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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Turning your hobby into a business - what's it really like?

It's been over 18 months since I turned my hobby into a business. I had been making cards and paper products for many years, selling a few to friends and family. But when I couldn't find a job I decided to see if I could make a few pennies using the skills I already had. So I made a load of cards and put them for sale on Folksy. I turned my hobby into a business; something I loved doing into my job.

I had no idea what I was doing, or what it was going to involve. And I'm not sure it's turned out to be anything like what I expected. So I thought you might be interested to hear what it's like when you turn a hobby into a business. And for those crafty folk who enjoy making things too and who are perhaps thinking about making money from their craft, maybe it will help you visualise what it might be like.

Making things out of paper was something I enjoyed doing, and wanted to do more of. I thought that if I turned it into a business I'd be able to spend most of my time creating things. In reality, I think I may have actually spent less time making things in the first few months. For every item that I made, I needed to think about pricing, taking a decent photograph, writing a compelling description to help it sell, uploading the product to my shop, putting the pictures on facebook. I also had to design a logo, shop banner, blog, write an about page, design a receipt, work out a way of keeping track of sales and expenses, get my head around advertising and social media, think about how to package my products and understand the royal mail pricing system. In short, I found myself running a business rather than making things!

I've been sharing these things on my blog as I've gone along, both to help those who are also on the same journey and to show you what it's like running a craft business, the behind the scenes look at what goes into the handmade products you buy. And there's a lot more time and effort spent doing everything else than there is doing the making.

Handmade business advisers suggest that no more than 40% of your time should be spent making, and in the first year or so it was definitely a lot less than this for me. It's come as a bit of a surprise, but I've learnt a lot more about business than card making in the last year and a half (I'm not sure I even really saw myself as a small business owner at the start). However, what's been the bigger surprise is that I actually enjoy the business side nearly as much as the making. I like looking at sales figures, and writing blog posts, and thinking of keywords to describe my products. It's not what I thought it would be, but it's great.

So if you're thinking about turning your hobby into a business, whether you like wood-turning or sewing, decoupage or needle felting, go into it with your eyes open. Will you be happy spending more than 60% of your day doing businessy things? And if you're someone who buys handmade products, I hope you can appreciate how much work goes into them.


  1. I've just recently turned my hobby into a buisness. It started when I realized that I just had too much fabric and that I would never use it all. I needed the money so I grouped some together, took photos and listed them on ebay. I can't say that I made a lot of money but it was rewarding and I felt productive. Selling on Ebay is not easy. Photographing your product, writing the description, deciding on a price and shipping cost - THE COMPETITION! At first I had no idea that my little bundle of fabrics were listed along with similar name brand bundles prepared and listed by real brick and mortar businesses. It's true, I spend more time at my computer doing "business" than I do matching fabrics (I actually purchased additional inventory and have ended up with more fabrics than I started with) If I didn't enjoy what I was doing I wouldn't be able to do it. Some of the work is tedious, redundant and boring but some how I manage to muddle through. I will admit that I have had to take a break, step back from the whole thing and reasses what I was doing several times. In fact I'm in the middle of one of those breaks right now. But once I pull myself together I plan to get right back in full speed ahead.

  2. Hi Amy. Thanks for sharing how it's going for you. Sounds like you've learnt a lot already. Good idea to take a step back every so often and think about where you want to go with your business.


Thanks for your comments, I always love reading them.

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