“Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
— Maya Angelou
If you’re searching for true accomplishment, then, according to Maya Angelou, you’ve got to love what you do. While some (lucky) people love their jobs, many of us made our current career decisions based on opportunity, convenience, or profit. Though all of those are justifiable reasons to stay in a position you only kind of like, they might not leave you quite as fulfilled as, say, doing a job you truly love.
Finding your perfect profession can be as simple as asking yourself this one question: What do you love doing? If your answer involves one of your hobbies and not your 9-to-5 job, then it might be time to start thinking about turning your hobby into a full-time or part-time business.
I know — there is a lot of contention regarding transitioning a hobby into a profitable enterprise. But it’s been done before! And it’s been done successfully with hobbies far less “marketable” than yours. So whether you love storytelling, video gaming, or crafting, someone has already found a way to transform your hobby into a paycheck.
The exciting news is that you can do the same! Especially if you take advice from people who’ve already done it. According to these success stories, there are five simple strategies to start turning your hobby into your profession. So if you’ve already got the will, here’s how to get the way.
1. Keep innovating
For Dana Tucker and her husband Brooks, every step of professionalizing their hobby required an added ounce of innovation.
When friends and visitors started complimenting the Tuckers on their home’s decorative paint finishes and asking how they could get the same look, they decided to create Bella Tucker Decorative Finishes, a full-time business.
Aside from the inherent creativity a job in decorating requires, the Tuckers also had to figure out how to expand their client base, how to market their product, and how to create an adaptable product. “When we started out down this road, faux finishes were very on trend,” says Dana, “but about six years ago ‘faux finishing’ became a dirty word.” The Tuckers had to break the trend mold and reinvent their product in order to keep it relevant.
Every aspect of creating a career involves inventiveness and imagination. Whether it’s how you create the product or how you encourage the market, you’ll need to learn to innovate. No matter how successful you get, you can never stop brainstorming.
2. Be persistent
For Jim and Mary Competti to turn their love of gardening and DIY into the successful Old World Garden Farms blog, website, and upcoming book, they had to work. Hard. “We worked a little every day to build the farm and create the website,” shares Mary.
“It’s okay to dream,” says Jim, “but that’s not enough — you have to take action on your dreams — every single day.”
So, how do you get started? According to the Compettis, the best way to learn persistence is by sticking to a schedule. “Be sure to work at some part of the business or hobby at least 15 minutes every day,” they advise. Now, of course, if you’re really trying to turn your hobby into a career, you’re eventually going to have to start ramping that daily time up. But 15 minutes a day is a great place to start.
3. Listen to all feedback, even criticism
Friends, family, trusted peers, and role models play a vital role in helping you to successfully professionalize your hobby. Listen to their feedback and consider their remarks, because it’s possible that your enthusiasm and passion are keeping you from seeing something that might be a hazardous obstacle.
Sue Langley, who created and currently runs the website Flea Market Gardening, cultivated this strategy and benefits from it daily. She put together a mastermind brainstorming group with some of the most active and creative gardeners and contributors on the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page. “We bounce around new ideas and give each other valuable feedback,” she shares.
4. Keep it simple
Jesse Jane, the blogger behind Lilyshop, has always been a “go big or go home” kind of girl. When she turned her love of crafting and DIY into a successful website and TV career, she knew she wanted to make a big impact on the blogosphere. What she discovered right away, though, was that in order to succeed, she had to start simple.
“If you are a crafter, stick to crafting — don’t mix in random fashion advice,” says Jane. To begin the transition from hobby to profession, don’t overcomplicate it. Instead, simplify your goal and keep your aims clear. It will be easier to make a name for yourself and market your services if you can put an explicit title to your trade.
In case you’re afraid that simplifying your services will limit your options for growth, Jane can reassure you that it won’t. “There is plenty of opportunity out there, and if you remain focused on your main goal, you will get there faster and ultimately have more success in the end.”
5. Stay true to your brand
It’s easy to feel competitive with other business out there and to compare your success to theirs, but staying true to your vision and your brand is the surest way to succeed in your work.
For Thistlewood Farms blogger Karianne Wood, there’s nothing more important than determining your voice and sticking with it. No matter the greatness of the opportunity presented to her, Wood doesn’t compromise her brand. That keeps her profession from becoming something she has to do, rather than something she loves to do. “Be authentic,” she says, and keep in mind that your new business “is a reflection of you and your unique perspective.”
If you can stay true to your brand, you’ll enjoy what you do and others will appreciate you (and of course, pay you) for doing it.