Change your Viewpoint – Turning a Hobby into a Business

It sounds like the formula for a happy life, but how many people do you know who have tried it? How many do you know who have succeeded? Very few, I’ll bet. Why should this be so? Where do most people go wrong?

What could be better? Get paid for doing what you enjoy doing! Stand the other side of the counter. Today you pay to ski, sail, snowboard, paint pictures, take photographs, create a garden, renovate a house, travel round the world, climb mountains – myriad different things. Couldn’t you change the knowledge and skills that you use to enjoy these activities into assets, and get people to pay you for using them?

It sounds like the formula for a happy life, but how many people do you know who have tried it? How many do you know who have succeeded? Very few, I’ll bet. Why should this be so? Where do most people go wrong?

Change your Viewpoint - Turning a Hobby into a Business

It’s very simple, really. As an amateur, your goal is to increase your enjoyment of the activity. You buy equipment, train and compete – in order to win competitions. You seek new opportunities and new friends. Or you stay where you are – and involve yourself more deeply in one activity and a community that gives you the companionship you enjoy.

To make that activity succeed as a source of income, you must concentrate on creating as much revenue as you can in return for your time, effort and expenditure.

That doesn’t mean forget enjoying yourself, and never do anything connected with your hobby without the intention of turning a profit. We all need the freedom to let mind and body follow some will-o’-the-wisp, to flit from flower to flower taking one sip of nectar from each, or to do no more than lie back and smell the roses. Otherwise, we end up paying a shrink to put us back together again.

Since this is only one of your Streams of Income, you don’t have to generate enough to live on. Just look for the things other people will pay for. Are you good enough to be a part-time coach, instructor or guide? If that’s too time-consuming, can you write articles or books, or take photographs? Are you an expert at making or tuning equipment? Can you make custom surfboards, ornaments or furniture? Can you tune motors or build ham radios?

Don’t choose anything too time-consuming. Remember your objective is to run a business. You have to define a product. You have to minimise the time and money you need to create each example of that product. Then you have to maximise the revenue you get from selling your product. With a bit of thought, most people can manage the first two, but most fail because they don’t understand the last, even those who are trying to make a complete living off freelance activities like writing and photography.

How do you set about increasing your sales? By stepping back and taking a global view. Don’t concentrate on your selling techniques, build yourself a marketing strategy. Mike Sedge is a very successful American writer and photographer, but he lives in Italy and sells his work all over the world. He uses a vivid analogy to explain why you should think globally:

“Let’s imagine you’re a frog. You live in a tiny pond that, if you had it all to yourself, would provide a perfect situation. Unfortunately, there are 200 other frogs. As a result, food is scarce, there is relatively no room to swim and, to make things worse, bigger frogs get the best of what little luxury there is.”

At any given time, some of the world’s ponds will be just as full as the one described above, but others will be relatively empty. The real frog is at a disadvantage – he has to travel to find the other ponds, and sometimes they are a long way apart. Life is much easier for you. Even before the Internet, the mail and FAX services made physical distances irrelevant to those who were dealing in products that could be shipped in an envelope. Now costs are lower and everything happens in less than a day. The world is your market. If you choose to ignore most of it, you are wasting a huge opportunity, but there are pitfalls.

Mike has written several books giving advice on maximising your return on articles, books and photographs. Most of this advice is valid for almost any product. He teaches you to learn about the culture of the people that you hope will buy your products. Do that, and you won’t give things inappropriate names or suggest ‘benefits’ that do not appeal to them.

He also warns you not to build into your products the unwritten assumptions of your own culture. (How many recipes have you seen which specify well-known US branded premixed ingredients available from every US supermarket, because most US housewives have never even considered making them from scratch? )

There are hundreds of books about marketing which contain good advice, but for the kind of marketing you need when you’re trying to sell one man’s output, Mike’s are among the most useful that I have seen so far. You could do far worse than starting by reading one or two of them, or even the extracts and interviews which you will find in many places on the Web. They could make the difference between success and failure when you try to make an income from your hobby.

You can make money from your hobby, but you won’t unless you switch your viewpoint. Remember that you are creating and marketing a product, and that your goal is to generate maximum revenue from whatever time and effort you put into the business. Remember, also, that you can still keep some aspects of your hobby ‘for amusement only’, so that you never feel guilty about reverting to the amateur hobbyist viewpoint while you enjoy them. Why not have the best of both worlds?

Subscribe Scroll to Top