“Do what you love, and the money will follow.” “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” “Do what you love because that is what you will do well in.”
Ah, if only it were as easy as the cliché’s would have us believe!
Being able to do what you love AND making enough money off it to afford a decent living is the ultimate fantasy for many people. However, because it takes real work to make that happen, “doing what you love” for a living remains just that: a fantasy.
Still, don’t lose heart. Turning your favorite hobby into a profitable enterprise CAN be done. You just have to know how:
1. Assess your hobby.
For you to successfully monetize your favorite hobby, it has to be marketable. How to tell if it is so? Ask yourself if it provides value to others.
If you like to cook, for instance, is there a particular dish that you’re especially good at whipping up that would be great for potluck dinners or for moms who are too busy to turn on the stove? If you’re into drawing or sketching, are you able to make digital art that would look amazing on greeting cards, prints, or posters?
Most hobbies are marketable, as you’ll see (unless you’re into something as strange as mooing, and yes, some people above the age of three actually enjoy imitating the noises that cows make. Go figure).
One other thing you need to ask yourself is how committed you are to your hobby. Is it something you can picture yourself doing for hours, days, or even weeks at a time? Will you still be able to do it well when faced with tight deadlines? How about when not doing it could mean having no money to pay off the rent or electricity for the month?
If the answer to all of the questions posed above is a resounding “yes,” then you’re off to a good start.
2. Do your research.
Now that you’ve committed yourself to turning your hobby into a business, it’s time to look at the numbers.
Within your immediate circle, think of people who would avail of your product or service. How much would the materials for making your product cost? Can you get good wholesale rates for them? How much should you charge to get a sustainable profit margin (i.e., how much profit should you make and how many units should you sell to be able to keep doing your gig)?
Also, just about any business will need funding to get started. If you’ve got enough extra cash to launch your hobby-turned-enterprise, that’s great. If not, look into multiple options for raising your seed money. Apart from cutting down on unnecessary spending, you could go into a bit of freelance work or even resort to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.
3. Come up with a plan.
After you’ve studied the industry and the way your target customers choose to spend their money, figure out the best way to profit off your hobby.
Is it through the traditional buy and sell route? For instance, if you’re a wine aficionado, you may be able to find a niche market to which you can sell wine-themed fridge magnets, imported custom wine-glasses, or revolutionary wine refrigeration devices to.
Or maybe you could teach others how to do what you’re good at? From playing the guitar to handling a website’s SEO, practically any skill can be taught. If you market your services well, you’ll be able to find customers willing to pay to learn what you can teach them.
There are also some less conventional ways to go about things. You can, for example, teach fellow hobbyists the business side of things (e.g., how to keep track of inventory, how to get stories or recipes published, or how to market your skills), write e-books on topics concerning your hobby (Amazon.com has a great platform for this), and perhaps even create a performance series around what you like doing.
Okay, maybe that mooing hobby might not be so unmarketable after all. (Or not.)
4. Cultivate an online presence and a following.
No matter how good your product or service is, your business won’t take off if you don’t get it to the right people.
A great way to find and engage your first customers is online since it’s relatively free and the Internet can greatly amplify your reach.
If you’ve got Twitter or Facebook, start sharing content that’s related to your hobby and engage those who like or respond to these. Once you are able to get enough followers and likes on your social media account, you can then start a blog on your product or service website to capitalize on your audience.
As an alternative, you can also try listing your products or services on online marketplaces like eBay, Craigslist, or olx (formerly known as sulit).
5. Close your first sale.
This should be your number one goal in the beginning. Without that first sale, you’ve only got a hobby and not a business.
It doesn’t matter whether you close a sale for AUD5 or AUD5,000 so long as you’re able to convince that first customer to buy in. Remember that while you strongly believe in your talent, you will have to make a name for yourself before your clients can and will trust you with their hard-earned money. So, expect to hustle hard and to hustle some more in closing that first sale and then converting it into a second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on.
Good product placement, such as an appropriate plug in a popular blog entry or a timely and well-crafted Instagram or Facebook post, can drum up instant interest in whatever it is you’ve decided to make as a hobby/business. Limited free trials, on the other hand, are great for generating word of mouth for service-based businesses, such as SEO management or virtual bookkeeping.
6. Track your progress.
Anything that can be measured can be improved, so keep an eye on the major aspects of your business. Look at how many people have liked your page or your blog, how many have commented or inquired about your products or services, and then see how many of these translated into sales.
Business is often a numbers game, so you will have to keep increasing your customer base and a great way to do that is to keep them interested. Announcing promos during special occasions like Easter or Valentine’s is always a hit, as is coming up with creative contests that get your followers or customers to spread the word about your business.
Regardless of which marketing campaigns you choose to launch, always measure how your reach, client base, and actual sales have improved (if so) afterwards. Eventually, you’ll come up with a targeted winning strategy based on regular progress tracking.
Above all, never stop learning. Whether it’s upgrading your baking skills to that of a master pastry chef, taking on writing courses, or simply figuring out how best to sell your product and yourself, continuous improvement is key to maintaining a competitive business and finding self-fulfillment.