Running a business around a hobby is a popular choice from work at home Mums. Hobby-based businesses can provide a small income to further fund your participation in your hobby, or can be the inspiration for a fully-fledged business.
Here are five pointers to get you thinking:
1) Is it possible to ‘monetise’ your hobby?
A rough and ready way to assess whether you can actually make money from your hobby is this:
Cost of raw materials + Time taken to make an item (x 2 to account for marketing, admin etc) x your accepted hourly rate
This is the figure you would need to sell the item at (excluding postage etc) to make your business ‘worthwhile’.
2) Will you still enjoy your hobby when it is a job?
Getting paid to do something you are passionate about sounds perfect. But would you still enjoy your hobby if you ‘had’ to do it?
Imagine your hobby is textile crafts. As a hobby, you have the luxury of taking as long as you like to create and perfect each piece. But if it was a business, you would have to be more disciplined about getting items made in a certain time. Would this affect your enjoyment of your hobby?
3) Is there too much competition?
One of the problems with ‘hobby’ businesses is that lots of other people may have the same idea, and because it is perceived as ‘enjoyable’ many people expect to pay (and many businesses are happy to provide) low prices for the products or services. It might not therefore be profitable to compete in this field.
Think laterally! You could adapt your business idea so rather than (say) selling knitwear, you teach people to knit. Or set up a website selling knitted goods made by other mums.
4) Consider how to reach your customers
As well as making your product, or providing your service, you need to think about how to reach your target customers. There are a number of routes available from selling on third-party sites (ebay, etsy etc) to attending events or hosting parties.
5) Even hobby businesses need to be registered!
You need to be appropriately registered to pay taxes from any income from a hobby business. The first step is to register as self-employed at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk within 3 months of starting your business, whether or not you are making any profit.
6) Already running a hobby business?
A party plan is a good way of earning some extra money and you can get some products at a discounted rate, too.
It’s cheap to get started and you can run a party as soon as your kit arrives, so you can start earning straight away. The company you work for will provide catalogues, posters and invitations for you. Plus you can work hours that fit around your family.
Here are five tips to help you get started as a party plan representative
1. Love the product
It’s an uphill struggle selling something if you don’t totally believe in it. There are many party plan companies out there, some well-known and others less so. Take some time to explore the different products to find one you really love. The Direct Selling Association is a good place to start.
2. Know what you want from the party plan
If you’re looking for £30 here and there to top up your family’s income, then running a party from time to time will usually do the trick. But if you’re looking to get a regular income (say, to replace a job), then you’ll need to be more organised and put in much more effort
3. Check the contract
Party plan companies work in different ways, so make sure you read their terms and conditions carefully. Things to look out for include:
- Are you committed to meeting any targets?
- Do you have to buy your own catalogues and pay for postage? Are there any other costs?
- What percentage commission will you earn? Will this increase if you hit a target? How easy will it be to hit that target?
- Work out how much you’re likely to take home from each party – is that what you expected?
- How much help and advice will your team leader give you? How experienced is he/she?
Most party plans are from reputable companies but be careful as there are a few scams out there. Check out the Direct Selling Association (http://www.dsa.org.uk/) and Business Opportunity Watch (http://www.businessopportunitywatch.com/) for more information.
4. How many other people are selling this product in your area?
It’s easier to get party bookings if people haven’t already been approached by reps working for the same company as you.
Your party plan company may be able to tell you how many reps they already have in your area, but that won’t tell you how active those reps are. For example, if a local rep only does parties on the run up to Christmas, then that’s not going to be a problem for you. If there are already three reps doing several parties a month, then you’d be better off selling for a different company.
Have a look at the places you might find a rep – check school notice boards and fetes, ask around your friends to see if anyone has heard of parties by that company in your area.
Some reps looking for new recruits are quite persuasive, but a little research will give you the facts you need before you sign up.
When looking for a new job we usually start from what we can do, or what’s available in our area. That sounds sensible, but it limits your options right from the beginning. And how can you be sure you already know all that’s available anyway? Often, opportunities only appear when you go out there and look for them!
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but you have young so it’s just not practical to spend three years doing a teacher training course. You might write off teaching as a possibility and settle for a different career instead. But if you’re open to new ideas you could find a franchise to run a sign language or singing group for toddlers. That could give you everything you’re looking for but without the years of study.
So don’t start from what you could do – start from what you want to do. If you could choose any job, what would it be? Whose job do you want?
Now grab a pen and paper and write down why you want that job. What is it about that job that appeals to you? Really pull that job apart, so if you write “I want to work with people”, dig deeper until you nail down exactly what you want to be doing with those people. Do you want to care for them? Teach them? Campaign for their rights? Manage them? Help them to do something? (What?) Which people do you want to work with? Children, old people, senior managers, parents, recent graduates, technical people, nurses…Be as specific as you can.
Now you have a list of what you want it’s time to get researching. Search online for the profiles of the jobs you’d like to do and what skills and qualifications you need to get them. Ask around friends and family to see if anyone does a job similar to the ones you’d like to do. Arrange to have a chat with them and find out about their job – what do they do every day? Which parts of the job do they enjoy? Which parts are not so great? Could you see yourself doing a job like that?
If your choice of job means you’d need to spend years retraining, don’t be disheartened. True, some jobs need a university degree, but many need some relevant experience and a short course, which are much easier and faster to obtain. You can get experience by doing volunteer work, applying for a more junior job and working your way up or arranging some work experience. If you’ve spoken to someone already doing that job, ask them if their employer might allow you to work for free for a few weeks to get experience. Or phone an organisation that employs people doing your chosen job and see if they would consider giving you a placement.
You could also look through your list of what you want from your job and see if, like our aspiring teacher, you can side-step into something similar. Can’t find the job you want in your area? How about creating your own job by becoming a self-employed mum? The internet has opened up business opportunities that allow you to work from anywhere at all, so living in the most remote of locations needn’t be a barrier to finding work you enjoy. If you like the idea of being your own boss, take a look at Start a Family Friendly Business by Helen Lindop and Antonia Chitty.
Take a look at the skills you already have. Grab your notepad again and write down the tasks you’ve done both in your jobs pre-children and since you had kids. Then write down the skills or qualities that you needed to carry out these tasks. Are you a good organiser? Are you good at thinking of new ideas? Are you methodical and good with detail? Write it all down. Which of these skills would be useful in the job you’ve chosen? You may find you’ve already got more to offer than you first thought!
By now you’ll have a good idea of the job you want, what you’d bring to that job, useful contacts to help you get started in your new career, a list of your skills to put on your CV, an idea of the courses you might need to take and maybe even relevant work experience. So go get that job!