby vs. business” is treating your hobby as a business.
Think through the details. Write a business plan.
Will you start part-time as a side hustle while keeping your main job? Or will you cut the corporate cord and jump in with both feet?
What exactly will the business version of your hobby look like? What is your product? And to whom are you selling it?
There’s a lot to think through here. But, if you’re serious about making your hobby your new career, then it’s important to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s.
The great news is that you’ll have plenty of support along the way. For example, there are terrific, comprehensive guides on how to start a cleaning business, how to start a clothing brand, how to start an Etsy shop, how to start a consulting business, and how to start a photography business.
If you’ve got a hobby – someone has properly created a useful roadmap to turn your hobby into a business.
So, sit down and figure out your plan. It may change over time – in fact, it probably will. But, to reach a goal, you have to know what it is.
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2. Create a strong brand identity for the business.
As we’ve said before,
Every company has a brand identity.
This is true for your company whether you’ve made a single conscious branding decision or not.
And that’s why it’s vitally important to make conscious, consistent branding choices. The decisions left unmade, and a brand left untended, may hurt your business.
Since you’re at the beginning of your new business journey, you’re in a prime position to get your brand identity right from Day One.
What is brand identity?
Brand identity is the visible elements of a brand, including but not limited to the business name, colors, design, and logo. It's how a corporation, company, or business presents itself to the public and distinguishes the business in consumers' minds. Put simply: it's what you, customers, and prospective customers can see.
The best brand identities are intentional.
Think about it. You won’t randomly pick just any name for your business. The right business name can make a big difference.
Similarly, successful business owners never grab a generic template logo and call it a day. A custom, unique logo design can differentiate your new business in a crowded market.
Your business name, logo, visual design, etc., communicate the essence and mission of the business they represent. That means that you’ve got to know the essence and mission of your business to translate it into a recognizable brand identity.
Here are a few questions to ask to help develop your brand identity:
- What do you love about your hobby?
- Is there a mission that drives you beyond profit?
- What do you bring to your unique hobby?
- How do you want your customers to feel when they interact with your brand?
And, remember that your brand identity isn’t a one-and-done prospect. Brands evolve and require regular maintenance. And, as Dr. Glen Miller (founder and CTO of Vera Roasting Company) points out:
Don’t be afraid to re-brand if needed. Most start-ups begin with a product, not a brand. As one adds more products, customers can get confused. The brand needs to hold it all together. If it doesn’t, re-brand to get it right.
3. Consider what you don’t know.
Starting any business is a leap into the unknown.
But that may be more true than you realize.
Sure, you know that you need to market your business, manage your books, pay business taxes, and more. And, maybe you don’t know how to do all of those things yet. But, you know that those things exist – and that you don’t know how to do them.
In every industry, there will be “unknown unknowns” – things that are so unique to your business that they may not even be on your radar until those things become vitally important.
For instance, a beer-making hobbyist may want to make their hobby a career and start a brewery business. But, there’s a world of l between gifting family and friends with your alcoholic creations and selling beer for profit.
As Michael Davidson, owner and CEO of vodka brand Black Infusions points out:
Make sure you understand the distribution system of the business you’re getting into. The time to start learning about how your products are distributed is in the infancy of your business.
The complex state and federal laws governing alcohol distribution are just one example of niche industry information vital to the success of the businesses in that industry.
You need to discover what you don’t know you don’t know about your chosen field. So, do your research. Read industry publications and build relationships with people who are already working in your field. Keep an open mind and always assume there’s more to learn.
Also, remember that most states require you to register your business if the trade name under which you operate your business differs from your business’s legal name.
For example, if your company is an LLC and is named Three Brothers, LLC, you cannot operate that business lawfully in most states if you’re selling products under the trade name Three Tigers. That’s because the registered name, and your trade name, are different.
Fortunately, this is not a difficult problem to overcome. You can simply register your actual trade name with your state (and or local government) by filing a “doing business as” (DBA) certificate. DBAs are also commonly called “assumed name,” “fictitious business name,” or “trade name.” Here’s a terrific resource that explains what a DBA is, the DBA state requirements, and how to file a DBA for your business in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
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4. Find a path to maintain a work-life balance.
Transitioning a hobby you love into a career you love is truly an exciting adventure. But, it does tend to destabilize your work/life balance.
A hobby fundamentally changes as soon as you decide to transition it into a business.
Now, your fun hobby is no longer optional. It’s required. And, it comes bundled with all of the not-so-fun tasks that running a business demands. So, it becomes essential to manage your time effectively. And, this includes building in leisure time – and finding new relaxing ways of filling it.
When your hobby becomes your career, the lines become blurred. You’ll find that it’s easy – and tempting – to overwork yourself to the detriment of your free time. But, if you don’t prioritize opportunities to relax and let off steam, your energy will wane, and you’ll find your pace unsustainable.
Starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint. So, pace yourself. And find new low-pressure hobbies to help you unwind.
5. Tap into your hobby social network.
If you’ve been doing your hobby for any length of time, there’s a good chance that you may have built up a social network of other people who also enjoy that hobby.
That social network is an invaluable resource for your new business.
Every business seeks to build strong relationships. Your social network gives you a head-start. Your hobbyist friends are your unofficial focus group; and, very possibly, your first customers. So, manage those relationships with care.
If you play your cards right, they’ll also become vocal word-of-mouth advocates for your business, helping it grow.
Tips for getting the most from your social network:
- Ask your friends for feedback and insight during your branding process. They may see something vital that you’ve missed.
- Share new products or services during the development phase. Your friends’ insight may help steer you to a stronger path.
- Thank your network for their contributions. Do this verbally and often. But, also occasionally reward them with products to show them you really mean it.
- Don’t take these folks for granted. Remember to maintain the social side of your relationships, or your friends may start to feel used.
6. Commit to turning your hobby into a business.
Are you serious about turning your hobby into a successful business?
If the answer is “yes,” then you’ve got to commit.
That doesn’t mean that you have to quit your 9-to-5 job tomorrow. But, it does mean that you have to conduct yourself with self-control. When you have a task, do it. When you set a deadline, meet it.
The great thing about starting your own business is that no boss is hounding you. But one of the hardest things about starting your own business is that no boss is hounding you.
You’ve got to hold yourself accountable. You are the boss.
It’s not about finding the right kind of hobbies that make money. It’s about committing to the process and running your hobby as a business. And, when that business has outgrown its status as a side hustle, commit to its success, pat yourself on the back, and make it your full-time gig.
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