5 Tips for Turning a Hobby Into a Business

Have you ever sat through a dull meeting daydreaming about abandoning office life to turn your love of baking, decorating, fashion design or some other creative hobby into a lucrative business?

There may be bumps along the road, but it can be done. Read on for strategies to increase your chances of success.

1. Imagine spending 40 hours or more per week on your hobby. Unless that thought thrills you, don’t quit your day job. “This isn’t a way to work less than you do already,” says Evanston mom Laura Tanner who turned her jewelry making hobby into a successful business. “You may work more than you work in a job. . . so, if you don’t really love it, it’s going to become a burden.”

Tanner advises would-be entrepreneurs to get a copy of “The Boss of You: Everything A Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business.”

2. Study your market. Before you start a business or even launch a website or Etsy shop, research target customers and potential competitors. Arlington Heights career coach Jeff Williams says this process will help you figure out where your customers are and how much they’re willing to pay for your product or service. Williams says one of the biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make is underpricing themselves.

3. Get down to business. You may bake killer cupcakes or be a talented painter, but to run a successful business, you’ll also need to master tasks like marketing and bookkeeping. Tanner recommends the website Designing an MBA, where designer and entrepreneur Megan Auman provides resources and coaching for crafters who want to take hobbies to the next level.

4. Embrace social media. In 2005, Timothy Adam started making furniture and jewelry out of scrap metal in his spare time. At a friend’s urging, he set up an Etsy shop and within a year, his sales grew so much that he was able to quit his job as a delivery driver.

Adam credits much of his success to his mastery of social media. He has 90,000 followers among nine Twitter accounts. You can use services like HootSuite to find Twitter users who may be interested in your products based on the content of their tweets. “You want to go out and follow people who are going to join in your conversation. I make furniture, so I will follow people who are into interior design.”

5. Add value. Whether you’re connecting with potential customers on Facebook, a blog or your website, Adam says you’ll keep people coming back for more if you mix promotional updates with posts that give followers interesting and useful information. “You don’t want to spam friends and followers,” he says. “You want to engage them.

If you’re an interior designer, for example, you might write a blog post that teaches people how to create a great centerpiece. Or, Adam says, if you have an Etsy shop, feature other artists you admire. Those sellers are likely to return the favor, thereby increasing your exposure. Adam shares other savvy strategies for Etsy sellers in his book “How to Make Money Using Etsy: A Guide to the Online Marketplace for Crafts and Handmade Products.”

Have you created an income stream from your hobby? Tell us how you did it.

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