You’ve been working on your craft as a sideline for a little while now, just happy to have an outlet for your creativity. Maybe you’re juggling this alongside a full or part time job. But what if you start to see bigger things for your creativity and the potential for it to become less of a hobby and more of a business? Should you give up your day job and pursue it? (If you want to test whether you’re truly ready, check out the free diagnostic tool on my website).
About 37% of UK entrepreneurs have turned their hobbies into successful businesses and as a Creative Coach, I have personally seen many people make this successful leap. My biggest piece of advice to anyone embarking on this journey is to save yourself some time, money and stress by investing a little energy at the start to think things through. So, here are my 8 tips on how to turn your hobby into a business:
1. Be clear on what you want from your business
What do you actually want from your business? How much do you want to earn? How much time are you going to commit? How quickly are you going to reach your goals? How is it going to feel? Doing some visualisation and setting an intention is an important first step. A business plan will help clarify this further, but if that feels a bit dull or scary, I highly recommend Jennifer Lee’s book The Right Brain Business Plan as an alternative take which appeals more to the creative brain.
2. Give yourself the time and space to succeed
Hobbies don’t turn into businesses overnight, so try and give yourself enough time to throw yourself into it (without feeling guilty!) And try and carve out some space at home, if you don’t have it already, where you can work from. As things grow you will need a place to send out more orders, create more things etc. And it’s good if your space is away from any noise or distractions!
3. Do your research
Unless you already have a queue of people waiting to buy your product or service, it’s good to take time to see what the competition are doing, what they’re charging, what they’re offering etc. There’s plenty of information out there online, via audiobooks, podcasts, and by getting out and visiting shops, galleries or fairs. Also, it’s good to have an idea of your financial position and what you can afford. I recommend doing a simple survival budget to give you more clarity and identify some ways you might be able to cut your monthly spending and keep yourself afloat for longer whilst you’re getting established.
4. Know your customer and what needs you are satisfying
It’s vital to know who your customer is and most importantly what their needs are and where your product or service fits into that picture. Once you know your customer, you can then start to gear your other efforts like branding, marketing, adding new products, around them. As you transition into a business, stay focussed on your customer, not just on what it is you love doing.
5. Build a supportive team around you
Don’t try to do this all on your own! Building a business requires a broad range of skills and there aren’t always going to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. There are many non-creative skills needed in a creative business in order for it to grow and succeed. Being a Creative Coach, I’ve noticed that those people who recognise this and let other people in are the ones who are still in business! Find yourself a mentor or a coach if you can. Sometimes you need someone in your corner to cheer you on who understands the journey you’re on and can point you in the right direction and keep you focussed and motivated.
6. Don’t be scared to make a profit
The word profit can make some Creatives shudder, but without it, you will still be working on your hobby and you may not be able to sustain yourself. Remember that a key difference between a hobby and a business is that a business is about making a profit. Be confident in your pricing and stay focussed on selling products or services which are going to make you the most profit and therefore have the biggest impact on your income. (To take this further, read my article on How to Price Your Work.
7. Don’t under-estimate the power of your brand
In today’s saturated marketplace, it’s important that you stand out from the crowd. Get clear on your USP and develop a brand which you know will appeal to your target customer. Becoming a business might just mean becoming more professional looking through your logo, your website and the way you communicate to your customers. Tell your story, make it personal. It helps people connect with you and gives you a point of difference.
8. Get comfortable putting yourself out there
Nothing is going to come to you unless you get yourself out there – whether that’s online, attending networking events, doing demonstrations or having a stall at a local festival. Selling and marketing your products requires you constantly exposing yourself and coming outside your comfort zone. Once you accept this as part of the journey, it will make the transition a lot easier. So get your photo on your website, tell your story and make that sales call. Once you’ve done it once and seen it start to bear fruit, you’ll have the benefit of momentum behind you and you will then be unstoppable!
Whatever your creative passion, if you’re thinking of turning it into a business, do your homework and then go for it! Life is too short and the world needs more people who are happy making a living doing what they love.