Ask SCORE: Would your hobby make a sustainable business?

Running a successful business centered on doing something you love is the dream of many entrepreneurs. What could be more gratifying than making a living sharing your talents and skills with others?

On the Internet, you’ll find a long list of articles and resources offering advice and insight specifically geared toward hobbyists who want to take the step and go from “passion” to “profit.”  

It’s not difficult to find success stories about everyday people—from photographers to interior designers to carpenters and others—who have turned hobbies and interests they were passionate about into viable businesses.

That’s encouraging if you’re contemplating making the transition from hobbyist to small business owner. It’s important to know, however, that not all hobbies (and the people participating in them) may be well suited for entrepreneurship.

Here are some essential points to consider as you explore the feasibility of your hobby becoming a sustainable business:

  • Will you still enjoy doing the work after you have to do it versus having the luxury of doing it only when you’re inspired to do it?
  • Are you willing to put yourself out there? It’s one thing to work on your hobby for your own satisfaction and another to put what you produce out there to be scrutinized by others.
  • Will people – and enough of them – be willing to pay for what you create?
  • Do you have the knowledge and capacity to both create your product or service AND take care of the other administrative and operational responsibilities that come with starting and running a business?

SCORE mentor Dennis Wright from the Orange County, California chapter suggests that you take the following actions as you assess the viability of your hobby becoming a business that supports you and your family:

Identify who your prospective customer really is. Not everyone is going to be interested in your product or service.

Determine the benefit you’ll be selling. What need or want will your product or service satisfy?

Consider how to communicate your value proposition. Why is your product or service better than those offered by your competitors?

Find out what your product or service is worth. Determine what your target customers would be willing to pay.

Do the math. Can you be profitable at that price point? Make sure you consider overhead costs in addition to cost of goods sold.

“Once you complete your research and have the answers to those basic questions you’ll be ready to start drafting a business plan,” explains Wright. “A written plan is important because it helps identify the time, energy, and money necessary to take your hobby to another level.”

If you want some help, consider taking advantage of the free mentoring services from SCORE, reach out to the Eastside branch of Greater Seattle SCORE and speak with a mentor. We have expertise in planning, funding, marketing and many other aspects of starting and running a small business.

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