Most would agree with this statement; “It is the simple pleasures in life that are the most enjoyable.” Pretty universal to the tongue, most would agree. Simple pleasures are a lot of time how we relieve stress, and relax on a daily bases. Some of us regard our hobbies as nothing more than simple pleasures. On occasion we have discovered the simple pleasures, or hobbies to be something more. Those of us that have made this revelation have taken these small time tasks that we love, and have figured out how to add monetary value to their subsistence. What I am talking about is turning your hobby into a business. “Do what you love, love what you do.” Here goes another truism for your mental cupboard; “Do what you love, and you will never work another day in your life.
There is a bit of a journey ahead of the newly budding entrepreneur that has decided on undertaking his/her new challenge. Not only is it difficult to start a company from scratch, but where does the new independent business owner begin. How can I take my pastime and turn it into a meaningful income that I can either live off of, or add to my current life style.
In this article I am going to suggest to you day to day activity that you can control, that will help you turn your loving hobby into a loving business. The journey is not an easy one, but it is most definitely rewarding. So, here are some helpful tips, tricks, trade secrets, and habits that will help you transition your hobby into a business.
- Get organized: Our hobbies are generally used in leisure. By definition that means we take a relaxed approach to how we work during that time. We don’t tend to take note during our leisure activity to track progress, minimize mistakes, or broaden our skill set. Typically speaking its all fun and games. The first step to taking your hobby to the next level is becoming more organized. Create more of a regulated schedule. Carve out specific times to sharpen your craft. Create a schedule for your hobby, as to form the habit of completing a certain number of tasks for your hobby a day. Say to yourself “I am going to accomplish ‘_______’ today.” Then write it into your calendar. After you have placed events into a calendar, track your progression. Remember this is no longer a hobby, you are trying to run a business. It is very easy to procrastinate when you have the chance to work on your own terms. Try to avoid this at all cost. Create a calendar of events, and stick to it.
- Create a brand: What is your business going to be called? How are you going to market yourself? This is one of the most overlooked steps within the method of turning a hobby into a business. First impressions could mean a quick start or a hard and slow one. Discover a leading product line. If you build several types of widgets, or gadgets determine which you will lead with. The first mistake is assuming that your favorite product or service will be you customers favorite. While you are developing your brand, stay true to your design. Be good at one niche before you attempt to broaden to others. Niche services or markets are as important to your new brand recognition as you are. Selecting a niche market to provide products and service to will take the guess work out of trying to find customers. Your new market will help you to fine tune your expertise. Once you have fully capitalized in one area then you can branch out to others.
- Define your business system: How will you operate? Do you want a large enterprise, small business, or would you like to work from home. Goals are very important, so you should set some. Then develop clean cut rules to how you will accomplish them. Let’s use the work from home example. Many home based entrepreneurs just want to maintain a lifestyle where they live comfortably, and work from home. If this is your goal, decide how you will operate on a daily bases. This operation schedule will train your customers on the proper protocol for contacting you. When you develop a customer base they are going to have issues, complaints, inquires, and new opportunities for you to earn their business. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation to where you are up all night servicing clients. After all, when you run a home business you are the CEO, President, Technician, Customer Service Rep, and Salesman. Creating a business system/operations protocol, and documenting like you were a large corporation is a good practice to have. Remember you want to run your business, you don’t want your business to run you.
- Survey: Ask questions of potential clients. Find out what it is that they like and don’t like of a product or service that could be perceived to be a competitor. Find out what a potential client/customer is missing, then discover how you will fit into that void. This is your chance to survey the market, and determine how you will play within your niche. Surveying will allow you to test products, and find out how to improve your business practices. The first most important element to your business is your customer base. Without quality customers, your business will struggle early on. Because you are new, you have a chance to instill a quality brand image. Surveying is not just for the start of your new business, this is a practice you should install often. It keeps your brand fresh, and customers aware.
- Product development: You may at first look at your hobby and say, “Wow this has real potential to be something.” You may be right, but potential is all you will have until you put it to the test. In your leisure you may have created a great program, widget, trinket, gadget, or service that is used for recreation. Now that you have a business, the real world practical nature of your business will be tested. So, take some time to clean up the rough edges of what you have created. Take for example our web design business. When we were a young start-up, our designs were for recreation. We offered simple application to display photos, and written projects. Now that we have launched our B2B service, our designs have to be secure, and practical. Some of our customers sell through Ecommerce stores, and others have very interactive blogs. The day to day functionality of what you have produced has to be usable on a larger scale. Open your mind to all of your products possibilities. Research and development (R&D) is another important part to growing your new found business.
- Develop a marketing plan: You have gotten organized, created a brand, developed a business system, surveyed for relativity, and have developed a product. Now it is time for you to develop a marketing strategy. More than one will probably be needed. Your marketing plan should involve some thought into how your niche will most effectively be reached. I am not going to go into detail in this article about how, what, when, and where to market. I will say that in your plan you should have a marketing budget for a form of paid advertising whether that is PPC, display network ads, print media, or business literature. The other part of your plan should have some free advertising in it as well. In most cases paid advertising will get you were you needed to be faster, especially after you have taken the time to polish your marketing skills. However, free advertising or minimal cost ad marketing will offer some flexibility on how to gain exposure. Some opportunities to do this are, volunteering for a philanthropic organization, taking advantage of free/low cost professional networking events, guest writing on a blog, or even ad sharing on your website with other businesses. In the future look for our marketing article, which will have a more in depth look at how to utilize some of these marketing tools. After you have developed your marketing plan, test it for a minimum of six months before determining its effectiveness. We allowed our very first marketing strategy to run for a year before we determined that we need to move in another direction.
- Relax: I know, and I understand that we entrepreneurs are go getters, and we need success now. Don’t forget that this transition will take time. Your new work schedule is going to take some getting use to, and failure early on can be frustrating. Remember your goals you set while you were developing your system. Stick to the plan you have laid before yourself, continue to move forward, and don’t let early struggles deter your creativity.
- Work on personal development: Your personal development is as detrimental to your business as quality customers are. It is always a good idea to read books that will help keep you motivated to grow your business. It is also a good idea to read books related to the business you are trying to run. I know we all grew up hearing this saying, “Experience is the best teacher.” That is only half true. “Someone else’s experience is the best teacher.” Take advantage of other business owner’s knowledge of growing businesses. Why recreate the wheel. One of the most important steps, in this article is this one. “Read.” You will grow much faster from what you learn.
- Ask questions: Ask yourself, “Is this the best I have to offer?” Always challenge yourself, and write new ideas down. This is the fun part, figuring out how to grow is the one of my favorite steps. This is the step were your business gets a chance to grow to the next level. Challenge your own conventional thinking, and come up with new ways grow your business.
- Evaluate: Take a step back and measure how your business is growing. Constantly set growth milestones. Attacking your goals makes it a business. If you sit back and hope for the best, you will be treating your business like a hobby. Set customer goals, revenue goals, and developmental goals. We will use the home based business owner again for one last example. If your goal is to make 100k and work form home, determine how many hours of practicing your business will produce enough revenue to support the customer volume needed to reach this goal. Then set budget and activity goals to reach the big picture goal of 100k. With every milestone evaluate and determine sustainability. This progress measuring step will help you to keep your business operating like a business.
It is not easy taking your hobby to a business. If you carry the love that you innately have for your hobby over to your new business venture, you will find that in fact you will never have to work another day in your life.
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