How many of us are unhappy with our day jobs? We dream of leaving behind the 9-to-5 and following our dreams; of leading a life where we get paid for doing what we truly want to do. That’s the essence of entrepreneurship. The desire to love our work.
But how, exactly, do we do that? How do we take a hobby, like brewing craft beer, gardening or photography, and turn it into an income-producing business?
For most of us, the answer is not as simple as quitting our jobs and going for it. Instead, there are decisive steps we can follow to realize that dream . . . and still get to eat. On a regular basis.
1. Ask for honest feedback.
You’re not the best judge of your work, and neither are your family and friends. You need a mentor — an experienced professional –and honest feedback. Before you can make real money, your work has to be remarkable. Everybody has a camera, but not everybody understands lighting and framing. Even some professional photographers can’t seem to capture the drama of a moment.
Certainly, no one dreams of being mediocre. That’s not what dreams are about. You need to know your idea is good enough to succeed and your skills are up to the task. If possible, you need to find a community of experts willing to share knowledge and examine your work with a critical eye.
You should also consider a learning environment, where you can find an expert teacher, one-on-one feedback and fellow students to discuss the finer points of your craft. One option is Learning with Experts, an online school that helps hobbyists polish their skills under the tutelage of expert teachers in a group environment.
This option is kind of perfect: You get individual instruction and a critique of your work, plus a built-in, knowledgeable focus group.
A second option is Mogul, a worldwide platform that reaches 18 million women per week and provides personalized mentorship in the form of a 24/7 digital advice hotline. Still another option is LinkedIn, a platform that is arguably the best place to search out expert mentors and peers, alike. LinkedIn has been touted as a place to help users create a network of trusted allies.
2. Get proof of concept.
“Proof of concept” is a business term used by entrepreneurs seeking funding. Even if you don’t need funds to get started, securing proof of concept is not a bad idea. It helps you find out whether people will buy your product or service.
A quick-and-dirty method of assessing your marketability is a crowd-funding campaign. Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo are popular, but there are also specialized crowdfunding sites like Barnraiser for artisan foods, Slated for film projects and Fig for video games.
The key to selling your idea is the presentation. Thousands of projects launch on any given day. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd. And a crowd-fundging pitch is a fast, and sometimes brutal, way to find out if people will pay for your work. If it works, congratulations! You’ll have seed money to launch your business and an interested customer base.
3. Do a side hustle.
A side hustle is anything you do to make money when you’re not doing your bread-and-butter job. If you’re working full-time to pay the bills, you can work on your own business on the weekends. That might entail marketing, building community, working on your website or performing one task at a time until word gets out about what a great website developer or landscaper or wedding videographer you are.
Additionally, tapping into the gig economy can be a viable way for you to supplement your income or even set up a new, full-time gig. Tech companies such as Lyft, Doordash and Airbnb have paved the way for many to earn some extra cash, as well as passive income. Many have even reported earning more from the gig economy than from their bread-and-butter job.
When you fill your calendar a month or more in advance or take orders for enough product to replace a month’s salary, you can be sure that it’s a good time to think about making your side hustle full time.
4. Create a business plan.
If you were starting a business, you’d make a plan. Why wouldn’t you do the same to launch your hobby career? By this step, you’ve polished your skills to professional level, vetted your product or business idea and started to make some sales. Don’t overlook the business side, or you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. You’ll need a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep in touch with your customers, a social media presence and a strong marketing plan.
You are unlikely to succeed unless your dream is realistic. Some hobbies are destined to remain hobbies. The negative odds of your going from air guitar to rock star are astronomical. But you do have a reasonable chance of being successful as a brewmaster, a photographer or a personal trainer. If your hobby is something in high demand, your chances of success are higher.
So, go find your mentor and get started.