For some people, a hobby is a relaxing escape. For others, it’s a fun way to spend their free time. Then there are those who have become so skilled in their favorite pastime that they decide to turn it into a source of income. From selling handmade items online to starting their own photography business to researching people’s family trees, there are numerous hobbies that can be lucrative. But to really keep up with a hobby often involves a lot of time, energy and money. So is turning a hobby into a business really worth it?
The answer depends on the hobbyist and his or her lifestyle. Things like work schedules, financial restraints and family obligations can often present challenges for a hobbyist when it comes to earning money for their goods or services. Before you decide to parlay your special skills into a source of income, ask yourself the following questions:
How much free time do you have and how much of it are you willing to sacrifice to your hobby?
If you work 40 hours a week, for example, your free time will probably be limited to nights and weekends. Would you be OK with devoting a portion of that time to your hobby for secondary income? Or would you rather reserve that precious free time for other things?
How elaborate is the hobby?
If you create custom, handmade quilts, for instance, you will probably need a lot more free time than if you did something simpler like knitting socks.
See related post, “Free or Cheap Ways to Feed Your Crafting Addiction.”
How do you intend to market yourself?
Will you create a website, give out business cards, start a blog, etc.? Or would you rather stay small and rely on word-of-mouth? On one hand, having a lower level of exposure can be beneficial for those just starting out, but on the other hand, without a broad customer base, you’re unlikely to make very much money.
Will you be able to keep up with your customers’ demand?
If you decide to turn your hobby into a source of income, be prepared to give your clients and customers what they want in a timely fashion. Since most hobbyists-turned-pro are sole-proprietors (meaning it’s only them and they do not have employees), they must provide the goods or services themselves. You most likely won’t have the option of hiring a production staff or employing a marketing assistant to help you brand yourself – at least not in the beginning. There are many success stories where people start out on their own but become so successful they are able to hire help, but this isn’t something you should count on when you first start out.
How much money are you willing to lose?
It’s a statistical probability that new businesses will lose money in their first year. You might be surprised just how much money is involved in starting your own business, even if it’s something as simple as screen printing T-shirts in your basement. From registering a business name to shipping costs to web site development and more, having your own business requires a fair amount of start-up costs. And that’s not even counting the money you’ll need to spend on materials! The truth is most people will not make enough money in the first year to earn a profit, so you’ll need to be comfortable with taking a loss. The good news is, you can usually claim this loss on your tax return.
Would you still enjoy the hobby once it becomes an obligation?
Some people begin to lose the love of their hobby once it becomes something they “have” to do. After all, once your hobby is a business, you’ll have a lot more responsibility. A friend of mine who is really into jewelry making, decided to start selling some of her products on Etsy (an online store for hand-made and vintage items). She was fairly successful and sold a lot of her items, but after a while she began to lose interest. It wasn’t that she was losing money; she just wasn’t having fun with it anymore. So, she decided to close her Etsy store and focus on making jewelry purely for fun or for giving as gifts to people.
Are there any of you out there who have success stories (or horror stories) about turning a hobby into a business? Tell me about it in the comments!