Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
When Walt Disney was 5 years old, his family moved from Chicago to a farm in Missouri. Rural life immediately sparked Disney’s imagination and passion for drawing animals.
Soon, his hobby turned from drawing on paper to creating animated cartoons. In fact, the inspiration for Mickey Mouse came from Disney’s pet mouse. By the end of his career, he had turned a childhood hobby into the highest-grossing media conglomerate in the world.
According to Disney, “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” While this is definitely true, turning a hobby into a legitimate business requires more than just courage. It takes planning, organization, and commitment. Here are few important things to keep in mind before taking the plunge.
1. Educate yourself on the ins and outs of marketing:
Marketing your business is the key to attracting customers. As a result, you must learn the ins and outs of small business marketing and branding. Spend time reading everything you can, talking to other entrepreneurs, attending seminars, watching how other businesses promote themselves and brand their products/services.
Realize that your education is never over and become a perpetual student. Marketing trends change and in order to be successful, you must stay on top of and implement those trends.
Here are a few great resources to help you stay current with the latest marketing trends. These resources cover everything from digital and content marketing to social media and analytics. Subscribe to their newsletters, download their tutorials and buy their e-books. In short, be an avid consumer of the canons of knowledge stored within these sites:
- Neil Patel Blog
- Content Marketing Insitute
- Autopilot Blog
- Smartbrief: Marketing
- Advertising Age
2. Consider the pros and cons:
Think about the following aspects of using your hobby as a business opportunity:
–Will you enjoy your hobby if it requires marketing, selling and making consistent money?
–Are you prepared to turn your hobby into a 24/7 endeavor?
–Will turning your hobby into a business diminish the fun?
— Are you prepared to leave your full-time/part-time position and try to make a living off of your hobby?
These questions aren’t meant to discourage you from turning your hobby into a career. They’re meant to be a reality check to weed out those who are serious about turning their hobby into a career, and those who like the idea but lack the initiative or the desire to do so.
3. Research the market:
Learn about the industry and your competition. Discover if consumers will want to pay for your product/service. This will help you understand what it takes to be successful and profitable.
This could be a good time to conduct a focus group. You’ll be provided with honest feedback, advice and suggestions from people within your target demographic.
4. Test your hobby:
Before jumping into a business, consider testing your idea with friends and family—and collect their advice and feedback. Think about working for free during your start-up phase or work part-time while keeping your current job.
And don’t be discouraged if no one seems interested in your product/service. It could be your marketing technique or it could mean that you need to fine-tune your product/service.
Kick starter campaigns are a great way to gauge interest in a product while raising money for you to develop and sell the item at the same time.
5. Start small:
Most successful businesses begin with a simple idea. And from there, the business begins to grow. For example, Uber began as an app that hailed a taxi from your cell phone. This simple and easy concept has now turned into a corporate giant.
Or think about Netflix. What started as a movie delivery service (remember the hilarious commercials) is now a billion dollar streaming service with award-winning original TV shows and movies.
Practically this may look like keeping a full-time/part-time job for awhile and working on your hobby after work and/or on the weekends. It looks like not investing thousands into a fancy office space when you have a perfectly good garage or kitchen table to work from. Take it slow and keep it small.
Most people don’t find mega success overnight. More often than not, it takes years of consistent nurturing for a company to rise to the ranks of Amazon, Microsoft, and others.
Turning your hobby into a business can be a great way to make a living, while also doing something that gives you pleasure. But don’t rush into it! Doing the legwork now will save you from a headache down the road.
Then, when you’re ready to jump in, follow the sage advice of Walt Disney, who said: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” You’ve got this!
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