Do you spend all sorts of time DIYing, baking, or otherwise indulging in a hobby you really, really love? If the answer's yes, first of all, congrats! You're lucky to have found your thing and also to have the time to devote to it. But have you ever thought about actually making money off your awesome knit scarves or super cool illustrations? This is a thing you can totally do, and we're going to tell you how.
Don't discount your interests.
Some of the world's most awesome creatives achieved success by finding new and unusual ways to express themselves. Hey, somebody always has to go first, so it might as well be you! Take, for example, a friend who worked as a nanny but also played in a band on the side—she ended up starting a successful children's band and now makes money playing the birthday party circuit. And it wouldn't have happened if she hadn't realized that her love of music and her love of kids could combine so nicely. Sometimes having a diverse range of interests helps you see the connections that other people miss.
Ban the word "aspiring."
In that vein, if you don't take yourself seriously, nobody else will either. Just because you're not a "professional" (yet), doesn't mean you're not legit! Don't ever use the word "aspiring" or "hopeful" or "amateur." Own your skills and have faith you can make a little cash from 'em, just like the so-called pros. The same ethos applies if this is a side gig to your 9-5 job: Even if you spend Monday through Friday as a corporate drone and weekends as a vegan cupcake genius, the only person who gets to define you is you.
Set firm goals and deadlines.
Since your hobby isn't a full-time gig, it can be hard to hold yourself accountable. There's no manager standing over your shoulder when you're making your own jewelry or rehearsing your play. In order to take your budding biz to the next level, you'll need to be your own boss. Create a list of goals, then come up with reasonable timelines for achieving them—if you want to produce your play, how long will it take to cast actors and find a venue? If you want to sell your jewelry, how will you grow traffic to your Etsy page, and when will you branch out and add other items to your shop? Having a fleshed-out business plan isn't a bad idea either, no matter how small-scale your operation is.
Establish a (new) social media presence.
Personal you and boss you may be the same person, but that doesn't mean they should have the same social media profiles. Consider making separate Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts in order to target customers—and to keep parts of your life from unnecessarily bleeding into one another. Using the passion account to promote your side project will also avoid you getting unfollowed by your real friends who may not be the right clients for your room decorating services. Basically, establish your brand (like, your actual brand, none of that "personal brand" stuff) and the money will follow.
Talk to entrepreneurs you admire.
The most interesting career paths are those that look more like an "S" than a straight line. Gone are the days when people start working at one company and stay there forever. Instead, it's pretty common to try out a couple of different jobs, pick up skills along the way, and eventually forge your own path—or even just forge your own path from the get-go. To get some perspective, talk to entrepreneurs who have successfully turned their hobbies into (relative) gold and ask them about how they got from A to B. It will help you see the bigger picture and make your own work not feel futile.
Get yourself in the know.
Beyond identifying role models in the field, it's important to start building out your own bigger network. Take classes, go to conferences and events, and attend readings and lectures. That way, when a great opportunity comes up (like a craft fair you want to be a part of or a design showcase for up-and-comers), you'll be in the loop enough to hear about it. No matter how great your stuff is, the cash will only come once you put yourself in the position to make it! Be in the know, and use that to your advantage.
By Lilit Marcus