Self-employment; could your hobby be turned into a thriving business?

04/02/2016

office desk calculator and clockIf you are facing redundancy or a career transition, your initial reaction may be to review your CV and start seeking out job opportunities relevant to your experience – but employment isn’t the only option. Self-employment is on the increase. In fact, more people became self-employed recently than at any other point in the past 40 years.

Is self-employment for me?

One of the most appealing factors is undoubtedly the chance to make a living out of something you enjoy – it’s little surprise that many people strive to turn their hobbies into businesses. Nonetheless, it’s a serious challenge to turn your passion into a sound business strategy. If this is something you would like to consider, here are our top tips for going it alone with a start-up business…

Is this something I want to do?

It may seem like a dream to be able to bake or knit or make greetings cards for a living, but bear in mind that once you combine your hobby with your income, a great deal of enjoyment will be removed from the process. You will have to carry out your hobby to meet the demands of your customers – this could include working to a very tight deadline and repeating the same processes over and over again. This is why it’s important to start small. As you begin to see demand rise, ask yourself whether you’re still enjoying your hobby. If not, you may wish to reconsider self-employment as your new career choice.

Is there a market?

You may have come up with the best business idea ever, but if there is little interest in buying (and using) your products, then you need to think carefully as to whether it is worth investing time and money into an idea which might carry risk. If you are creating something for your family and friends, do they ask you to make certain things or are you just making gifts? Do you receive requests from friends of friends, or is demand limited to people closest to you?

The first task is to evaluate your business idea, to establish whether it has a real chance of succeeding. Ensuring that there is a viable and ongoing market for your product or service seems quite obvious, but it will require you to be objective and honest with yourself to ensure you build a realistic business plan. Do you have any competition locally that would mean less market share? How should you price your products or service to ensure you are competitive? How will people find out about your business? Where and how will you distribute and sell your products? How many sales will you need to make to cover your expenses and make enough profit to make the venture worthwhile? You need to give yourself the best chance of making a success of your hobby, writing a clear business plan and being realistic from the outset will ensure you manage your own expectations and give yourself the best chance of succeeding.

Will I be able to make money?

As you might imagine, pursuing hobbies as a means to make a living, is becoming increasingly popular. This means that you may be entering a competitive market unless you’ve mastered a unique craft or have devised innovative product ideas. Calculate your costs and margins. Write a business plan that explains how you will make money, where you will sell your products and what your targets are for the immediate future. Think about the level of savings you have accrued, and whether you will need to find part-time work to support your fledgling business. Remember that there are plenty of government loans and grants available for start-ups – Gov.uk is a good place to start.

How will I market my business?

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive these days. Social media accounts don’t cost money to maintain, but they do cost time. Does your business plan account for time spent on marketing? Consider which social networks will be the most effective at spreading the word about your business. Are you confident in posting and sharing content on these networks? Do you know what types of content work, and what doesn’t?

Word-of mouth is equally important if you are establishing a locally run business. Think about who your intended audience/customers are and consider how you can get your message to them. Could this be on self-employment notice boards, through local schools and businesses? Local online resources and groups?

Research relevant events that will allow you to exhibit or sell your products and services, or go along and network with others. These might be seasonal craft, food or regular local markets. Research your options and diarise events.

Use online forums as a way to connect with other business owners, ask questions and share advice. Starting out on your own may feel daunting, so having people who have been in the same situation and can offer practical advice will be invaluable and will also stop you feeling isolated.

Turning your hobby into a thriving business is a huge challenge, but if you’ve carefully planned your move into self-employment and have evidence that there’s sustainable demand for your products or service, you may find that transforming your hobby into a business is a rewarding and valuable experience.

Renovo is one of the UK’s leading providers of outplacement and career transition support. We work with both organisations and individuals to support all their career transition requirements. If you would like to understand how Renovo can help you please call 0800 612 2011 or email info@renovo.uk.com

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