What do Walt Disney, Bill Gates, and Debbie Fields all have in common?
Yes. They all successfully started their own empires. But, that’s not the only thing that they have in common. They were all able to turn their hobbies in successful business ventures. Disney’s love for sketching created the juggernaut that is known as the Walt Disney Company. Fields enjoyed baking cookies as a young girl and eventually built more than 600 bakeries in the U.S. Gates passion for programming as a teenager lead him to building Microsoft.
Instead of looking back in regret wishing that you had made a living out of your hobby like Disney, Field, or Gates, you can start on the road to your dream by taking action and doing so today - using the following steps.
Is this something that you want to do full-time?
Before you get too far ahead of yourself, you need to answer this important question. Is this something that you’ll actually want to do for years to come? Or, is this just a passing phase - like that time you swore that you were going to learn how to play the guitar?
Make sure that this idea or talent is something that you’re passionate about and dedicated to achieving. If not, you may be more tempted to throw in the towel when the times get rough, which - by nature - the times will always - eventually get rough.
Do your homework
After you’re certain that this is something that you do want to pursue, you need to start doing a lot of research. For starters, you want to make sure that there’s actually a market for your business idea. Just because you still love to roller skate doesn’t mean that there’s a large enough market for you to start your own business.
SBA.gov has some great pointers on how to conduct market research. For example, you want to analyze data from government resources and third parties like trade organizations.
While you’re over at the SBA.gov website, take the time to review other important topics like how to write a business plan, register your business, the permits or licences you may be required to obtain, and how to file taxes.
Explore different ways to monetize your hobby
So, there is a market and an opportunity for you to start making some cash from your hobby? How exactly are you going to go about achieving this? What steps will you take?
Nancy Collamer, author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement, has the following six suggestions on how to monetize your hobby;
- Teach others the hobby. If you’re a guitar player, for example, then start charging people for lessons.
- Teach the business of the hobby. Personally, I’ve made a comfortable living from online marketing. I now earn an income sharing my passion and experience with others who have the drive and desire to learn this complicated process.
- Sell, import, invent, or craft a product or accessory for enthusiasts. Let’s say that you love to ski. Of course you can teach this sport if you are good enough and love to teach, but you could also open a shop of handmade or imported ski accessories or invent a pair of glasses that prevents snow blindness, or figure out how to make those battery powered socks work better.
- Speak or write about your hobby. If you’re a Napa Valley wine enthusiast you could publish a book on the history of Napa Valley.
- Create a tour or performance series. Sticking with the wine example, you could launch a guided wine tour business that would take customers to various Napa Valley wineries. Form a tasters forum, or teach the intricacies of wine making, or share the secrets of a sommelier.
- Appraise, repair, teach or fix items. If you love cars, then you could start your own mechanic shop or detailing business. If you are comfortable teaching tech -- even to granny -- there sure is a need for this type of teaching.
Keep in mind though you may not be able to rely solely just one source of income - especially when you are just starting out. Offering guitar lessons, for example, probably isn’t going to bring-in enough money to pay all of your expenses. Because of that, you may have to figure out multiple streams of income, like repairing guitars and selling refurbished guitars while also giving lessons.
Brand your business
Having a brand is one of the most important elements when you start marketing your business. This process begins by finding your voice and aesthetics, along with creating a set of core values that guide all of your business decisions. Some of the easiest places to start the process of building a business is creating a logo and color scheme that is consistently shared across everything from your business cards to the design of your website.
Most importantly though, be your brand. If you are selling jewelry on Etsy then make sure that you’re wearing your work whenever you leave the house. If you’re building surfboards, then make sure to use it every time you catch some waves. If you just started your own brewery, don’t forget to bring some growlers the next you’re invited to a party.
Finally, make sure that you network with like-minded people and mingle with your customers both online and offline. Thanks to social media, this can turn out to be relatively easy.
Get creative with funding
Gone are the days when you would have to secure funding for a business from a bank, investor, or maxing out your credit cards. There are multiple ways that you can raise money for your business. One of the most popular options is through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. You could also explore peer to peer lending through businesses like Lending Tree.
Don’t quit your day job just yet
Not to be a downer, but you aren’t going to be able to make a living from your hobby overnight. It’s a process that can take years. That’s why when you’re just starting out you keep your day job and work on your new business venture on the side. This way you can still pay your expenses and invest in the business without having to rely on your hobby as your main source of income.
For example, if you’re building and selling handmade furniture, you could build several pieces when you have the free time. With your full-time job, you can still pay your rent, while selling building your business. Once you have enough cash coming in, you can quit your day job and turn your side gig into a full-time business.