From Passion to Profit: How to Turn your Hobby into a Dream Job
We love a good story of dreams coming true. Think of Bake Off’s Nadia, whose journey from enthusiastic amateur to big-time pro is the stuff of national legend.
But we can’t all bake the Queen’s birthday cake… So how else can you turn your hobby into a lucrative career?
Is it just blue sky thinking?
Is it only for the very well-off?
Or might it actually be possible to make a living doing what we love?
Research conducted into so-called ‘passionate workers’ by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, YouGov and Samsung found that more than one in ten British workers have given up their day jobs to transform their hobby into a career.
Separate research for the Guardian by Start Up Loans and YouGov found that over 85% of Brits who started a business founded on their hobby gained greater job satisfaction than in their standard employment.
But crucially, these figures are higher for younger people, and higher for women. Nearly 25% of 18-34-year-olds were planning to implement their hobby as their career, while 13% of women were intending to do so (compared to 11% of men).
There are plenty of inspiring examples of dedicated female entrepreneurs, determined to make their passion their work. Here are just a few of them:
Hobby: flower arranging
With a blooming passion for flowers, Alice Rossiter gave up a job as a product manager for tech startups and founded her own business, Alice’s Table, which combines creativity and entrepreneurship to empower women through flower arranging.
A unique and innovative approach, Alice’s business has really taken root in the US – ‘I am always pinching myself that I get to call this work!’, she explains.
Hobby: food and travel
Leyla Kazim started a blog in 2012, charting the globe-trotting, culinary adventures she undertook in her time off from a software company. Eventually, however, she made the brave step to become a full-time food and travel blogger.
Thanks to fantastic photography and writing skills, Leyla is now paid to write content or produce videos for the likes of Jamie Oliver, alongside continuing her own blog and social media channels.
Lots of people aspire to make their living as an artist, but Hannah Dale managed to make that dream a reality. She began by selling her paintings to shops and galleries, before deciding it would make better business sense to print her designs on greeting cards.
Things grew from there, and she now has a business, Wrendale Designs, selling cushions, wallpaper, stationary and more (with a tidy £3 million annual turnover).
Of course, it’s possible to apply for an established position which allows you to practise your hobby as part of your job. There are creative roles out there, whether your hobby is crafting or running, cookery or yoga, jewelry-making or collecting vintage clothes.
If your hobby’s on the arty side, then a good place to start looking for such positions is the Arts Council’s dedicated Arts Jobs site.
Alternatively, a great way to monetize a passion can be to teach. What about becoming an art or music teacher, running cookery or photography courses, or qualifying as a yoga coach or therapist?
Go it Alone?
Often these jobs are highly competitive, however, and they might not fit exactly with your skills. What if your hobby is hunting for obscure mushrooms, like Megan DeMarco, marketing director of the startup AcousticSheep?
Hence why the focus of the above research was on people who had left their job and set up their own business. Your passion is your passion, after all, so it might be up to you to find a way to make it sell.
So what’s the secret to independently taking your hobby to the next level, and starting a business or blog, as Alice Rossiter, Leyla Kazim and Hannah Dale all did? Here are some top tips:
Be specific –
Know what it is you’re offering and have a clear and distinctive brand voice.
Go on courses to transform an amateur passion to a professional skill.
Cultivate a following –
According to the marketing theory 1000 True Fans, the most important thing for a small business is an avid fanbase of 1000 individuals (people who will buy what you sell, read what your write, listen to what you sing). If you make just £100 from each of them per year, then you’ve got £100,000 in the bag.
Use social media –
As well as gaining those essential fans, social media can provide revenue, through advertising or sponsoring, and can be helpful if you decide to crowdfund part of your business.
Research and research (and then research again) –
Know the market, know the competition, know what others are charging for your product or how they are selling themselves.
Have a plan (and stick to it) –
Be rigorous with yourself, identify where you’re trying to get to and how you’ll get there, and don’t allow yourself to veer off course.
Words of Warning
If you get a job that matches your hobby perfectly, then that’s absolutely fantastic (and hats off to you!). If you decide to go it alone, then just be careful. Research by AXA found that 60% of those who grew a business from their hobby did not earn sufficient income to do it full-time.
Therefore, especially if you’re at the beginning of your career, it’s a good idea to continue your hobby alongside a principal job. This will give you stability as well as experience and essential skills.
By pursuing your hobby on the side, you’ll also be testing the waters. Think about whether your passion would withstand the transition from an enjoyable pastime to a full-time job, and remember the potential pitfalls of mixing work and life. Is your hobby’s non-work status actually intrinsic to what you enjoy about it?
So keep on having fun with your hobby while working on making it a more professional option, through attending courses and by doing research. Start a blog about your culinary creations or try selling bits and pieces on platforms like notonthehighstreet.com or Etsy.
See how it goes. You never know where it might take you…
Anyone fancy baking a cake for Her Majesty’s 95th?