You’ve been developing your creative hobby for a while and are now seriously thinking about turning it into a thriving business. Maybe friends and family have been encouraging you to sell your creations. Perhaps you have enquires coming from word-of-mouth recommendations. Or you want to create an additional income stream. Whatever the reason turning your hobby into a business is a big step, one that requires a shift in mindset from making for pleasure as and when you feel like it to creating for-profit and putting routines in place.
Here are some things you will need to consider to get the process started:
Make a plan, set some goals, and create a budget
A mistake made by many creatives, myself included, is to dive straight into the business side of things without having first put in place a proper plan of action. Your plan is fundamental to the success of your business. A well-thought-out plan serves as your roadmap guiding you through each step of the journey. These steps are your goals, what you hope to achieve. Setting goals is important because without them how do you know what you are working towards. Successful Goal Planning For The Entrepreneur Who Wants To Achieve Their Goals gives you more information on goal setting.
Choose a business name
Your business name is what connects your business to your audience, i.e. customers and buyers. Even if you already have a name that you have been using now is a good time make sure that the name is suitable before you start buying domain names, setting up an email address and creating promotional material. Even if you have a name that you are passionate about it is a good idea to come up with a few others and to test them out by asking for feedback from a few trusted sources. Because what you think is the perfect name may not make sense to everyone else. And if the name you choose has a meaning that is not immediately clear be prepared to explain it to establish the link between it and the relevance to your business activities. Another tip for choosing a business name is to look ahead into the future of your business, as it grows do you feel that the name you have chosen now will still be appropriate then? Though not advisable businesses can and do change their names all the time. This is for a variety of reasons including having a name that is already being used by a competitor business, wanting to get a matching domain name, mergers, or the business has diversified. But keep in mind that changing a business name is a big step one that affects everything from brand awareness to SEO.
Find out if there is demand for your products or service
The key to a successful business is to validate your reasons for starting, and the demand for your products or service as quickly as you can. If you are already selling to customers other than friends and family you have data in the form of sales, requests or feedback that you can work with. If you are not yet selling consider a low-cost table/space at a relevant event i.e. If you make cakes or jams a farmer’s market is a good place to start or consider your local bakery, deli, cafe. If you are creating a course before putting all your effort into the final product a low cost or a free taster version or landing page are good ways of testing interest by the number of people who sign up to take it. This has the value of giving you the experience of putting your products in front of and selling to an audience you don’t know. And will help you to see if selling is something you can see yourself doing. Alternatively; use a third-party e-commerce platform such as Etsy, Creative Market to test out your products before committing to setting up your own e-commerce platform.
Formally set up your business
Validating your business idea should have given you an indication of its viability and if all signs point to go ahead you will need to start the process of formally setting it up. This includes: registering your business with your local tax office. At the time of writing HMRC (the UK tax office) allows a three-month window before you have to tell them you are earning money from running a business (check the rules for your local tax office). This gives you time to test interest in your offering before deciding to commit. You will also need to purchase things like your domain name, email address, and claim your social media handles. If you are running your business from home you may not want to use your home address and if your budget allows for it consider using a registered office which provides you with a professional business address for a monthly or yearly fee.
Create a Logo
When starting out it can be tempting to spend a lot of money creating a fancy brand that ends up having no relevancy six-months down the line. Brands evolve and as you settle into business the first six months or so tend to be the period where you are testing things out, making a lot of mistakes and discovering and growing into your brand story. A simple, yet professional logo is enough to tide you over in the first few months. So, I would advise starting with something simple and invest in the more expensive brand design service once you have a much clearer idea of where your business is headed. People Per Hour, Creative Market, and Fiverr are all go-to places to get a reasonably priced starter logo.
Establish an online presence
Logo done, you now want to start thinking about having some kind of platform. Create a simple website that tells your audience who you are, what you do and directs them to where they can buy your products. A one-pager is more than sufficient at this stage. Alternatively, create a blog. Start promoting what you offer on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. Start with one, build up a presence then add others.
Set up an email list and start collecting subscribers
Not setting up an email list as soon as they start a business is cited as being one of the biggest regrets of business owner. As your email list grows it will prove to be one of your business’ most valuable resources. This is because an email list gives you direct access to existing and potential clients without having to compete with the distractions of other people’s content and offers. By popping up in their inboxes on say a weekly, or monthly basis you can start to strengthen the trust factor between your business and your customers. It takes time to grow an email list so doing it from the start means having it ready when you are ready to start leveraging it. Popular Email providers include Mailchimp, which is free for your first 2000 subscribers; ConvertKit, and Constant Contact amongst others.
Share your business with your world
The difference between a hobby and a business is the level of sales you earn. Without sales, you have no business. And to get business you need to tell your world about it. This is what is known as marketing. Marketing never ends. As long as you have a business you will be doing it. This is where tools such as a blog, social media accounts and PR come into play. Use them to drive traffic to where your products or services are available for purchase. This could be to your website, or third-party platforms like Etsy if that is where your products are listed. Make full use of word-of-mouth. Tell friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues (if appropriate) that you are turning your hobby into a business and ask them if they wouldn’t mind recommending you to their networks. Consider rewarding existing customers who are letting others know about you i.e. a discount of their next purchase. Depending on what you do you could set up a refer a friend scheme to encourage referrals and build up your client base.
Don’t quit the day job
If you are employed starting a business doesn’t automatically mean you can quit your day job. If you have financial responsibilities such as family, or a mortgage you will still need an income source. And unless you have been saving up towards starting a business by putting aside money to cover a salary for at least a year or have another source of income to keep you going the financial reality of starting a business means you will have to juggle the two until you get to a place where your business takes off and can support you, bearing in mind that this can take several years.
Lastly, in order for all of the above to work;
Commit to a realistic schedule to work on your business
The business plan you create to guide your journey is only useful if you actually do what is says. You will need to set aside time each day to work on developing your hobby into a business. And as you progress gradually increase that time until you get to that place where you are working on your business full-time. To help you get organised get The Goal Achiever Planning Kit and Workbook, which I especially designed to give creative entrepreneurs like you everything you need to keep your goals front and centre of your workdays, focusing your mind, and boosting your productivity.
Whether you choose to do it part- or full-time running a business requires time, commitment, and a lot of effort. There will be days you wish you hadn’t started, and others where you can think of doing nothing else. And the rewards other than making a living doing what you love include finding out what you are capable of, picking up valuable skills, and the personal growth comes with having to step outside of your comfort zone. And nothing beats the indescribable feeling that something you have imagined, and created is making a difference in someone’s life.
If you are thinking of turning your hobby into a business and earning an income from it and want to talk through your options have a look at Create Tell Sell, my specially crafted course for budding creative business owners where I guide you through the startup process.
Rooting for your success!