The benefits are obvious – but what about the pitfalls of turning a hobby into a business?
When you’re good at something, something other people value, it seems the obvious choice to think about monetising that skill. Turning a hobby into a business could be something you are considering…
You might be someone who can paint, someone who can write, someone who can sew or someone with an eye for carpentry, having practised it as a hobby for as long as you can remember.
Turning a hobby into a business has an awful lot going for it. You already possess the skills needed to be at the top of your game. You’ll have an excellent idea of your work rate; how much you can produce and how often. You can accurately predict your overheads and chances are you’ll probably already be in possession of most of the materials and the space you need to produce the end result.
If you do need to stretch out a bit, then renting office or workshop space is an exciting option and one that you may embrace. Feeling like you’ve gone the extra mile to give your business its own professional identity can help immensely. Then there’s the fun of setting up, deciding on a business name and bringing a website to life, what’s not to like?
Well, there might be a few things not to like. Aside from the fact that you may find your once relaxing hobby turning into a chore, there are one or two more factors to consider to prevent your pastime becoming a pitfall.
That initial euphoria when starting your own business can turn to deep sighs as the reality of the situation kicks in. While plenty of start-ups have to get used to the idea that the money may not come rolling in initially, it can be far harder for hobby business owners to accept. After all, everyone you know said they’d buy your product and by your calculations you should be raking it in by now.
Sadly, it doesn’t always work like that and while your expectations are high, they must be managed to avoid confidence-eroding disappointment. Lofty ambition is admirable and indeed should be encouraged but always tempered with realism.
Another factor to consider is the need to learn other disciplines to help run your business. Alongside the art of doing what it is you do, there’s marketing and your accounts to name but two. Throw in some admin and managing customer relations and it may seem like the fun part of your job is taking a back seat. If you find any of these disciplines particularly challenging or time-consuming, consider outsourcing them to an expert.
If you decided to set up on your own to escape a more regular office job, you might feel quite giddy with your new-found freedom to start and finish at the times you choose, taking greater control of your work/life balance. However, with that freedom comes the challenge of having less structure. ‘Nine to five’ is clear and precise. It has its limits and its boundaries. ‘Eight-ish to whenever’ means you may find yourself either working far too hard or struggling for motivation.
Finding the right balance is a pitfall for many a new business owner, more so if you’re relying on your hobby to pay the mortgage. However, with a little trial and error and some self-discipline, you should find the right routine that works for you.
Finally, there’s the pitfall mentioned before of when monetising your hobby turns it into a chore. It’s not just that you now find something you once loved has become merely a job, but that you are unable to move on from the niche you’ve created. Take a carpenter, for example, who finds themselves working on new doors, window frames and garden gates for clients. While the work is satisfying and steady, they no longer have time to practise that fine detail that went into creating beautiful jewellery boxes.
The niche they find themselves in is all-consuming, leaving little time for growth and experiment. Financially they are creating a reliable stream of income but how much longer before this work feels as claustrophobic as the job they left, when creativity is pushed aside for profit? If you find this happening to you, consider how you can tweak your business plan and manage your time to allow more space for the aspects of your craft that you love the most.
For the most part the pitfalls that any small start-up faces are the same whether you’re turning a simple skill into a business or whether you’re transforming your lifelong passion into a source of income, the stakes are just greater.
Any job can become dull or uninspiring the longer you do it. Quitting something you’re not emotionally attached to is nowhere near as painful as watching something you love slowly change into something you can’t wait to get away from at the end of the day. When you lose a hobby in this way it can feel like a piece of you dies with it.
Should you turn a hobby into a business? Absolutely, but make sure you go into this venture with your eyes wide open.
If you are already well underway but finding yourself facing challenges, rest assured you’re not alone. The economic climate, political uncertainty, a slightly off business plan – all these things can feed into your business experiencing a hiccup or two along the way.
The trick is not to panic. According to freelance writer and entrepreneur Chidike Samuelson, writing for Entrepreneur.com, there are several key areas to look at before you throw in the towel. Firstly, stand back. Take a long, hard look at what’s going on and then begin your deep dive. Ask yourself the tough questions around which areas of your business are missing the mark and why.
Once you know where and why, the hard work starts. It may mean further investment into the areas that need a boost. Perhaps your distribution is turning customers off, maybe some staff training will help your relationship management with key stakeholders. Your dream doesn’t have to die, it may just need some financial first aid.
Finally, use your networks. Talk to other business owners, professional groups that you belong to, your old boss, a paid consultant, anyone who can offer you sound and practical advice going forward. All businesses go through tough times along the way and for the entrepreneur who has turned their hobby into a dream job those times can feel like the end of the world. At the Guild of Master Craftsmen we have hundreds of individuals who have taken the step of creating a business from their passion! So gather up your courage and find solutions, with help if necessary, and rework your business plan until those solutions start yielding results.