Should you do what you love? Taking your hobby business from fledgling to fabulous!
Ask any successful business owner and they will tell you that the most important ingredient for any business is passion.
And this is good advice! As entrepreneurs we spend HOURS each day immersed in our businesses. It has to be something that holds your attention and energises you.
But an idea that lights you up isn’t enough.
Picture a dial with ‘Passion’ at one end and ‘Viable Business’ at the other.
You need both elements in any business – and actually, some of the most successful businesses are 100% Viable Business and 0% Passion!
For example, Carrie Green, founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association, started her first business unlocking mobile phones while she was still a student at university. She openly admits it wasn’t something she was passionate about, but it was a service that people were willing to pay money for, and it served as a brilliant way to ignite her entrepreneurial instincts.
But unless profit alone is what motivates you, you probably won’t find much joy in a business like this.
For many entrepreneurs, and especially as women in business, we are looking for an equal balance between the two ends of the spectrum. And this balance is the winning formula for building a business that is ready to explode!
But as female entrepreneurs we don’t usually need a lesson in how to come up with an idea for a business that we are passionate about!
Let me tell you a story about the first business I ever wanted to start up.
I used to love to knit. I taught myself how to do it and proceeded to knit scarves for all my friends. I felt this would be an excellent idea for a business I could set up, and decided I could call it ‘The Stripy Scarf Company’ (guess what my scarves looked like). I would hand-knit all the scarves myself and sell them on the internet. It was perfect!
But when I thought about it from a business perspective I realised there were a few problems.
My production costs were high, and it took nearly a month to make one scarf. There were also similar products available for literally a fraction of the cost in nearly every supermarket and clothing store near me.
It was an idea I was passionate about and I could clearly envision my business branding, but there were some major flaws in my business proposition that meant it just wouldn’t have made a viable business!
So if you have a business that is more at the ‘Passion’ end of the spectrum, but you know you want to increase its business viability, here are my three top tips for how to get from fledgling to fabulous!
1 Be prepared to think bigger than you are currently comfortable with
This is a tough one, but it is the essential first step.
With hobby businesses it can be such a temptation to keep everything small and safe, with low priced products or services and doing everything in-house/on the cheap.
But you cannot build a profitable business if you aren’t willing to bust out of your comfort zone.
So try this exercise.
Take a sheet of paper and write down what you are currently expecting your business to achieve this year.
- How many sales do you expect to make?
- How much will you sell your products for?
- How much profit are you anticipating you’ll be able to bring in?
- Take these numbers and multiply them by 1000.
Be aware of what happens internally as you do this. What’s your emotional response? Shock? Dismissal? Excitement?
Now start thinking in practical terms, what would it look like if you were to try and get near these numbers?
What would it involve in terms of building a team to help you?
Or charging more in line with your worth, not simply what feels safe to you?
Or going big with marketing and publicity in order to really get your message out there?
You might not be able to make 10,000 sales this year. But can you see that you’ll achieve so much more if you are willing to experiment with thinking this big, as opposed to just aiming for 10?
And I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If your business plan doesn’t scare you a bit, you’re not thinking big enough.
So start to play around with the numbers a little bit. Where is the tipping point where it stops feeling plain terrifying and starts feeling that little bit more achievable? That’s your starting point.
2 Know your market and speak in the language that your clients understand
The most important thing when it comes to any business is knowing that you have a product or service that people are willing to pay for.
And this is where hobby businesses can fall down, because so much of it can be about ‘me’ and ‘my passion’.
So here’s a news flash for you:
Your biggest priority needs to be creating a product that your customers truly want!
If you are selling something that is a ‘nice to have’, or an optional extra that people can happily live without, this won’t take your business far enough.
The key is to speak to people who you think might want to buy your products and find out from them what they REALLY want. What pain do they have that your product will solve?
Do your research and be ready to show how your product meets the unspoken need of your target audience.
3 If you don’t have a business head, get help from someone who does
One of the most important skills for any entrepreneur is knowing when you need to get an expert involved.
And building a successful business doesn’t happen by accident.
So don’t be content with ‘making do’ when it comes to turning your vision for your business into reality. If you know that you don’t have a head for business or details, speak to someone who does.
It will involve investment, both time and financial. But in the long term, it will have a huge impact on the success and scale of your business.
Jessica Fearnley is the Work/Life Balance Business Coach. She works with busy entrepreneurs who feel overwhelmed by the pace of their successful businesses, helping them build capacity and overall make the business more sustainable, and enjoyable, for the long term.