Turning Your Hobby into a Job
by Gary Foreman
Turning a hobby into a full-time income can be easier said than done. These steps can increase your chance of success.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I’d like to know if I can escape the rat race. I hold a 9-5 job. It’s very regular and very boring. Now it’s not even secure.
For the past couple years, I’ve been making silver jewelry. Making the jewelry and selling it online and at local craft shows have become what I live for. I just don’t know if I can live on what I make from it. Can you give my cloud a “silver” lining please and tell me if I can leap from craft hobbyist to full-time artisan?
You share a dream that many of us have. We’d love to turn our hobby into a full-time job.
Is it possible? Yes, but it’s not easy and there’s no guarantee of success.
So let’s do what we can to increase the chances that sometime soon you’ll be known as an artist producing and selling wonderful jewelry creations.
Change your attitude
Begin by recognizing that you’re changing a hobby into a job and that means taking on a new attitude.
- You’ll need to create product on a regular basis and not just when you feel like being creative.
- You’ll find that some items sell well, so you’ll need to produce more of them and that can become boring.
- You’ll need to be aware of the cost of your materials. The more you spend making something, the more you’ll need to charge for it.
- Your time isn’t free even if you enjoy your work. That means that you need to know how much time you spend making something and include that cost when you price the product.
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Line up your suppliers
Next, you’ll need to line up your suppliers. You’ve probably been buying your supplies at a retailer like Hobby Lobby.
If you’re going to be buying quantity, it’s time to try to find wholesalers. A search for “wholesale craft supplies” turned up pages of suppliers. Find the ones that best meet your needs.
Create a business plan
Then create a business plan. Know how much annual income you want to make and what it will take to reach that goal.
Be realistic. If you need to produce and sell 20 pieces each and every week, is that really possible? This isn’t the time for wishful thinking!
Make a rough calculation to see if your plan works. We’ll make up an example to illustrate the point.
Suppose you can make an item in 20 minutes and your profit is $10 each. If you wanted to make $30,000 per year, it would require you sell 3,000 of that item ($30,000 divided by $10). At 20 minutes each, that would be 60,000 minutes or 1,000 hours. You’d need to work 20 hours a week for 50 weeks to produce that level of profit.
Don’t forget that you’ll have some additional business costs. Packing materials and shipping can become a major cost of your product. Know how much it will cost to get each item to its customer and include that in your costs.
If the basic plan is sound, then proceed to a marketing plan.
Create a marketing plan
As you’ve already found out, the internet has changed the market for things like crafts. Fifteen years ago, your only real outlets were local craft/street fairs and card/gift shops. Now there are plenty of online places to sell your creations.
Go beyond listing your items in craft marketplaces like Etsy.com. Seek out niche sites for your product. Take the time to find out how to creatively market through them.
Become familiar with social media. You might find it advantageous to create a Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram account. Use pictures to display your work. You want people to see your wonderful creations!
Try to keep in contact with your customers. Get an address, either email or postal. Follow up a few weeks after the sale to see how they like their purchase. Get their permission to contact them once or twice a year when you have something special to offer.
Try to stay in front of any trends. Occasionally an item will get regional or even national attention. In short order, many crafters begin making their own interpretations. If you can be there first, you’ll be able to command higher prices and exit before the price competition begins.
Consider selling others’ crafts
If you find that you’re good at the business side, consider selling crafts made by others.
Many crafters would like to sell their stuff, but don’t have the time or business skills to do that successfully. Some will gladly give you a cut if you handle sales and distribution for them.
So it’s definitely possible to turn your hobby into a business, but it takes a proper perspective and a lot of hard work. Hopefully your efforts will be success!
Reviewed January 2021
About the Author
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com.
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