by Tracy Vides | Featured Contributor
When does a hobby qualify as a full-fledged, sustainable, and profitable business? Whether you have the next best idea after sliced bread or whether it’s a passionate hobby that’d you’d like to build a business on, there’s just one criteria: your business has to make money. Period.
Too many people get too involved with their hobbies. Most entrepreneurs fail to build a business out of a perfectly viable business idea. Getting involved or falling in love with your hobby is the first hurdle you need to jump over. Not that you should begin to distance yourself from your passion; the point is that you need to look at your pastime as the seed idea for a perfectly scalable and sustainable business.
Your hobby could possibly pay itself – it could help you save tax! As Kay Bell explains on Bank Rate, a hobby might just be that one thing you do for years without even accepting any sort of payment for your efforts.
Yet, it has to generate profit.
With that point out of the way, let’s see how you can go about transforming your business into a hobby.
Think of Leverage, Right from the Start
A business can only be a business when there’s leverage. Without leverage, you’d end up with self-employment at best. Not that self-employment is bad, but you’ll have to figure out if that’s what you wanted in the first place. If it’s a business that you are looking to run, you’ll need a way to systematize, scale, and grow. You can “evaluate the joy factor,” “try it out,” or “appraise the market” as Susan Solovic noted on the Wall Street Journal, but you wouldn’t get anywhere – in terms of strict business speak – if you can’t see a way to consistently duplicate whatever it is that your hobby persists on.
If It’s Ecommerce, the Web is Your Home
As you find a way to plug your hobby into ecommerce and give your business a web presence, think about what you already know again. Your foray into ecommerce has its advantages and disadvantages and you don’t need to read this post for that.
Yet, the Internet will be your office and you’ll give up on whatever you knew about business until now. Digital marketing will be your main marketing gateway and content marketing is how you’ll let the world know that you exist. Social media marketing will be your go-to way to engage and connect with your previous, present, and potential customers.
With an ecommerce business as your mainstay, digital marketing isn’t optional. What does that mean for you? Your website will not have cousins working on it. Your social media isn’t your typical neighborhood market, and your content will be your only ticket to ecommerce success.
Real Problems, Web-based Answers
Ecommerce business is just as real a business as any other. While you set it up and run it, you’ll encounter problems. These are real problems and you’ll need real solutions. You can’t wish away any of your business specific problems. Instead, you’ll look for web-based answers for most of the problems you’ll have to surmount.
For instance, if you shipped your hand-made products from your home, and put them up for display in your garage, you’ll still need a way to accept payments when your online customers walk in to get a first-hand feel for your goods. This would put you in the same league as any other brick-and-mortar store with a showroom and warehouse.
Find a solution such as Stripe to manage payments through mobile devices, or Square Up to accept credit cards with your iPhone or Android smartphone. If you’re past the baby-business level, you could use an ecommerce site-integrated point of sale system such as Shopify’s, which also includes a complete hardware kit with electronic cash register. This will not only give you the functionality of Stripe and Square Up, but also allow you to view/manage product catalogs, pull up customer information, process orders, swipe cards, and print or email receipts right from your iPad.
You will find all your answers on the web. Go seek them.
Build Systems and Processes for Operational Efficiency
It’s a hobby as long as you kept it that way. Once you treat it like a business, it’d seem and function just like a business. This brings in scale (as mentioned before). To manage that scaling part of your business and to help sustain your business slowly inching towards profitability, you’ll do well to build systems and seek to achieve operational efficiency.
You’ll need processes so good that you could sell your business any day if you had to. The degree of operational efficiency helps you manage your business better, serve your customers faster, and bring accountability into the system.
Don’t start a business without systems or processes. If you don’t have these in place, you are better off without a business.
It’s Still about People
People come before ideas. They also come before your systems, operational controls, and processes. They mean more than company policies and organizational rules.
Starting with your employees and all the way up to your customers, people are central to every successful business. It’s impossible to run your business without understanding, patience, and attention to detail. You have to love your customers, partners, vendors, and employees.
When you start out, maybe it’s just you who’ll wear all sorts of hats, and do everything yourself. Eventually, you’ll find your first hire. But it’s not just about hiring. There’s on-boarding, training, and nurturing that also goes into a business.
There are companies with great ideas and amazing potential. They fail because they let their ideas and market potential get in the way of people management. Don’t be that kind of a company.
A hobby-based business idea could be about teaching others how to do what you do. Or it could morph into actual products that you can sell. Perhaps, your hobby lends itself well for a service-based business. No matter which route you pick, it’s still a business. If it’s about business, it’s about making money.
Don’t let your love for the hobby override the harsh reality that business is. Also, don’t be fooled by the thought because it’s a hobby that you are passionate about, it’d make for a good business.
Diligence is all about separating your heart from reality, while still using it.
Tracy Vides is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene compared to her illustrious She Owns It counterparts, Tracy has started off well by building a good online reputation for herself. She’s now a “serial blogger” with posts featured on Sprout Content, Steamfeed, Soshable, and elsewhere.
Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat any time!
Tracy Vides is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene compared to her illustrious She Owns It counterparts, Tracy has started off well by building a good online reputation for herself. She’s now a “serial blogger” with posts featured on Sprout Content, Steamfeed, Soshable and elsewhere.
Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat any time!