How to Turn Your Hobby into a Profitable Business Venture
Work on your hobby, learn about sales and marketing and dedicate yourself to steady improvement.
Do you have a life skill that you’re currently only using in your free time? Though you may assume it’s only suitable as a hobby, there’s a chance you can monetize it and turn your talent into a money-making business venture. That’s if you know what you’re doing, of course.
How to monetize your hobby
Hobbies that could potentially be monetized and turned into businesses include painting, woodworking, baking, web design, dog training -- literally anything that provides value to others.
The problem is that many of us are afraid to take action, even when we know we have a marketable skill, because we are afraid of failure. We fear that if we attempt to monetize a hobby and fail, we’ll no longer feel joy or satisfaction from the activity at all… or others will regard us differently.
This can be a scary proposition that may prevent many talented individuals from pursuing their dream. If this sounds familiar to you, then listen up.
Trying to monetize a hobby isn’t easy, but on the other hand, it certainly isn’t rocket science. With a little preparation and strategic execution, you can enjoy a positive result. Here are a few tips:
1. Create a plan
In order to begin monetizing your hobby, you have to devise a game plan. This plan will obviously have to be tweaked along the way, but it’s worthwhile to have a strategy in place from the start.
This is something Tom Hess, a successful guitar teacher, regularly tells his students if they express an interest in someday becoming music instructors as well. He advises them to start part-time and gradually shift into full-time work.
“Fill up all your available time on nights and weekends with students and save all the money you make (do not spend a penny!),” Hess says. “Once you have saved enough money to cover four to six months of expenses, quit your job and go all-in to build your guitar teaching business even further.”
This may not be your particular game plan, but you need one of some kind. There’s nothing smart about diving in blindly and hoping things work out.
2. Get your first sale
You don’t need to go from hobby to million-dollar business in a matter of days. Your number one goal in the beginning stages is to get your first sale. Whether that means making a $5 sale or signing a $5,000 retainer, your first sale is the hardest and most important sale you’ll ever make.
There are plenty of strategies for actually getting your first sale, but it all depends on the product you’re selling. If you’re selling a service, you may want to start by offering a free trial and generating some word of mouth. If it’s a product, good product placement and advertising in the right places can lead to a sale. (Social media is especially powerful if you’re trying to reach the masses with minimal resources on hand.)
While you may believe in your product, it’s important to remember that other people have no reason to believe in it. You haven’t proven yourself yet. Hustle hard for that first sale and then turn one sale into two, two sales into four and so forth.
3. Maximize your time
For many people, working a full-time job and then spending extra hours pursuing a hobby isn’t practical. Between kids, significant other, friends and social requirements, you simply don’t have enough hours in the day.
In the initial stages, you’ll have to get creative about how you use your time. Perhaps you need to wake up an hour earlier than you’re used to and get some stuff done before your regular job.
Alternatively, it could mean involving your kids in your hobby so you can spend time with them while still accomplishing new things.
4. Build an online presence
In business today, everybody needs an online presence to generate activity. This means creating and maintaining a website, social media profiles, and everything else that goes into branding yourself as a professional.
“Keeping consistency in the way you present yourself will give you a more established image, which in turn will result in more fans,” graphic designer Christopher Young says. “If you are unsure of how to start, look for established musicians that produce similar music and borrow from their ideas. Art is not created in a vacuum; it’s okay to draw inspiration from other people’s work.”
A few people will stumble across you online, but a lot of business success happens via word of mouth and networking. You have to be prepared to be active on this side of self-promotion, as well.
Find clubs, conferences and groups in your specialty that cater to other professionals in the niche. You’ll learn a lot at these events and get the chance to mingle with people who are at the same stage as you, and preferably a little further. Just be sure you have an elevator speech prepared for moments like those.
“People are bound to ask ‘So, what do you do?’ Have an ‘elevator speech’ ready so you know exactly what to say,” artist Quinn Dombrowski advises. “It only needs to be a few sentences -- a minute or less -- about who you are and what you do. If they’re interested, they will follow up with additional questions.”
6. Treat it like a job
The final piece of advice is to treat your hobby like a job. If you want it to become your main source of revenue someday -- or at least a sustainable second stream of income -- then you have to give it the attention it deserves.
Carve out time to work on your hobby, read about the industry, learn about sales and marketing and dedicate yourself to steady improvement. This is how to achieve positive results.
The longer you wait to take action, the more you’re likely to talk yourself out of pursuing your hobby. Though it wouldn’t be wise to dive in prematurely and present a low-quality product or service, you don’t want to overthink the challenge either.
If you’re looking for more information on how to turn a hobby into a revenue-producing job or side gig, you can learn a lot from listening to what others have done. Two really wonderful websites are Side Hustle Nation and I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Each offers exceptional business advice that sort of bridges the gap between hobby and business.
There’s also something to be said for learning through trial and error. If you’re good at what you do and there’s a market for your hobby, then there’s no reason why you can’t monetize it and earn a second stream of revenue. Dive in and see what happens.
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