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Turning a hobby into a business

Keep in mind that if this is a hobby, you don’t have to transform it into a full-time job right away. [iStockphoto]

For the free-spirited, working a 9 to 5 job can be restrictive and exhausting. It’s no secret that many employees dream of having their own business.

Your own business makes you your own boss, allowing you to determine your schedule while doing what you really love.

But let’s face it, starting and running your own business can be easier said than done. Lack of funds, fear of failure, overwhelming responsibilities and self-doubt make the road to successful entrepreneurship a challenging one.

However, you don’t have to jump head-first into entrepreneurship. You can test the waters by dipping your toes rather than taking the plunge all at once. Here’s how to turn your hobby into a full-time job, one step at a time.

Pick the right hobby

If you want to eventually turn your side gig or hobby into a business, make sure you choose it right. Unfortunately, not all hobbies can be easily turned into lucrative full-time businesses. Some hobbies might even cost you money, rather than help you make more of it.

Choose something that will potentially make you money rather than cost you. Do you enjoy writing? Create a blog. Do you like to design? Consider taking a class. The goal of the first step is to get started. And you’ll start to improve.

It doesn’t have to be a lot of money at first, but you should think about doing something you’re enthusiastic about to avoid burnout. Spend some time practising outside of your full-time employment to get a feel of it without taking any substantial risks.

Start small

It’s nice to dream big and set lofty goals, but idealism without a dose of realism rarely works. Technology giant Apple began in a garage, so don’t think you need a big organisation to be successful. Also, keep in mind that if this is a hobby, you don’t have to transform it into a full-time job right away.

Start small, but dream big. Freelance for a few hours a week to assess how your hobby’s needs match up with the realities of the industry. If your passion, with all of its demands, is still pleasurable after a while, it’s a clear sign that you should turn it into a business.

Get some social proof

Now that you’ve selected a hobby that might eventually lead into a business and put some effort into it, it’s time to create social proof for it. A great way to do so without spending too much is by creating a social media presence. Create a website, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter handles and start sharing.

Look at this as a fun project you can work on during your evenings or weekends. However, you also want to project professionalism.

Encourage your customers to leave reviews and recommend your brand to their friends. Positive reviews give new customers the confidence to make a purchase, especially when they’re shopping online.

Studies show that before making a purchase, 90 per cent of consumers check internet reviews, and 88 per cent of them trust them as much as a personal recommendation. Don’t be shy about soliciting real feedback about your product, service or concept.

Validating your idea, communicating to people and becoming ready for the everyday reality once you’re ready to launch are all important parts of making it a success.

Invest in marketing

Many new entrepreneurs think of marketing as something they’ll have to do “down the road”. However, if you want to successfully turn a hobby into a business, you can’t afford this kind of thinking.

In fact, you should have a marketing strategy in place even before you start any kind of business.

But you don’t have to go big when your business is just a hobby; you work on it during your free time. You can start by boosting your social media posts to the right audience, which will increase your visibility on social media.

Social media advertising is, fortunately, quite affordable. You can set your budget as low as possible while making your ads captivating. Invest in creating simple, yet powerful social media images and videos – they are more appealing than text ads.

Educate yourself

To turn a pastime into a business, you’ll have to learn the ins and outs of the trade. No one will spoon-feed you the information – you’ll have to make time and effort to teach yourself about the area of interest.

Luckily, there are plenty of free resources online to help you learn about anything. Look up relevant podcasts, YouTube channels, books, blogs and online courses.

Treat it like a business

If you mean to turn your hobby into a business, treat it like one. It’s fine to have a good time and enjoy what you’re doing, but if you’re not going to take it seriously, you may as well stop pretending.

Establishing the number of hours you’ll devote to converting your hobby into a business is a great way to keep yourself in check. At least in the beginning, have the discipline to stick to the schedule that you’ve set. It’s not a good idea to begin by slacking and cutting corners.

In addition, set up proper business bookkeeping for your hobby. You have to know how each penny is spent. Get used to separating your personal income and expenses from your business revenue – it is a great idea to have a business bank account for this.