Turning pastimes into pounds
Tired of the corporate grind? Why not put the fun back into work by making your hobby pay instead? We meet some people who have done just that, and show you how you can do it, too
Is going to work a daily grind, spent willing the clock hands to go that bit faster, so you can head out of the door and do something you really enjoy? According to a new book, Working 5 to 9, by Emma Jones, in late 2009 over 5 million people surveyed through her home business website Enterprise Nation (www.enterprise-nation.com) were holding down full-time jobs while starting their own businesses from home in their spare evenings and weekends. Not only that, but some 75 per cent of them were determined to inject some fun into their working lives by turning a much-loved hobby into a paying concern.
Henry Mason, Head of Research & Analysis at trend-spotting site, Trendwatching.com, says this is part of a trend called 'Sellsumers'. Kickstarted by the recession, Sellsumers are an extension of the consumer participation mega-trend unleashed by the democratisation of supply and demand. From selling handmade crafts on Etsy.com, to bedroom app developers, to people renting assets (parking spaces, rooms) the opportunities for people to produce rather than consume are endless".
It goes without saying that making money from your hobby is far more fun that alternatives such as renting out a room. Jones says: "I interviewed so many 5 to 9 workers (for the book) and so many of them said: 'I can't believe people pay me to do what I love!'"
Jones puts the new trend down to the recession making people reassess their lives. "People thought, 'I'm fed up with being miserable', and turned to do what makes them happy". She speaks of people finding great personal fulfilment and comfort in doing the things they like doing, finding it 'light relief' from the day job - with some even leaving their former jobs behind them for good.
Many of them have 'fallen' into running their own business through their hobby. "Say you make cupcakes or cushions," says Jones. "You tend to make them first for friends and family, and then a friend of a friend says 'Can you make one for me?' and then 'Can you make 15 for me?'"
So how can you be one of them?
Emma's 6 ways to turn your hobby into a business
1. Take small steps - don't give up your day job on the Friday and think you'll start full-time on the Monday; start by working 5-9pm.
2. Write a realistic business plan - it'll help fix in your mind that it's a business, no longer a pastime
3. Create a dedicated space in the house if you're starting from home, and make sure you take regular breaks
4. Make a first sale - you need to get into the mindset of being a business and selling
5. Set yourself targets - but don't be too hard on yourself if you don't meet them.
6. Make the most of free sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linked In to sell your services
Knitted fashion accessories
Dolapo James, Urbanknit
Dolapo James is a freelance architect and master knitter/seamstress. After knitting and sewing for ten years, she decided to turn her hobby into a business by starting Urbanknit in 2004. The business sells handmade fashion accessories, and has a presence on a number of craft sites and growing sales in the UK and overseas.
By day, Dolapo perfects structures for buildings; by night she makes handbags and purses in bright African prints. She prides herself on new designs, shapes and styles and no two items being the same. After setting up her own website she also set up on craft site Etsy.com
"I soon realised that with Etsy there is a built-in audience so more people will see my work. The same goes for Notonthehighstreet.com, where I also have an online store. I therefore took the decision to link my website to these two stores. Around 85 per cent of my sales on Etsy are overseas, with a large proportion being buyers in the US."
Dolapo loves it: "Running my own business offers such great freedom that it often does not feel like work. I have made moves to bring me closer to spending the majority of my time running my business. I've had new stockists and as a result was featured on Daily Candy, a widely read online fashion and lifestyle publication.
"I have had increased interest in my work and it gets more exciting every month. I am also looking to launch some new designs in the next few months leading to the Autumn season and of course some new knitted goodies for the winter."
Alan Law, Give-a-song
By day Alan Law works as an SEO specialist, but has turned his hobby of song-writing into a money-maker. Alan started the business in late 2004 after his wife came up with the idea. "I had written and recorded some songs for her, and she suggested I try out my song-writing service on eBay. So I did - and sold my first song. I did some more via eBay, until I was doing well enough to warrant it's own website - et voila!"
Alan uses web searches to attracts customers as well as web adverts and eBay. "Word of mouth and customer recommendations are a fantastic tool - our customers like to play their song to their friends so we get a lot of new business this way." As the business has grown, Alan has recruited a team of freelance songwriters from across the globe, and he hopes to eventually make a living from it full-time.
Matt Conway, Conways Origami
It was his efforts to quit smoking that bar-manager-by-day Matt Conway discovered a talent for origami.
Conways Origami began informally in May 2009 with Matt promoting his hobby in local pubs. The positive feedback turned into early commissions for birthday bouquets and romantic gestures. After researching the market, Matt and his friend Jordan, who is a silent business partner, realised Matt's hobby could be turned into a viable business and got to work.
Their future plans are to secure contracts from luxury brands, elite weddings and corporate events but it's one step at a time. They are promoting themselves locally through the press and by putting flowers on display in local restaurants and pubs, complete with business cards for people to take away.
"We have also made contact with Japanese companies with a UK presence and offered branded origami pieces for events, seminars, exhibitions or as a memorable promotional item. We are in contact with the top three Japanese national chain restaurants and initial negotiations are very exciting," says Jordan.
Matt is hoping to be able to give up the day job. "I didn't make the most important decision to invest limited spare time and money into a venture which I didn't believe could burn (pardon the pun). One has to be realistic, though. I started with next to no cash and just my skill but was fortunate enough to team up with Jordan who also recognised the potential. With our current strategy going to plan I should be going full-time with the business within one year of its inception.
Personalised giftware producer
Victoria Dixon, Enhance-me
Having studied art and design, mum Victoria Dixon's job as an administrator was not fulfilling her creative side, and what began as a hobby is now a part-time business.
"I had played around with image-editing software on my computer, and submitted a few pictures to art galleries, which had sold well. I was then experimenting further and created a portrait of my daughter as a fairy. Having seen this, a few friends wanted similar photographs of their own children. There was such a positive reaction that I decided to put the service online."
Victoria began with no financial outlay as she already had the software and her web designer husband was able to help with her website. She promotes her work in a variety of ways including online networking, competitions and press releases.
"I run everything online which means I can be completely flexible and respond quickly to changes within the economy and my own target market. I have various times during the day (and night!) that I devote to different tasks; emailing, designing, promotion etc.
"I mostly work in the evenings when my children are in bed, which means that apart from checking emails through the day and taking a few phone calls I am able to be a mum during the day and run the business at night".
Working 5 to 9 is published by Harriman House Publishing and costs £12.99 from all good bookshops.