Turning your hobby into a small business

Any small business owner will tell you that setting up your own company is challenging, but it’s possible to grow your hobby into a fully-fledged business

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It’s easy to get swept along with the idea of being paid to do what you love. But making your hobby your livelihood can be as risky as it is exciting. As with most things, the time spent in preparation is perhaps the most important part of the process.

Here’s how to get it right:

Be realistic

Think like an investor and analyse your business idea until you are completely confident it has mass appeal. Ask yourself what’s your USP (unique selling point), and if there’s enough profit in your idea. If you don’t have the answers then research, research, research. You can do this by studying your competitors’ actions, quizzing experts, asking colleagues and friends for input, and by running surveys (to help get you started try Survey Monkey).

For more information on market research, watch this video by GovUK.

Know your customer

Who are they and why should they buy from you? Identify potential customers and talk to them about their needs. Find out what they’d be willing to pay and calculate if that leaves enough profit after costs.

Consider what will make you different from other businesses competing in your market. Can you provide something better than what’s already available? Don’t be put off if your idea isn’t totally original – as long as your idea has a good USP and adds value for customers, you can differentiate yourself.

Write a plan

You should always know what you want your business to achieve and regularly set goals. In 2012, according to Bis.gov, more than 400,000 new businesses were set up, but 20% of those failed within the first year, and 50% won’t be around by 2015.

With the harsh reality that half of businesses don’t last more than two years, planning your growth, building in contingency budgets and focusing on your goals may give you the resilience needed to survive unexpected glitches. Start writing your plan with free business templates from www.gov.uk/write-business-plan.

Shout about it

Make sure your idea is out there – and noticeable. Research SEO tips (Search Engine Optimisation) to get your website/online shop to the top of internet search results. Seek out key influencers who are respected in their field – a recommendation from them could be worth its weight in gold. And, embrace social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Read O2’s tips for promoting your business here.

Seek a geek

If the nuts and bolts of finance, IT and logistics aren’t your forte, find somebody to help, or start teaching yourself. The kernel of your idea is just the start – it’s the day-to-day process that will determine whether you sink or swim. For starters, try Office 365 from O2 to make working on the move a cinch.

Make sure you’re sure

Remember, you’ll be giving up benefits ranging from paid holidays and sick pay to pensions, and private healthcare. And there’s the possibility that you may fall out of love with your hobby.

Hobbies stem from passions, but a company requires hard work, dedication and responsibility. When it comes down to it, it’s your level of commitment and enthusiasm that will make the difference – you’re the boss, which means taking full responsibility.

There’s no such thing as a part-time entrepreneur…

Articles are written by independent journalists and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of O2.

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