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When Is It the Right Time to Transform Your Hobby Into a Career?

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Mon Apr 29 2024

When Is It the Right Time to Transform Your Hobby Into a Career?
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Whether it’s extreme sports or stamp collecting, most of us have one or more hobbies or pastimes. For me, it’s photography. But maybe you have, from time to time, wondered if you could turn your hobby into a career, working at the thing you enjoy? Indeed, perhaps you are thinking of this right now. But when is the right time to do this? Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself to help you decide.

Why do you want to transform your hobby into a career?

It’s important to think carefully about why you want to turn your hobby into a career. Here are some possible reasons:

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  • You are passionate about your hobby, it gives you a sense of personal fulfillment, and turning it into a career would give you job satisfaction and a wider sense of purpose.

  • You believe that your hobby has the potential to be financially rewarding.

  • You are turned off by your current job, your current company, or even traditional employment in general.

  • You are looking for flexibility, autonomy, and other benefits of working for yourself.

If the first two points strike a chord with you, then transforming your hobby into a career may well be the way forward for you, and sooner rather than later. If the last two points shout much louder, maybe it’s becoming an entrepreneur that really appeals—and of course this need not necessarily be based around your existing hobbies.

Do you want to go it alone—or not?

For many people, turning their hobby into a career means striking out by themselves, running their own business, becoming an entrepreneur. Of course, with some hobbies, this is not necessarily the case. If you love gardening, you might want to start your own business, or you might want to get a job working for a landscaping company.

Again, think carefully about why you are interested in turning your hobby into a career. Is it just because you are passionate about your hobby, or do you also want to be your own boss? If you’re thinking of going it alone, remember that you’ll be running a business and will need to devote time and energy to administration, marketing, sales . . . you won’t only be carrying out your hobby.

Do you have a financial cushion?

Whatever your hobby, it’s likely that it might be a while before you start earning money. Do you have funds to live off in the meantime? Make a realistic, not an optimistic, estimate of your potential income, think about any equipment you will need to buy and other expenses, work out how long it might take you to become profitable (or at least break even!), and compare this to the funds you have available. You might need to carry on in your existing job for a little while as you start your business or look for other funding.

How passionate and committed are you to your hobby? How much does it enthuse you?

Turning your hobby into a career requires a great deal of commitment. If you are forming your own business, you will need to dedicate all your time and energy to it, probably without any immediate financial reward. If you are seeking a job based around your hobby—working as a chef in a professional kitchen, for example, if your hobby is cooking—you may have to undergo training and might start at the bottom of the ladder. It’s likely that you’ll earn less than you were before, you may have less status, and you may be in competition with other people who are also really committed to their career. None of this may matter if you are really passionate about your hobby, but don’t harbor any illusions about how hard you will have to work.

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Are you prepared to take the risk?

Turning your hobby into a career can be risky. You may go through a period of financial uncertainty, your new career may stall and fail, you may have to spend so much time and effort that relationships suffer or that you become burnt out. Take these risks seriously and think of how you can mitigate them. Remember that at some times in your life, certain risks may be reduced—for example, when you have paid off any existing loans or mortgages. These points may be a better time to take the leap.

Do you have the skills to excel in your new career?

Many years ago, I took a few piano lessons, and these days I occasionally knock out a tune on an old Yamaha keyboard that lives in my spare bedroom. But frankly, I’m terrible; if I had to earn my living as a musician, I’d starve (unless people paid me not to play). So be honest with yourself: Have you developed high-level skills in your hobby through practice, training, or education, to the extent that prospective customers would view your work as high in quality and worth buying? Feedback from friends and family can be useful here, but remember that they may not want to hurt your feelings. Ask them to be honest, to give constructive feedback, and to act as a “critical friend.”

For some hobbies, there may be more objective ways to assess your skill levels. For example, if your hobby involves painting or crafting, see if you can sell some of your art pieces at exhibitions or craft fairs before turning to art as a full-time career.

Do people want to buy what you have to offer?

You may be highly skilled in your desired new career, but is there a demand for what you have to offer? As well as testing your skills, dipping your toes in the water can also let you see if people want to buy your products or services, and give you ideas for how to change your offering if it does not seem popular. Look at what potential competitors are doing and see if you can identify a specific unique selling point that sets you apart.

Do you have a support network in place?

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, it will be useful to have a support network in place. This can include family, friends, and others who can offer personal support, but also people who can offer you technical and business support. This may include other hobbyists who have followed the same path, business advisors, or mentors.

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