Does your hobby have what it takes to grow into a full-time business? Do you want it to? Here’s how to decide if making that transition is right for you.
Just about everyone has a hobby or two. Whether you like to go hiking, play video games or simply hang out at home and watch Netflix, we all have our own ways to unwind over the weekend or at the end of a particularly long work day.
But for some, a hobby can be so much more than just a fun way to pass the time. If you approach it the right way, your hobby could blossom into a full-blown career — if you want it to. In fact, many entrepreneurs have already done just that.
Of course, not all hobbies have a full-time business potential, and making this kind of big shift isn’t for everyone. But with the right level of skill and a creative approach, you may be surprised at the profit potential your favorite activities have to offer. By taking a little time to evaluate your relationship with your hobby, you could find an exciting way out of the traditional 9-to-5 routine.
Here’s how you can tell when you’re ready to turn your hobby into a career.
1. You’re Willing to Be Persistent at It
A hobby may be fun when you’re doing it in your spare time, but turning it into a true business is an entirely different matter. It requires much more persistent effort and a daily commitment — often dealing with deadlines, completing tasks you won’t always enjoy and managing other stressful situations. For most people, it’ll take time before a hobby starts to turn a meaningful profit.
As I gleaned from a recent conversation with DJ Allie Teilz, persistence is key to transforming your hobby into a business. “I had to cut my teeth working in a record shop and booking my own shows when I was 15. I wasn’t doing parties for the Grammys and Golden Globes right off the bat. It took years of work and hustling to get to the point where I was running bigger productions and parties. But that’s how the industry works. You have to work your way up to earn your place.”
I’ve learned this lesson first-hand in my own career, too. Back in 2014 when I first embarked on a new hobby to learn how to start a blog, the goal of eventually turning my website into a business was always sitting at the back of my mind. It wasn’t until five years later that I’d finally start earning enough to consider it a real business.
Knowing that instant success is highly unlikely should serve as an important reality check. If you know you’re willing to stick with your hobby for the long haul, you’re far more likely to eventually make it big.
2. People Are Willing to Pay for Your Work
One key indicator that you can turn your hobby into an actual business, is that you know you can make money doing what you do. Maybe you enjoy taking photos of friends and family — and you’re so good that people want to hire you for professional photoshoots.
In an interview with Reader’s Digest, Ella Mills, founder of Deliciously Ella, shared how she used this principle to turn her blog into a full-scale brand with an app, books and even kitchen products. “Readers started asking for cooking classes, workshops, supper clubs and other events like yoga brunches, so I started putting them on.”
If enough people are expressing a willingness to pay for your work, it’s clear that there’s potential to expand beyond just a part-time hobby endeavor.
3. You Understand the Aspects of Running a Business
Turning your hobby into a career doesn’t mean you simply get to do your favorite activity all day every day. It means you’re now becoming a business and signing up for everything that entails. From marketing your products or services, to answering emails and phone calls, paying quarterly estimated taxes, there’s a lot of extra work that goes into taking a hobby full-time.
Understanding how to run a business is just as important as being skilled at your hobby. Research from Fractl cited unviable business models as the top reason for startup failure, accounting for 26% of all failed startups in recent years. A great idea or useful talent won’t get you very far, if you don’t take the time to learn the basics of running your own scalable business.
In an ideal world, you’ll already have some knowledge of what it takes to run a business based on your work in previous jobs. However, regardless of your current level of experience, you’ll want to put in the extra time to better understand the principles of managing finances, employees and other important business resources.
4. You’re Willing to Make Sacrifices for Your Hobby
Turning a hobby into a full-time career will often require some financial sacrifice, especially at the beginning. But it also signals a major lifestyle shift that could require some other unexpected changes. As with any side business, weighing whether or not potential sacrifices line up with your core values, is a must.
Consider this example from Natalia Autenrieth of TopResume. She explains, “James, a paintball aficionado in his spare time, considered getting a competitive sponsorship to focus on the sport completely. Upon further reflection, he realized that he would have a significant travel commitment for out-of-town games and championships, which would make him an absentee father to his 4-year-old twins — something he couldn’t live with.”
All hobbies that transition into a business will require sacrifices of time, money, work-life balance and possibly even sleep. Make sure that the sacrifices you’ll need to make won’t compromise other more essential aspects of your life. On top of that, be sure you can live with the potential outcome that your enjoyable hobby could start to feel more like work as you spend more time growing it into a career.
A Fun and Lucrative Future
Whether you’re selling artwork, crafts, running a YouTube channel or designing your own apps, there are countless ways you can turn a hobby into a legitimate enterprise.
By fully evaluating your opportunities and creating a concrete plan, you can turn your favorite activities into one of the most enjoyable ways of earning a living.