Most successful businesses reflect the owner’s personal interests. That is why it is not surprising that almost a fourth of all business ideas come from the owner’s hobby interests. Turning a hobby into a career isn’t all fun and games, however. If you are thinking about turning your passion into profits, consider the following tips.
When choosing a business idea, one thing is certain: you’ve gotta love it. However, just because you love doing something doesn’t mean it will make a successful business. Remember, your business needs to be profitable as well as satisfying. Be sure to research your market before you jump in with both feet. Will enough people buy your product or service? Will the customers keep coming over time? Are customers willing to pay enough that you can cover your expenses and earn a profit?
There’s more to a business than just the products or services you offer. Just because you love to golf, for example, doesn’t mean you have all of the skills required to run a golf course. You may find that once you start your business, you actually spend more time selling than you do pursuing your interest. After all, it doesn’t matter that you make the best cheesecake if you never sell one. Other business tasks (such as management, bookkeeping and personnel) will eat up your time too. Thus, you may find less that you have less time to pursue your interest than you expected.
Hobbies are an excellent diversion. In fact, that is often the very thing we love about them. If your hobby becomes your work, will it lose its appeal? Deadlines, repetition, and having to conform to customer constraints can zap the fun from your hobby interest. Remember, just because you enjoy cooking doesn’t necessarily mean you should open a catering business. It is one thing to prepare a gourmet meal for friends; it is another to cater a dinner party for two hundred finicky guests.
Here are a few pointers that can help you ensure a happy marriage of your hobby and your business:
- The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Gain an insider’s perspective by working part-time (even if only on a short term basis) in your field of interest before you commit to starting a business. You’ll learn first hand what’s involved in running the type of business that you are interested in. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, and this experience can only improve your chances for success.
- Consider a partnership with someone who’s passionate about the business end of your business. That way, you’ll be able to spend more of your time doing what you love. If you decide to partner, be sure to choose your partner carefully and define clear expectations in the beginning.
- Seek out a mentor who has worked in your field of interest for a while. Ask them about the pros and cons, what’s worked, what hasn’t. Direct competitors may be reluctant to talk with you for obvious reasons. You can avoid this dilemma by seeking the advice of business owners in other market areas.
- Do your homework. Take the time to research your field of interest—find out what’s hot, what’s not and what’s next for your industry. Trade organizations and trade publications are great sources of information. There are trade organizations for almost every type of business interest imaginable—from the Federated Funeral Directors of North America to the National Association of Professional Petsitters (and everything in between). Not sure how to find a trade association or publication in your area of interest? The Encyclopedia of Associations and Newsletters In Print by Gale Research (available at most libraries) can help you identify organizations and publications within your field of interest, and the 2001 Writer’s Market provides a list of magazines published in the U.S. When in doubt, ask your local librarian for help!