Your hobby as your career–is it possible?
By Dan Moran
Ever hear the expression “Do what you love, and the money will follow”? It is from a popular career development book of the same name by Marsha Sinetar. We have all heard the stories about the skier who becomes an instructor, the gourmet cook who becomes a caterer or the woodworker who becomes a furniture craftsman.
In many cases, it is possible to take what you really enjoy – the hobby or activity that you have a passion for – and turn it into your career. In other situations, what you are passionate about as a hobby just might not make the cut after you do the research and analysis. If you have been thinking of turning your hobby into a career, follow the tips below that will encourage you to take a reflective look at your plan before you leap into chucking it all and taking your hobby to the next level.
Step One (the most important): Is it economically feasible and is there a market?
The most important step in this process is to determine the economics and market demand or acceptance—or in other words, can you make money at your hobby? The questions to ask (and answer) include:
• Will someone pay me for this product or service – and how much?
• What will be my costs to produce the product or service?
• Will the difference between what someone will pay and my cost yield an acceptable profit – enough to generate the level of income I need?
• If the numbers are close but not quite there, can I produce or deliver at a lower cost?
These may be tough questions, but the answers will help you determine if you will move forward in your new career or not. Too many businesses have been started, or careers redirected, without the required and difficult analysis. I call it being on “hope-ium” – where one hopes it will work for them rather than conducting the analysis before they leap.
Follow these tips:
• Turn to fellow hobbyists that you know or can find through online research and ask for their opinion.
• Conduct market research and find others who may be providing the same or a similar product or service and ask (as long as they would not be a potential competitor).
• If you are in need of help in conducting the analysis, hire a consultant to help you through this critical process.
Step Two: Build a plan
Once you find out there is a market, your next step is to create a business plan. No matter how simple, it is very important and will further define and validate the opportunity to turn your hobby into your career. In this stage, you project what it will take to launch your new endeavor, fund it and determine when you can expect a payback.
Business plans force you to look at your specific actions (production, delivery, sales, marketing/advertising, operations) and will help you identify what you need to put in to survive and make it. You should answer questions including:
• How much money do I need to invest?
• Based on my sales, marketing and advertising plans, when will I generate enough revenue to make a profit?
• How much do I need to pay myself to live through any start-up?
• Where will the business be in one, two and five years?
It is very important that you budget in your start-up costs and enough money to pay yourself until you can generate a profit. Businesses fail not because the idea was not sound, but rather, the business was undercapitalized (or invested in) to meet the income and operating needs.
Step Three: Reflect upon yourself
So far, I have been driving you to understand the numbers and the financial needs of turning a hobby into a career or business. It is also very important that you take a look in the mirror and ask the tough questions:
• Will I still love my hobby if it is my vocation?
• Do I have it in me to run my own business or work my hobby in someone else’s business?
• Will I have the lifestyle I want?
Not long ago, I met a person who loved designing flower arrangements and wanted to be in this business. She told me one thing I will not forget: Some enter the florist business thinking that they are going to design arrangements and listen to Enya everyday – they learn fast that this isn’t the case. This is why taking a reflective look is so very important at the early stages of your exploration.
Step Four: Decide how committed youare—and your tolerance for risk
If you have pass muster of Steps 1, 2 & 3 and it is still looking good, measure your level of commitment and your risk tolerance. Your personal situation will help you define this. If you have support—perhaps a spouse or significant other with income to help through start-up or adjusting to your personal economic situation (if this is the case)—the decision may be easier. Some I know have saved for a period of time knowing what may be needed to invest, and they are okay with doing this, which is an investment in themselves.
As you go through this step, you will know if your hobby will become a full-time or part-time endeavor. It is very common for hobbyists to start part-time, learn along the way, and then jump in full-time later on. Still, others launch their hobby as a business part-time only to find they are flooded with business, which then requires a full-time commitment (not bad when that happens).
Time for the green light to shine …
To this point—tough questions, reflective thought, analysis—probably painful. But hopefully you are here—you have passed your own muster, the hobby can be your career or business and you are ready to jump in. Congratulations—and on to Step Five!
Step Five: Dare to be different
I often write about re-careering or reinventing yourself from a career perspective. I ask you to do the same with your hobby—find a way to be different, pursue another angle and stand out from the crowd. Perhaps you are a gourmet cook wanting to do catering—consider using your talents to teach others to cook as you do rather than joining the ranks of other caterers. Perhaps your hobby is writing. Rather than write and hope you get published, coach others embarking on a career in writing.
The goal is to stand out, be a recognized authority and truly love what you do. Someone once said that if you are passionate for what you do, you will never work another day in your life. Time to follow your dreams and your passion…and the best of luck to you.
Dan Moran is president & founder of Next-Act, a career management & transition firm located in Colonie. He specializes in helping people make career choices and seek new jobs. He is also a Certified Facilitator for Get Hired Now! and Get Clients Now! Programs, which help those in career transition and companies get results. He mentors managers & executives as they navigate their careers and achievements. You can reach him at 641.8968 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.next-act.com.