We explore how you can turn a hobby that makes money into a fully-fledged business and whether it’s the right thing for you.
Over the past couple of years, many of us have had more time to work on our hobbies and side projects. You may have even discovered a new pastime or activity you enjoy. But what about turning that hobby into a career? Here, we take a look at how to make money from your hobby.
As well as providing some tips for making a business from your side project, we’ve also outlined how to find a hobby and some things to consider before pursuing your hobby as a career. As usual, we’ve also picked out some useful courses that can help you along the way.
What is a hobby?
First things first, let’s look at what we mean by the term hobby. Essentially, a hobby is an activity that you regularly do for enjoyment, relaxation or fun. Usually, a hobby is something that you do in your spare or leisure time. However, as we’ll see, it’s also possible to turn that hobby into something more structured.
This broad definition means that there are many different activities that count as hobbies. Whether it’s a popular creative pastime with lots of fellow enthusiasts and resources or a more niche way of spending your time, most people have hobbies.
How to find a hobby
If you’re looking for new ways of filling your time, there are plenty of options to choose from. In fact, we’ve dedicated a whole article on how to find a new hobby. As the world returns to normal, there will be more options than ever before when it comes to trying something new.
Some considerations when looking for a hobby include:
- Are you looking for something more creative or active?
- Are you seeking escapism or tangible gains?
- Is there something you used to enjoy doing but haven’t had the time to keep up?
- Do you want your new hobby to be similar to existing ones?
Hobbies that make money
Of course, the thought of having a side hustle that makes some extra cash is an appealing prospect for many. So what are some hobbies that make money? In reality, there’s no straightforward answer – it often depends on your skill, dedication, and the market conditions.
That being said, there are certainly some trends that seem popular at the moment. We’ve picked out a few examples of hobbies that make money below:
- Creative. Hobbies such as writing, design, crafts, music, photography, and other creative pursuits can lead to all kinds of side projects that make money. As a freelancer, you could easily start a blog that shows your creative skills and pitch for project work. If art is where your passions lie, you may find our how to sell art online article to be useful.
- Tech-based. If you’re interested in coding and programming, games design, web and software development, video editing, or other tech-based skills, you might find it easy to pick up projects that pay for your expertise.
- Food and drink. For those who enjoy baking, cooking, gardening, home brewing, and other culinary pursuits, you might find opportunities to sell your wares either locally or online.
Of course, these are just a few ideas to get your imagination running. In reality, if you have a unique enough idea and the passion to complete work to a high standard, you’ll often find people who are willing to pay for your craft.
That being said, picking up some casual income from a hobby is entirely different from making a business or career from it.
A hobby vs a business
It’s important to make the distinction between a hobby and a business. There are several reasons for this. Perhaps first and foremost is that, depending on your location, you may need to consider the tax implications involved.
In the UK, for example, you have to declare the money you make from a hobby to HMRC. However, there are some exceptions to this. The main exception being that you can earn up to £1,000 tax-free from your hobbies.
Another consideration is what you’re pursuing your interest for. Do you want to rely on the income you make, or are you purely in it for enjoyment? A hobby is something that you can pick up and put down according to your schedule, while a business is something that takes time and dedication.
When does a hobby become a business?
For some people, the transition from hobby to business is a gradual and often unconscious one. What starts as entertainment can gradually end up as a side-hustle as time goes by. For others, there is a more definite transition. But from a legal standpoint, when does a hobby become a business?
In the UK, there are some ‘badges of trade’ set out by HMRC that determine whether or not your hobby is a business. Essentially, if you’re making money from it, you’ll need to declare it for tax purposes if that amount is over £1,000.
Similarly, if you’re making regular transactions, repairing or modifying people’s assets, or borrowing money to fund transactions, then it’s considered that you’re ‘trading’.
Alternatively, you could go through the process of setting yourself up as a sole trader or limited company before you start selling your products or services. This can mark the start of your hobby becoming a business (more on this further down).
Should you turn your hobby into a business?
This question isn’t always a straightforward one. Although there’s a lot to be said for doing what you love, turning your hobby into a career means a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Here are some questions to ask yourself while you’re deciding:
Do I have the time to dedicate to starting a business?
Going from a hobby to a profession is often going to take some work. As we explore in our open step on making your hobby your job, it takes time, planning, and a fair slice of luck to get your venture off the ground. You’ll need to determine whether or not you can dedicate enough time to starting a business.
Do I have the skills and know-how to make a living?
If your plan is to transition from pastime to profession, at least some of your income will need to come from your new business. You’ll need to be honest with yourself when assessing your abilities. Will customers pay for your product or service?
And are you good enough to bring in a consistent source of income? If you’re unsure, perhaps spending some time on perfecting your skills and improving could be a good idea.
Can I balance a job and transitioning to a new career?
Often, a hobby becomes a side-hustle before it becomes a career. However, trying to balance the two can often be tiring. As well as working full-time, you’ll also need to plan your business, find potential clients, and practise your craft.
Am I prepared to lose a pastime?
Ultimately, turning your hobby into a business means that you might lose your hobby as a pastime. Instead, you’ll have to spend time doing it to make a profit. Although this can still be enjoyable for many, it can sometimes take the fun out of it.
If you are going to monetise your hobby, you should make sure that you have other pursuits in your life that you do purely for pleasure and relaxation. Sometimes, by turning everything into a side hustle, you can risk experiencing burnout.
Do I have a useful business idea?
Before committing to turning your hobby into a business, you’ll need to consider whether your service or product is profitable. Even if you have a talent that people are willing to pay for, it can be tricky to make a profit. To do so, you’ll need to analyse the risk vs return. MSc
In our open step, we hear from Jeroen Sempel, Lecturer in Financial Management of entrepreneurial start-ups and innovative firms. He says “It’s all about risk versus return. Naturally, high return is associated with high risk. You can only achieve high returns if you’re willing to take the risks others don’t dare to take. Think about investing money in developing a totally new product which takes high upfront investments. Low risk is associated with limited return.”
Tips for turning your hobby into a career
So, if you’re committed to making your pastime a professional endeavour and prepared for all that entails, you might be wondering where to get started. Of course, there are various ways you could go about it, and the below is just one such method:
Start with a business plan
One of the best places to start if you’re trying to convert your hobby into a career is to come up with a solid business plan for your idea. We’ve got a detailed guide on writing a business plan, so we won’t go into too much detail here.
Your plan should give you the vision, structure, and strategy for how you’re going to make your hobby into a money-making venture. It will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of what you offer, as well as analyse the market you’ll be entering. You can check out our guide on how to start a business for more information.
For a more in depth view on this, check out our starting a business: vision and opportunity course.
Decide on your business structure
One important decision to make fairly early on is what kind of structure your company will take. If you’re planning on being a freelancer and want the flexibility to make choices, you might consider registering as a sole trader. However, if you want to add credibility to your business and minimise your legal liability, a limited company could be a good option.
We’ve written in detail about business structure and registration, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with the various options available when you’re starting a business. And, of course, you can always start as a sole trader and build your way up to a corporate entity as time passes.
Start building your brand
If you’re thinking about hobbies that make money, you’ve probably already got an idea of brands that you might aspire to. Thinking about your own branding is, therefore, a crucial step in making the leap to being self-employed.
You can learn more about market analysis and reaching your target customers in our full guide. You can also take our course on strategic brand management to find out how to build your brand identity and strategy.
Our how to brand yourself professionally, authentically and with passion ExpertTrack is also a great place to start if you’re keen to learn more about personal branding.
Develop an online presence
Digital marketing will likely play a significant role in helping you shape your new business. Being able to access an online audience means you can advertise and sell your product or service.
Create a marketing strategy
This point really ties together the previous ones. To ensure that you’re making a concerted effort across your branding and marketing activities, creating a marketing strategy is essential.
This article can give you the direction you need when it comes to getting your brand established in your niche. It will outline your approach to advertising and sales, ensuring you spend your money in the right places.
Reach new customers
One of the hardest things when transitioning from a hobby to a business is to find people willing to buy into your idea. Of course, branding, marketing and an online presence will all help with this. However, you’ll also need to think about other ways of reaching people.
Whether it’s networking events, getting involved in local projects, or asking for referrals from your existing customers, there are various ways you can expand your user base and build business relationships. If you’re trying to turn a profitable hobby into a profitable business, you’ll need to reach lots of people.
Monitor your progress
When it comes to hobbies that make money and eventually become a business, there’s no defined timeline to work towards. You might start off having your hobby as a side hustle, gradually building towards a fully-fledged business. Or you might take the plunge all at once. However, keeping tabs on your progress is essential.
As part of your business plan, you’ll set goals for your business. You can then measure your progress towards these aims, analysing what’s working well and what needs improvement. In doing so, you can figure out how you want your business to grow or whether you want it to be just a hobby once again.
Profitable hobbies certainly exist, and it’s possible to turn them into something more than just a side-project. However, hobbies that make money often require a lot of time and dedication. Turning your hobby into a business involves risk and hard work, but it’s certainly an achievable goal.
Once you’ve found a hobby that might become a career, you’ll need to do a lot of research and planning into making your idea a reality. At FutureLearn, we have plenty of courses that can help you on your way. Whether it’s deciding on a business model or starting a business, you can learn how to master many of the key processes.