How to turn your hobby into a successful business

Teigan Margetts

For many it’s a pipe dream, but for the few who manage it, it’s the stuff dreams are made of. That is – turning your much-loved hobby into a successful business. But whilst turning a profit from something you love sounds like a recipe for happiness, for many, it often remains a pipe dream. For those who dare to try, here are some steps you’ll need to follow to successfully turn your craft into your vocation: 

Understand the difference between a hobby and a business

One of the risks with wanting to turn a hobby into a business is that you love your hobby so much, you do it for free. This can make seeing opportunities to monetise your hobby more difficult.

The solution to this, says Simon French, founder of successful mountain bike trail construction company, Dirt Art, is to separate the parts of your hobby that can be monetised from those that can not.

“I’ve loved mountain biking since I was old enough to ride a bike. However, was someone going to pay me to mountain bike? Probably not. But, was there a market to build trails, and consult in the space? There was. So this effectively enabled me to keep doing what I loved, whilst at the same time profiting from an aspect of it.” 

"It’s important to emotionally divest, and take a risk-averse approach."

Establish feasibility and a customer base

Having established that your hobby (or an element thereof) can be turned into a business, the next step is to establish how feasible that business is, and to start to develop a customer base.  This step, however, can be harder than it seems for hobbyists turned business owners as their passion for hobby can prevent them from seeing the true potential for the business. During this phase, it’s important to emotionally divest, and take a risk-averse approach. 

So what approach did French take in the establishment phase of Dirt Art?

“I was working part-time as a nurse when Dirt Art really started to take off.  So many times I just wanted to chuck that in and invest all I had in the business – after all, I loved Dirt Art. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t sure at that point how successful it would really be, so I stuck out my other job until I was sure.”  

"At the end of the day, having your own business is hard work – whatever that business might be.”

Don’t expect to ‘live the dream’

One of the downfalls of turning a hobby into a successful business is the expectation you have to ‘live the dream.’ Whilst this may be true to a degree, it’s important that you manage your own expectations and recognise that, just like every paying job, there will be elements that you love and some you loathe.

On this point, Simon says:

“There are days where I literally get paid to mountain bike on the trails I’ve built and those days are incredible. But those days are also far outnumbered by the days I spend travelling, doing paperwork and dealing with councils etc. At the end of the day, having your own business is hard work – whatever that business might be.” 

Teigan Margetts

Teigan Kate Margetts is a freelance writer who specialises in producing thought-provoking content on business and education-related topics. 

Image: Dirt Art Facebook page