Sure, you love your favorite after-hours activity now, but will you love it when it’s your only source of income? Turning your hobby into a business is a big decision, and you need to ask yourself a few questions before taking the plunge.
This post originally appeared on Inc.
At the height of the Great Recession the New York Times looked into how some corporate refugees who has used the tough economic times as launching pad to pursue their passions were faring.
Writer Alex Williams’ conclusion? “Plan B, it turns out, is a lot harder than it seems.” Starting that baking business or wedding planning hustle isn’t all icing and flowers. It also involves plenty of 5:30 a.m. wakeups, six-day weeks, heavy bags of flour and general drudgery. “Career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns,” Williams concluded.
So what if, despite reading reality check articles like that one, you’re still dreaming of packing in your comfortable gig to try to transform your hobby into a business? Then a new post on the Bplans blog is definitely worth a read. It lays out step-by-step advice for those who are trying to turn their after-hours passion into a viable business, kicking off with perhaps the most vital bit of advice of all—you need to think really carefully about whether you should even give it a go at all.
Grooming adorable pooches or designing jewelry full-time may sound like a blast, but as the career changers in the New York Times and nearly every hobbyist turned entrepreneur will tell you, starting a business is about a lot more than just the activity you enjoy, and the everyday reality seldom matches up with your daydreams. The BPlans post by entrepreneur and site editor Candice Landau suggests you ask yourself a few key questions before you even get started.
Will I enjoy doing my hobby on a deadline?
Sure you love baking the occasional cupcake for friends and family. Will you enjoy turning them out day in and day out, under time pressure for years on end? “For some people, working on their hobby is like working on a long-term art project. They do it to learn, to create something beautiful, and in an attempt to attain perfection,” Landau writes. “Unless you’re planning on selling your services for a fortune or selling your items to an art gallery, you’re probably going to be making or doing things faster than you previously would have. Is this right for you?”
Will I enjoy doing this with constant financial pressure to perform?
There’s a difference, psychologically, between doing something for fun and doing it because if you don’t, you won’t be able to pay the rent. Anticipate this truth and think deeply about it. “If you want to turn your hobby into a business because you think it’s going to be as much fun as it was when it was only a hobby, you could be in for a surprise,” warns Landau.
Is this hobby my outlet for relaxation?
Because, if it is, you’re going to have to find something else to do to unwind—your hobby will no longer have that effect.
Am I up for a challenge?
Sure, starting a business based on your hobby can be deeply fulfilling, but it almost definitely won’t be easy. If you’re looking for an escape, a life break, or simply a less effortful alternative to a straight job, then turning your passion into a business probably isn’t it. “Starting up will be tough, especially if this is your first business,” Landau warns prospective business owners. “You’re probably going to be wearing a lot of hats for a while—accountant, customer service rep, brand ambassador, CEO, and so on. This is also a good time to think about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.”
Am I willing to sell myself?
Don’t fall prey to the ‘field of dreams’ delusion that sometimes strikes first-time business owners. If you build it, they definitely will not come. Not unless you market it, anyway.
“Five years ago I was abysmal at selling the jewelry I made, as well as my writing services. I was far too modest and I didn’t want to push people into making a decision,” confessed Landau, but she says, “I’m not the same person today. Today, if you ask about my jewelry or my writing, I’ll offer you a business card or give you my rate per word. This is a skill you can learn and I believe it’s something you will have to learn. Be prepared to sell.”
For those who have successfully made the transition from hobbyist to business owner, what advice would you give those thinking of making the leap?
Should You Turn Your Hobby Into a Business? 5 Questions to Ask | Inc.
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
Image adapted from D.J.McGee and Matthew Cole (Shutterstock).
Want to see your work on Lifehacker? Email Andy.