This post originally appeared on startupnation.com/start-your-business
Many successful entrepreneurs started by taking a hobby and turning it into a side hustle. That side hustle can eventually turn into a bona fide business. But where do you even start along a similar path?
Take Facebook, for example, which started in a college dorm room. Mark Zuckerberg created social networking websites for his fellow students at Harvard University. He then created “The Facebook” to replace or substitute the paper profiling system used at the university. With great success at Harvard, he began to expand to other universities, then to high schools, and ultimately into the general public.
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5 steps to turn your hobby into a side hustle
List your hobbies and passions
The first step is to make a list of your favorite hobbies and passions. Keep it short and only include the top contenders. Prioritize them in the order of your proficiency. Take this list and translate each hobby or talent into a viable product or service.
For example, I launched my first side hustle after graduating college when I had started my first engineering job. I was proficient at math and science due to my engineering schooling, and I had earned my way through school by working as a chef and caterer in numerous restaurants. I had experience with writing and editing. My list of skills consisted of math, cooking and writing. This list gave me ideas such as tutoring high school students, catering events or editing authored work as a freelancer.
Conduct market research
The second step is to research the market for your product or service. A quick market analysis will help you identify your market. Define your customers, who they are, where they are, and how you can reach them. Look at your location, are you near your potential customers or could you easily reach them? How difficult would it be to introduce your products and services to them? Is there demand for your product or service?
“A business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby.”
Jason Fried, “Rework”
After reviewing my hobby list against the market space, I concluded that I was not located near families with high school kids for tutoring. I did not have the proper network in place with authors or writers to market my editing skills. I did, however, see promise in catering to businesses. I worked as an engineer in an industrial business park, which had numerous tenants that would be great customers. I knew there was a demand since my company could not find quality catering at a reasonable price.
Put your idea to the test
The third step is to test your idea. Start with a sample customer. Take your hobby and find a willing customer to test the business concept. You can make mistakes, hone your skills and refine your product or service with them. You may consider giving this customer a special deal in order to play the role of guinea pig. Once you begin providing your products and services, get customer feedback, watch your cash flow, expenses and calculate your profit.
My first customer was the engineering company where I worked. I catered their Friday executive meetings, training sessions, conferences and customer visits. I provided breakfast and lunch as well as a mid-morning snack. After the first month, I had gathered a tremendous amount of positive feedback on the quality of the food, the presentation and price. I accounted for every penny spent and earned. I understood where I was making a profit and where I was not. I made adjustments to my products and services accordingly to maximize my profit, while being mindful to retain quality food and service.
Take your hobby and turn it into your hustle
The fourth step is to take your hobby and make it your side hustle. Create a strategy to market and grow the business. You’ll need to start by creating a name, a brand and marketing strategy. Register your name with the state; get your licenses, and any permits needed. Brand your side hustle with a logo and create marketing materials, gather testimonials and get a website up and running.
I named my catering side hustle “Delectable Delights,” sporting a red and white checkered tablecloth, with a bountiful basket filled with breads, cheeses and fruit spilling over its rim. I gathered my testimonials and made a brochure with my company, complete with business information and a catering menu. I approached all of the businesses in the industrial business park and gave each administrative assistant and receptionist a brochure. I took a business card from each prospect and added notes so I could track the details of their catering needs.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for”? Well, I should have heeded that advice, because within a few months, my schedule was packed with catering events.
The final step is to decide…
Do you want a side hustle or a full-time business?
If your side hustle takes off, at some point, you will have to ask yourself, “Do I want to take the next logical step and make this side hustle my full-time gig?”
This means making it a real business, one where you hire a staff, find a location, purchase inventory and more. Eventually, it means quitting your day job and transitioning to a full-time commitment with entrepreneurship.
Otherwise, it remains a side hustle, as long as you limit your hustle’s growth based on the availability of your time and resources. Then, it’s simply a question of how long you want to maintain a dual work lifestyle.
I kept my catering side hustle for a few years, until I decided to invest that time into earning my MBA. It is all about making the right decisions for you at the right time based on your career goals, potential financial gains and your personal life ambitions. I found that my side hustle endeavor was an invaluable learning lesson and a great introduction as an aspiring entrepreneur into the business world.
What lessons has your side hustle taught you? Please share in the comments section below!