BUSINESS BASICS: Say No To Hobby Businesses
My full evaluation why some hobbies should remain just that.
It’s another day, another addition of the Frolics
I’m, as always, Ellen “Jelly” McRae, the writer/solopreneur/content creator/whatever you want to call me, with the goods.
By trade, I write ‘💜 1 Lovelock Drive 💜’ and romanceship articles using my experiences.
To my faithful, welcome back. I’ve missed you!
If you’re new to my blogletter, I’m pretty happy you’re here. Stay a while, get to know me, and come with me as I stuff up life, make amazing and dumb-ass career decisions, and share my *cough cough* wisdom.
Let’s Bring You Up To Speed
I spent the end of May with Covid. I managed to avoid it for over two years, but alas, like all good invisible to the naked eye diseases, it eventually caught me.
It hit me hard. Walking up the stairs and I was completely out of breath. Trying to concentrate? I couldn’t even read a book, something I rarely find myself unable to do. It sucked.
Stuck in isolation brought me hurtling back to the days when leaving the house was restricted to essentially shopping, health care and two hours of exercise. That was months of Melbourne life and I endured it without complaint.
But I wasn’t sick; instead, I embraced lockdown as a time to work on my business.
It’s also a time when a lot of people embraced their hobby and transformed their part-time obsession into fully-fledged businesses.
A lot of people succeeded and a lot of people crashed and burned. In the eyes of history, this phenomenon will be remembered as the “pandemic pursuits”.
You have a hobby, right?
I know you’ve been thinking about it. I’m a mind reader. Not! (Oh yeah, I grew up watching Wayne’s World!) Here’s you:
You love your hobby more than your career. And possibly any job you’ve worked at before.
You wake up in the morning dreaming of when you next get to work on your hobby.
You drift off to sleep after hours of internet scouring for new parts and pieces.
Your hobby means the world to you.
And at some time during your obsession, the bright idea to transform your idea into a business happens.
You’ve been planning the business. You imagine transforming your life as your hobby becomes the greatest idea you’ve ever had.
And here I am, about to burst your bubble.
Please don’t be angry with me by the end of this blogletter. I can feel the resentment towards my sentiment already.
But I stand by my assertion.
Your hobby won’t make the perfect, profitable and sustainable business you’re promised by the masses.
It’s easy enough to say considering I don’t know your hobby. As much as we want to believe otherwise, hobbies are:
Great part-time amusements.
Perfect stress relievers.
Great time wasters.
It doesn’t mean they are business worthy.
But people have turned their hobbies into businesses before? What about them?
Some people defy the rules. What started as a hobby has made the perfect business for them, I agree. But the obstacles to overcome in turning a hobby into a business are outside the scope of most hobbyists.
It’s all well and good to have a passion for a hobby. Yet, taking the next step and transforming it into a business won’t always work out. Here are the obstacles most people won’t be able to overcome.
1. Hobby Costs Are One Thing. Business Costs Are A Whole Other Beast.
Every hobbyist knows the financial woes of enjoying their hobby. Let’s look at fitness fanatics. They could theoretically enjoy their hobby with little cost. Yet they have significant associated costs. Runners, equipment, clothing to start with.
Everything adds up.
Most hobbies are expensive to sustain if you were to engage in them full time. What confuses us is how the costs are manageable now. It seems affordable when we’re enjoying this activity in a casual nature.
The costs associated with hobbies rarely meet the low-cost demands of a business. Most hobby supplies don’t provide affordable options that withstand business use.
When I turned my love of fitness into personal training, Nike didn’t give me a discount. I kept paying the same price as the consumers.
To get discounts on hobby materials, you need to become a full-scale business. This includes (for example):
Buying products in bulk, potentially more than what you need.
Settling for cheaper, inferior options.
2. Hobby Education Is Good. Yet, Mastery Level Is What You Need.
Your love of your hobby isn’t a valuable enough reason to create a business around it.
Passion is an undeniable quality needed to run a business, but the best entrepreneurs know you need more.
Your hobby knowledge and skillset should be at a mastery level before you turn it into a business. This is to sustain basic customer expectations and industry standards.
Let’s break this down.
Customer expectations are higher than ever. You will note from websites like Etsy and eBay that there are a lot of hobbyists competing for attention.
If your knowledge and skills aren’t up to scratch, the customer will find an alternative just as easily.
Whilst consumers are looking to support locals, they are also expecting quality for their money.
It can sound demoralising, especially if you’re starting out. But here is the reality:
Our enjoyment of the hobby doesn’t equate to knowledge.
Nor does how many years we’ve been enjoying our hobby either.
If the skills aren’t there, it’s impossible to create a successful business.
3. You Can Do Your Hobby. It Doesn’t Mean You Can Teach It.
Some hobbies aren’t sellable in the form that you enjoy them. It means in order for them to become a business, you change the way you interact with the hobby.
For some, that requires becoming a teacher.
And for many, that is outside our skillset.
Case example: Turning skydiving (hobby) into a business
As I reference a hobby my husband used to love, I find the perfect example of the challenges of turning your hobby into a business.
Most weekends he would go skydiving. With his own gear, he completed the educational requirements to pass skills levels, much like the way karate has education stages, for example.
If he wanted to turn skydiving into a business, one of his options would be to teach skydiving to people below him. It would mean:
He wouldn’t practise his hobby in the same way - He couldn’t make money jumping from a plane whenever he felt like it. Goodbye flexibility.
He couldn’t make money from it the way it was now - Something would have to change. Eg. Working hours, business principles etc.
He would need new qualifications - If he wanted to teach, he needed qualifications and licences in skydive instruction.
He would need extensive training - All of those qualifications don’t come easy.
He would need specific gear to practise as an instructor - You can’t use “fun jumping” gear as a teacher. You need a special set-up with teaching aids for students.
This is just skydiving. One hobby. It shows the two different paths, two different requirements, and two vastly different approaches to a hobby vs. a business.
In short, doing your hobby doesn’t make you a teacher. Though you can explain minor aspects, this doesn’t equate to full-scale teaching.
The expertise required to instruct others is outside hobbyists’ general knowledge.
4. Practising Your Hobby Is Great. But To Make Money, You Have To Supply And Sell.
The other option for my husband, had he wanted to turn his hobby into a business, would be to sell skydiving equipment.
Become a retailer that provided parachutes, helmets and suits.
For skydiving, he would need:
In-depth knowledge of the entire skydiving gear industry.
Contacts with global skydiving suppliers to meet product demands
A reachable customer base.
A complex understanding of the legal implications of selling this equipment.
This is another example of how some hobbies aren’t sellable the way we enjoy them.
It’s a significant obstacle that many simply can’t overcome through education. It demands years of working in the industry to gain the type of insight before developing a business.
What selling the equipment would demand is more than what most hobbyists can provide.
Becoming a supplier is also completely separate from enjoying the hobby. For a skydiving supplier, jumping isn’t part of the job description. In fact, as most people are in the sport on the weekends, this is the best time to be on the ground networking.
To sell the hobby, you can find yourself giving it up altogether.
5. Your Hobbies Are Hobbies. Businesses Are Businesses.
Most of the hobbies we love sustain our weekend interests. To alleviate our boredom. And to help us enjoy life. We weren’t meant to turn them into business ideas.
Yet, we live in an age where everything we do is transformable into a business.
If you enjoy the odd spot of knitting, sell your creations on eBay.
If you enjoy tennis on Sundays, start coaching.
Anything is possible. It’s the great hobbyist dream.
But for many, selling knitted scarves won’t pay the bills.
Coaching two tennis clients for the first twelve months won’t pay the mortgage.
It’s all well and good to want to turn your idea into a business, but completely redundant if you can’t make money.
I can read your mind. How do you know you can’t make money if you don’t try?
And whilst you make a good point, you can’t start a business with passion alone. Or with the experience of a hobbyist. Or with the limited knowledge of a hobbyist.
It simply isn’t enough to make money.
6. Interest V. Career V. Hobby. Don’t Get Them Confused.
So many of us hunt for ways to change our job or our career.
We hit a point where what we thought we wanted isn’t cutting it anymore. That’s when we turn to our hobbies. We can make money off our passions.
But this desperation has us confusing passing interests with good business ideas.
Your inability to come up with another business idea, or career choice, isn’t a reason to ruin your hobby.
Because if you don’t get it right, that’s what you will do. Every time you pick up the knitting needles, you will think of your failed business.
It will haunt you. It will torture you. The voice of experience is warning you.
There are a few that can crack this ‘hobby into business’ idea. And I welcome you to be like them.
I encourage you to be the few that can successfully transform their hobby into a profitable business. I want that for you.
But what these people had before the transformation was more than passion for their hobby. They had time, money, skills, knowledge and business savvy. They knew loving their hobby wasn’t enough.
And it’s time you realise that too.
Always Leave On A Song
When someone asks me what I think of their hobby business idea…. 😂
You’ve freakin’ got this!
This journey isn’t the same without you. And I sure know you can’t find success without support, somewhere to vent, and people just like you. Join me here on The Frolics as we grow our careers together!
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