A lot of us dream of turning what we love into a ‘real business’. I’ve had a jumbled 5 years of maintaining myself as an online-tropreneaur. I work on websites that I own and building websites and doing graphic design for customers. My real-job was as a graphic designer so luckily my hobbies / business and previous real job all have some strong links.
My business has expected ups and downs. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years and kind of stumbled into the position I am in now.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and if I could go back I would have done things a lot differently and a lot more structured. Here are the steps I would have given myself.
What is your hobby and how will that become a business?
A hobby is great but kicking back watching football or writing down what birds visit your bird bath isn’t easy to translate into a business. However most hobbies have an angle that can be turned into a business and as someone who is passionate about something you have the upper hand as a person who with knowledge and a passion.
This is important. Just say you did love football or birds. There are business opportunities in these areas. Running a football news website, setting up a fact-sheet for the local birds and a business selling items to attract them to gardens are some ways you could turn those hobbies into a business idea.
A business has the potential to turn your hobby into a hate if you pick the wrong angle or something that you will have to wrk yourself into the ground to achieve However most of us have more than one hobby and there is likely something in us all that we can turn into a service or product.
The plan and low cost startup
A person should always have a plan when it comes to business. It may not be a 100 page report and it may fit on the back of a napkin. But you need a direction, a mission statement and a direction to aim in. What do you want to achieve Why and how? Can you lay out clear steps and ideas to pursue and will this be able to be done in a sustainable time span?
Cost often pushes people away from self-startups. However the world of the internet has given us tools to test and even fully fledged start our business on the cheap. A website can be set up for almost nothing (see my guide on starting a blog here) and you can even sell products without needing to purchase any stock. You can join affiliate programs at places like Amazon or Shareasale and earn a percentage of the sale. For example for your bird bath business you could set up a website with your recommended packages alongside all the local information. Those links could point to Amazon and you could earn a small portion of those sales. When the business is working for you and you have some capital you could start directly stocking the products and skip the 3rd party sales.
Branding and promotion
Your brand is important and all too often people skip this side of things. Branding doesn’t have to be something you go spending a million dollars on. You can do it yourself and start by designing your logo (use simple but clean type if you don’t have any graphic skills), laying out some consistant styles that must be used across your business and make sure you have a solid name and clear cut voice about what you do.
When designing your own brand make sure you gather material from all your favorite brands, look at how they do things. Ask friends and families for honest opinions of what they think and don’t let something you dislike out there into the world. People will remember your brand so make sure it’s a good memory.
At a later date you can flesh the brand out by hiring professionals. I am personally a designer so feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to move forward in this aspect.
Once you have a brand you’ll want to start promoting. Carrying business cards (which can be printed very cheaply with companies like Signazon) and posting flyers at local places like coffee shops, libraries and stores is a great start.
However consider putting on events, advertising in local newspapers and offering customers referral bonuses. Something simple like offering a free coffee for every referral could work and may be a creative idea. You’d just have to ask a local coffee house about acquiring one coffee vouchers and they may even discount them if you are sending business their way.
That leads me onto collaboration. Offering a free workshop with your local library, Hosting a meet at a community center or local business, running a cross promotion. All these are ways to get involved and push your brand out there.
Make sure you have your business cards, carry brochures or flyers if necessary. Keep pushing the name out there.
Customers and taking business
You need to cherish your customers but be honest and considerate. It’s easy for a new business to try and take on too much then implode under all the work. Keep yourself an open book and keep your passion high. Remember this is a hobby that you are turning into a business and you don’t want to lose that angle. You want people to know you work hard for them and I believe keeping it small and personal in the beginning is the only way to do this. If you are too busy to take on more jobs then tell the customers that and let them know when things can be done.
Set work hours, recognise stress, don’t spend too much money and keep it small. Those are some of my key points for keeping a new business sustainable. Allow slow growth, don’t allow yourself to explode and lose control.
I hope this helps and I would love to hear your thoughts and tips.
This post was produced in association with Signazon.