Find yourself at your work desk thinking about that graphic design or photography project you’re doing on the weekends? Well, the holidays are here, things might be slowing down at work, and this could be your chance to plan a fresh start next year, to start thinking about turning your passion into a profession.
First, ask yourself: is your hobby just a hobby? Doing it all day, every day in order to put food on the table might take the fun out of it. So make sure you want to turn your pastime into work before you take the next step.
Explore opportunities. Do a job search for places where you can put your skills into practice. Job and salary websites can be a quick, easy way to find out what sorts of jobs are available in your field of interest and what they pay.
Conduct market research. Check business listings online and in the Yellow Pages to see if there is a demand for your services. Are there other companies that do what you do? Talk to people in your business area to get feedback. Social network websites could be a good place to do this, says Carl Selinger, a professional development and business strategy consultant, and author of the book Stuff you Don’t Learn in Engineering School. But be discreet—you don’t want office colleagues on Facebook to find out. Check in with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or local small business support organizations, and seek out local networking groups for professionals and business owners.
Be prepared. Do you know everything you need to convert your pastime into a job or business? Acquire any additional skills you might need. Get professional certification or take business or technical courses at your local college or university, a great way to meet other people with similar interests.
Prepare yourself also for what lies ahead. If switching careers or starting a business was easy, more people would be doing it. It takes long hours, hard work, and time away from family. There might be weeks of unsteady pay.
Be flexible. While you’re treading the waters, you might have to volunteer or take a job that isn’t your first choice. Waiting for the perfect job could mean you never get started. Plus, you could gain valuable experience and make business contacts.
Go part-time. Not everyone can afford to quit their day-job and pursue their hobby full-time. But you could start a business on the side, Selinger advises, maybe even going down to part-time with your current employer, until you are confident in your entrepreneurial skills, are generating enough income, and are still having fun.
Draft a Business Plan. Having a blueprint of your prospective business in front of you will make it more tangible and build your confidence. According to the U.S. SBA, every business should have a business plan whether or not it will require funding from investors because writing a plan forces entrepreneurs to think about their business objectively. Business plan templates and software are available online.
And there is one more thing you can do to make sure others will take your business as seriously as you do. “I tell people ‘Go get a business card’,” says Selinger. “Suddenly others will look at you differently.”
Just do it. Once you are ready to take the plunge, go follow your passion. Don’t give up, be persistent and keep your eye on the goal. Turning what you love into a living could bring years of pleasure.
PHOTO: David Schneider