Should You Put Your Business Where Your Passion Is?
As you read this post, there are likely some signs in your home that point to what you’re passionate about. If you’re a devoted dog fancier, for example, you might have a dog wall calendar hanging at your desk, or framed photos of the canines in your life. Or, if your heart rests in photography, you may have a stack of personalized photo albums that you created from last year’s family trip and have earmarked as birthday presents. Whatever your passion, it’s a safe bet that these activities that bring you joy shine through to your day-to-day life even if they don’t figure into your day job.
What if you’re thinking of letting the two worlds collide? As your evolving responsibilities continue to shape your career needs, you may be looking to the possibility of earning a living from home and expanding your passion into a full-fledged business opportunity. There are a growing number of software platforms and out-of-the-box businesses that make it possible to work—and earn—from home. This has created opportunities, too, for entrepreneurs who want to stay actively involved in their children’s day-to-day care. However, before you entertain ideas for marketing plans or websites, the best place to start is with asking yourself one question: Is my passion best suited to being a hobby, or can it translate into a viable home business?
Let’s take the dog example. Pet care and products are a big industry and enterprising dog fanciers continue to create services that cater to these needs. Entrepreneurs like Joanna Rein, who created the Soggy Doggy line of pet products, have carved out a niche in the national market while being stay-at-home parents. To get a sense of whether or not your pet enthusiasm could pave the way to a sustained business, you’d want to consider a few basic criteria.
- Is there a market?
In a nutshell, for your business to succeed, your product or service will have to meet a need that isn’t already satisfied. To return to the dog example, this doesn’t mean that you have to come up with a product that’s unlike anything conceived of before. Given the variety of toys, grooming accessories, and travel gear items available to dog owners, that might not be practical—or necessary. You could find an opening into the market by offering a service that improves on what’s already out there. This could mean creating a line of dog beds and accessories tailor-made for extra large breeds. Or you might have plans for an app that brings accessibility in some way to pet owners with disabilities.
- What are my goals?
Before you invest time, energy, and money in a business venture, you need to be honest with yourself about what your goals are. Do you have bills that need to be paid off in a short timeframe? Are you looking to see short-term success or are you in it for the long haul? By realistically considering what you want to achieve, you can ensure that you invest your talent and time wisely. No matter what product or service your business centers on, it will take time to get off the ground. Make sure that your expectations line up with your options. Likewise, it’s helpful to know from the onset who and how far you want your business to reach. As opportunities arise you can always reassess where you’d like to go with it. Just don’t start out without a road map of some kind.
- Can I commit the necessary time and resources?
The cost of starting a business can be measured in more than just seed money. Think about the human capital it will take. To start with, you’re bringing a unique passion and skillset to your venture. Don’t underestimate what this can mean in terms of your time and energy. Will you be spending hours on the phone with customers or sketching product designs on your laptop? Invariably, too, you’ll be polishing skills that you already have in your repertoire and taking the initiative to learn new ones. Don’t overlook the time commitments this might mean, whether you take software tutorials or go shopping for professional camera equipment. Be honest with yourself about how this will affect your family life and routine. In building a business, you’re taking on obligations that can stretch beyond your home office and an eight to five schedule.
- Is there room for growth?
Consumers’ needs don’t stay stagnant, and, in order to survive, businesses can’t either. Does the product or service you envision have the possibility to evolve over time? While some successful businesses have been built on a narrow consumer base or range of services, you have the best chances with an enterprise that has room to grow. This could mean rolling out new products over time or reaching out to new customers. Even if you have a firm idea of what you want to market and how you want to do it, keep an open mind. At the very least, whether the core of your business changes much or not, your brand will have to stay fresh in the public’s mind. Returning to the example of a pet product business, you might use new social media platforms over time to reach a wider portion of dog owners. Or you might develop surveys and online forms to improve your communication with existing customers.
To be sure, not every hobby can be turned into a business. Some talents and passions are best enjoyed unhampered by the expectation that they’ll bring money. There are definitely opportunities out there, though. According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration, about half of all businesses in this country are home-based. If you have determination and an idea with the goals and resources to match, you might be on the way to starting one of them.