LEAP

Getting Paid for Your Passion

Flip through the cable channels these days and you’re bound to see shows about people who have turned a hobby into a business. Whether it’s making cupcakes, being a personal organizer/declutterer, or "picking" antiques, these jobs all became moneymakers after starting as fun activities. While you may not get your own TV show, there’s no reason why you can’t create a financially successful venture out of what you love to do.

Think Expansively
If you are attracted to the idea of turning a passion into a business, think not just of a typical definition of “hobby,” but of all your skills. One way to investigate this is to think of what your friends or family typically ask you for help with that they don’t like to do or don’t know how to do. Or what you like to do that others might find tedious, like party-planning or troubleshooting computer problems. Making a list of these types of strengths can help you identify marketable talents.

Will it Stay Fun?
What you don’t want to do is take an enjoyable activity in your life and turn it into drudgery. This is one reason why it’s important that you:

Don't Quit Your Day Job
There’s nothing wrong with starting out small. By easing into your potential business, you avoid blowing a lot of money early and you give yourself time to assess the viability of your gambit in a measured way.

Find a "Focus Group"
Wondering if there is a market for your wares? Get exposure the old-fashioned way by displaying your offerings in public. For example, if you are a photographer, think about purchasing a booth at a festival or fair to show off your work. Or donate your goods or services as part of a non-profit event. Online marketing is important, but pounding the pavement can help get the word-of-mouth rolling.

Research the Market/Competition
Business school professors talk a lot of "relevant differentiation." Put more simply, you need to figure out what is going to set apart your business. It's very hard to succeed in establishing a personal business these days just by offering the lowest prices, so look for what you can offer customers that others can't.

Wear Your Fun Hat AND Your Business Hat
Even though the activities associated with your enterprise can feel more like a pastime, you need to avoid letting your expenses and time swerve into unproductive efforts. Keep records of your hours, your costs and your sales to judge how to optimize your resources.

Really Reach Out With Your Outreach
One of the huge advantages you have now in starting a business is the dramatic leveling of the playing field that has happened because of the internet. Whether it is through your own web page or via Etsy, Craiglist or Facebook, it is vital to use as many outlets as possible to reach potential customers. One method a lot of hobby-to-business entrepreneurs have enjoyed success with is positioning themselves as an expert in their chosen field. This can be done by authoring how-to articles on sites like about.com or ehow.com, or by creating a blog about your topic of expertise.

Reputation Matters
In this computer age word gets around fast, good or bad. Set yourself apart by providing exemplary service. If you aren't feeling motivated to provide great customer care, maybe your chosen endeavor isn't meant to be a business.

Know the Tax Consequences
It’s never a good idea to try to "hide" any income you are making. Consult with a tax professional for advice on how to best report your expenses and profits. Also ask about the best strategies for eventually picking a legal entity for your business.

Always Keep Learning and Evolving
The best way to limit your business is to only think short-term. Tastes change, as do ways of doing business. If you are not staying up on the latest trends in your field and looking for ways to capitalize on them, you will eventually fall behind the competition.

The old saying advises to "do what you love and you'll never work another day in your life." While even the most fun careers will sometimes feel like work, creating a business you truly love can help you create your most fulfilling life possible.


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