10 Tips to Help You Turn Your Hobby into a Job
By day, you’re a mild-mannered English teacher. By night, though, you’re a digital illustrator.
If you’ve ever thought about pursuing your passion project as a new career or are just looking for a way to earn some money on the side during the pandemic, turning your hobby into a job may be just the thing for you. But it’s not something you should do on a whim. Pursuing your passion as any kind of job is something that takes some thought and planning first.
Looking to Turn Your Hobby Into a Job? Here are Tips
1. Ask Why
Before you set up shop, ask yourself why you want to turn your hobby into a job. Do you want to make your hobby a full-on career? Is it just a way to have extra income during lean times? Did a friend encourage you to pursue this because “you’d be really good at it”?
Make sure you have a clear understanding of why you want to turn your hobby into any kind of job. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, you may end up disappointed in the results.
2. Know Why Your Hobby Is a Hobby
The saying “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” may be true. But sometimes a hobby is just that: a hobby. For many of us, hobbies are an escape from the day-to-day stressors of life. They are something we want to do, not something we have to do and we do it when we want. Hobbies help us decompress and get back to our jobs and routines with renewed energy.
Once you turn your hobby into a job, though, it becomes that: a job. And a job comes with a different set of expectations and responsibilities. That means your hobby is no longer an escape from your day-to-day routine. It’s a part of your everyday routine.
If this prospect scares you, or you’re worried that making your hobby a job could hinder your passion for it, it might be best to let your hobby stay a hobby.
3. Details Matter
Once you’ve decided you want your hobby to be more than a hobby, you need to plan how you’re going to accomplish that transition. Start by writing down your goals, including short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Ask yourself exactly what you want to accomplish and how you will accomplish it.
For example, consider the following to help you get started:
- What audience are you going to target?
- What services are you going to offer? This will depend on your skills, of course, but set the parameters from the get-go.
- How much time are you going to invest in your business?
- How are you going to set your rates/pricing?
Do your research to get a better idea about your niche. Visit competitors’ websites, check out social media, and see what others in your new field do and try to figure out how they do it.
4. Do Some Digging
Sure, you love collecting vintage stamps and want to turn it into your next career, but that doesn’t mean you should give your boss your two weeks’ notice just yet. Do some research to determine if your hobby really has the potential to become a full-fledged career or even an income-generating side hustle.
Find other people in your niche and uncover how they did it before jumping in with both feet. Try reaching out to them to see if they can offer you any tips about turning your passion into profit.
5. Be Realistic
While you absolutely love painting landscapes, it might be difficult to find work doing just that out of the gate. So, think of ways you can incorporate your passion into a paycheck. For starters, you could teach like-minded folks about your passion and get paid for it. You might also give lectures about your area of expertise. Envision all the ways you can monetize your hobby (from teaching, training, repairing, etc.) as a way to launch your new career.
6. Be Practical
Once you discover that there are indeed job opportunities within your desired area of interest, you might want to get a full-time job ASAP so you can do what you love all the time and score a salary for it, too. But, that may not be practical–or even possible.
Many people turn their hobbies into jobs by starting out part-time, on the side, and then slowly move more time and attention over to the hobby as a career. As they grow their side hustle into something more sustainable, some people decide to keep their new gig as just that–a gig, and never move it beyond part-time or freelance.
However, those that decide to pursue their hobby as a full-time career may need to adjust their expectations. The reality is that pursuing your hobby as a career is just like any other career change. And, that almost always means starting at the bottom in your new industry, even if you hold a management position in your current career.
Just like any other career-changer, look for transferable skills that you can take from your old career into your new one. You’ll also want to have a strong understanding of the top skills to put on your resume.
7. Be Prepared
No matter what kind of job you turn your hobby into (side gig, full-time), if you’re serious about making your hobby into a job, you have to treat it like a real business. While you’ll get to indulge in your passion as often as you like, you’ll also have to handle the “business” side of things.
There are books to balance, supplies to buy, bills to pay, and websites to maintain. Will you hire someone to do this for you? Maybe, but will you have the money for it? If not, you’ll probably have to handle all these tasks and more on your own.
Don’t let that dissuade you from pursuing your dream. But, in addition to living your dream, you have to prepare for the reality of running a business. It’s, unfortunately, not all fun and games all day every day.
8. Make a Mark
Once you’ve decided to turn your hobby into your job, you need to make a professional mark in the world. A professional website is a must-have. It’s a place where potential clients can learn about you and your background, see samples of your work, and contact you.
Invest in your own domain and hosting, and ensure that your website has a professional look. Either contract this out or learn the basics of making a professional-looking website.
One quick tip: whatever samples you use to showcase your work, make sure you own the rights to the sample, or have written permission to feature it on your website. Posting a picture of a cake you decorated is one thing. Showcasing an article you wrote or a logo you designed is another matter. Displaying it in your portfolio without the necessary rights could land you in hot water legally.
9.Build Some Buzz
A website is just the start. You’ve got to create some marketing buzz around you and your new business. Social media is the obvious place to start. But, you may not want to cast a wide net. For example, if you’re a photographer or baker, you may decide that Pinterest and Instagram are all you need. If, however, you’re offering consulting services, LinkedIn might be better for you.
Check out your competitors and see what social media channels they are using. Then, experiment with your social media presence to see what does and doesn’t work.
Beyond the internet, though, don’t leave out some good old-fashioned networking. That means letting your current network know what you’re up to and attending industry events. Of course, during the pandemic, face-to-face networking is out, so you’ll have to use online networking instead.
One word of caution, though. If your hobby will likely only be a part-time freelance job for you (meaning you’re going to keep your day job for the foreseeable future), make sure you double-check your employer’s handbook to ensure that you’re not violating any company policies.
10. Make Sure It’s Really a Business
You might think you’re running a business. Your friends and family might believe you’ve got a real business. And your clients believe you’re a business. But, until you file the correct paperwork, your “business” is just a hobby to the IRS.
The IRS has a slew of guidelines that help you determine if your hobby is a hobby or a legitimate business. The main difference between a hobby and a business, though, is whether or not you’re doing it for profit.
However, even if you are making a profit, the reality is that the IRS may not consider you a legitimate business unless you’ve filed the appropriate paperwork: setting up an LLC, for example, or registering for a business license in your state. It’s not always necessary, but it is something to look into during the planning phase.
That said, if you decide your hobby is just a hobby, you may be able to deduct the related expenses!
A Hobby Can Be More than Fun
If you do decide to make your hobby your new job, go for it! But make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into first.
And, there’s a chance that you can turn your hobby into a remote job. As the leading provider of flexible and remote jobs, we have options that could fit your needs. That’s right, there are many surprising remote jobs that can be done on a part-time and full-time basis.
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Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on August 20, 2016.
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