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Should you always try to turn your hobby into a career?

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·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·6-min read
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Close up portrait of beautiful brunette lady drawing on clay plate while leaning over the table with pottery and paints
Turning a hobby into a career can be a tricky business. Photo: Getty

If you’ve been thinking about changing careers, you’re not alone. After a year of turmoil, our priorities have changed and many people are reconsidering their career choices.

More than half of UK workers – 53% – plan to make a change to their career in the next 12 months as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to research by Aviva. The ability to work remotely is one of the key factors, but a significant number of those polled hope to turn their pandemic hobbies into a career.

According to the study, six percent of UK workers intend to transform a hobby into a career, equating to just over 2 million workers - and 9 percent plan to gain a second source of income through a side hustle.

Whether it’s crafting, baking or gardening, the idea of turning a hobby into a lucrative job seems like a dream come true. However, the reality can be very different. So should you always turn a pastime into a career - and what factors should you consider first?

“Turning your hobby into a career is absolutely possible, as long as you work through a comprehensive planning process and do your due diligence,” says Ayesha Murray, career and life coach.

“The biggest risk is not understanding your market, whether there's demand for your new product or service, and whether it can provide you with a sustainable income,” she says. “If you work through all of that, do your research and crunch your numbers, then you give yourself the best chance of success.”

Research your new industry

Before going ahead with your business, check out what your new industry is like first. Look at your local market for competitors, as well as industry trends. Since Covid-19 left us with more time at home, people have been spending more on garden and home renovations. With lockdown lifting, however, they may have less time for this once back in workplaces, so a gardening business may do quite well.

Read more: When is the right time to quit your pandemic job and return to your career?

Looking for small business networks within your community can also help. Do as much research as you can so you can figure out what other businesses are using to succeed — and how yours can stand out from the crowd. “Do your research,” says Murray. “Is there demand for your product or service? Who would buy it from you? What's your pricing strategy? How or where would you promote it?”

She also advises starting small and setting yourself gradual goals to build up your new venture. “Could you run your hobby business alongside your current career? Testing the water before you go all in will give you the confidence that you can sustain yourself financially,” she adds.

Remember business is business

“Doing your hobby is different to selling your hobby, because there's so much more involved in running a business,” says Simon Paine, CEO and co-founder of Rebel Business School, which helps people from all walks of life to start their own businesses.

“So, if I enjoy painting as a hobby, I can just paint. But if my painting hobby becomes my business, I need to figure out all of the business-related paraphernalia around it, like websites, social media, marketing and keeping accounts."

Crucially, you’ll need to know whether you will still enjoy your hobby once it becomes your work. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly because the nature of your pastime will change once you’re doing it on a deadline and for a profit. If you tend to take your time and use your hobby as a way of relaxing or winding down, it might not work as a career.

It’s also easy to fall out of love with a hobby once you’re trying to monetise it. "If you invest all of your time and energy in something, there is always a risk that you're going to get bored,” Paine says. “But if the trade-off is that you get to spend some time getting paid doing something that you love then, in my book, that's worth the risk.”

Read more: How to make sure you're not overpaying for your UK holiday cottage

Of course, if you're passionate about your hobby, then you could end up with the best of both worlds too. “You’ll be making money from something you love, which then doesn't feel like work at all,” says Murray.

Work out your target audience

It’s all very well to create something wonderful that you hope will sell. But it’s essential to work out who your target audience is and who you’ll market your product to.

"Focus on one kind of product, figure out who your target audience is and take massive action to make sales,” says Paine. “Focus on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to and take as much action as you can to promote to the target audience.”

Before launching your product or service, Paine recommends contacting people you know. “Take every opportunity to reach out to your friends, family, co-workers and former co-workers, because sales are based on trust,” he says.

“It’s harder to sell to strangers in the early days because you’ve got no track record and they’ve never heard of you before. The success of anything is built on trust. Get on the phone, email and text messages, and on social media, to check in with people in your network and start selling.”

Work out your finances

And finally, make sure your finances are watertight. Quitting your job and launching your own business is an expensive risk and needs to be planned carefully.

“Work out how much you need to earn and how much do you want to earn,” advises Murray. “Do you have a buffer or safety net if things didn't go to plan? If you don't have a buffer at the moment, how could you make sure you're financially stable before going into something new?”

Paine suggests treating your business like a mini experiment. Success can take time - and launching a new venture is often a process of trial and error.

“It’s unlikely that you’ll immediately have a brilliant idea that works brilliantly that you fully enjoy, and get everything correct the first time round,” he says. “The best results come from a series of mini experiments.”

Watch: How to answer difficult interview questions