Turning A Hobby Into A Business – A Happier Life
In 1937 George Valliant, a psychologist and Professor at Harvard University, began one of the longest running studies of physical and mental wellbeing ever recorded. For over 70 years Professor Valliant and his colleagues studied the lives of 268 individuals through wars, divorces, sickness and even a successful presidential election. The purpose of which was to determine one thing; what is the secret to a happy life?
The findings are beautifully simple.
“The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people. Happiness is love”
Without wanting to disparage the research and the dedication of everyone involved for what initially seems like a logical conclusion, there is a little more to it than that (which you can read about in this excellent post). But essentially we’re happiest when we have a place in the world, when we love and are loved, and when we make the most of our gifts.
Making the most of our gifts is arguably why we take up hobbies. Whether our own particular penchant for happiness is sport, art, candle making, writing, coding, food; it’s enjoyable to do the things we’re good at. With work taking up so much of our time in the modern world, doing what you love and turning a hobby into a successful business is the Holy Grail many of us aspire towards.
The research from the study shows that 50% of our happiness is determined by our internal “set point,” which is shaped by genetics and early childhood. 10% is determined by circumstances and the remaining 40% from how we react to circumstances. It’s over this last 40% that we thankfully have some control.
Taking control of your happiness by pursuing what you love invariably involves the dilemma many aspiring entrepreneurs make; should you leave it as a hobby, or give up your day job and go full-time.
If you’re currently mulling over this particular dilemma, there may be a number of considerations that could help you reach the happiest of conclusions.
Turning you hobby into a business
Teach what you know
Whether it’s cookery, engineering or your prowess on social media, there are always people willing to learn from those with experience. Setting up online courses, forums or even teaching in person are cost effective ways to get everything up and running without the need for heavy investment.
Find a niche
Unless you’ve come up with a truly innovative idea, then it’s likely you’ll have competition. Finding a niche will not only help differentiate your business, but will give customers reassurance that you’re trusted and credible within the niche. It’s also much easier to target specific audiences online without wasting valuable budget during the early stages.
Combine previous work experience with your hobby
For example if your background is in publishing, but you love cooking, you could teach chefs on how they can get their cookbooks published. A happy compromise between previous experience and your passion.
Research & Business plan
This is an area that’s often overlooked, but by doing the necessary due-diligence you can save yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Learn about any competitors, how much they charge and how their offering differs to yours? Think about every step you need to make and what you need to achieve each stage. Have all the contacts and resources in place when you reach every individual step.
Not having a comprehensive understanding of costs, revenue and profit margins is surprisingly common and a fundamental error that can have a major impact on the success of your business. Have a clear idea of what your costs will be and how to price your product/service/time accordingly? Spreadsheets are likely to become your friends.
Most of the time our hobbies are fuelled by passion, and with it comes emotion. Evaluating your products or services from an objectionable point of view will help you to iron out any kinks that may have previously been missed. Get views from friends, family and any business contacts to have an unbiased appraisal of your idea.
Get help from experts
Getting the advice from experts and those who have been through the process before can not only save time, but can have a positive impact on revenue. How to structure your business (sole trader, limited company etc.) has various implications on tax, accounting and VAT. Getting the appropriate expertise in place early on is one of the most sensible decisions you can make for your business.
Find out what grants and loan schemes are available
There are a number of schemes, grants and incentives all designed to help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.
If you know what you’re going to do, you can apply for the New Enterprise Allowance, which is available to people who are unemployed.
There are a number of government grants available at www.gov.uk.
With the government realising that the economy could be improved with more women running businesses, they have started offering mentoring services to female entrepreneurs. This along with resources to find grants especially for women, and help with the creation of small businesses generally, you can find there’s a wealth of inspiration for female entrepreneurs.
Turning your hobby into a business often takes courage, careful preparation and perseverance. But according to our friend Professor Valliant, the route to happiness can often be paradoxical in nature. Among those he studied he found that the most inspiring triumphs and happiest times, were often the result of studies in hardship.