In your spare time, you probably have a hobby or two that you enjoy. It could be something like a sport or a game. Or perhaps you like to listen to music, collect something, read books or watch movies. There are hundreds of different hobbies out there.
But have you ever thought about turning your favorite hobby into a job? Is it even possible to make a living doing the things you love?
“It’s quite feasible that young people can turn a hobby into a career, especially if that career is a business that they have started,” says Rieva Lesonsky. Lesonsky is the editorial director of a website and magazine devoted to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are people who start their own business.
“In fact,” she continues, “if you want to be a business owner, it’s one of the smarter paths to take.”
It’s a path more people are choosing to take. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports an increase in the number of people choosing to start their own business.
Adem Tepedelen turned his hobby into his career. As a big fan of music and writing, he started to combine both by writing about music. He began to make a bit of money at it, so eventually he plunged in feet first and made it his full-time job.
“I started out self-publishing music fanzines when I was in high school,” he says. “I didn’t really do them because I wanted to be a writer. I just loved heavy metal [music] and wanted to be actively involved. I had read other underground fanzines and putting my own out seemed like a good way to get free albums and possibly interview bands I liked.
“After I finished university,” he continues, “I worked at all kinds of menial jobs, but in my spare time I started to contribute reviews to a well-respected Seattle music magazine. Eventually I went from just being a contributing writer to being one of the editors, slowly learning the ropes and working my way up the ladder.
“Being part of a successful magazine, even if I just started out as a contributor who made $10 or $20 every couple of weeks, made me realize that it was feasible to make a career out of something I loved and had done just for fun.”
Because of his lifelong love for music, Tepedelen had a good start on the knowledge and skills necessary for his career. But the educational route for turning a hobby into a career isn’t always so clear-cut.
If you want to become a computer programmer or a dentist, there are specified programs to go through. But what if you want to take your hobby of making wicker baskets or building model planes to the next level? How does education come into the picture?
“I believe that an educated entrepreneur is a better, smarter entrepreneur,” says Lesonsky. “Despite well-known college dropouts like Michael Dell, it is still important to get an overall education — not just in business. College offers different perspectives — you might meet business partners or mentors — and viewpoints that can help you grow your business.”
One thing that the youth of today have going for them when it comes to learning about starting a business is the Internet. Adam Toren agrees. He started a website for young entrepreneurs with his brother.
“A long, long, long time ago, before the Internet,” he chuckles, “you would hear a lot of this: ‘I get judged because I’m young or I look young in the business world.’ But now, thanks to the Internet, the youth of today are able to create online empires, which has really leveled the playing field and truly gives anyone, any age, anywhere, the opportunity to succeed and network.”
One downfall of turning your hobby into a business could be that it takes the fun out of it. If you have to work at your hobby all the time, will it become a chore? This is an understandable concern, but Lesonsky doesn’t agree.
“What can be more fun than spending your time on doing something you love and making money from it?” she asks.
Tepedelen feels the same way.
“There are times when this is true, but then every job is going to have its downside,” he says. “Weighed against doing a job that is just a job, I’ll take a career that is something I started doing simply because I enjoy it.”
Lesonsky, however, reminds us that just because you have a hobby you love, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will succeed as a business. There needs to be a market for the business to exist.
“It’s important to also keep in mind that you need to make sure there is a real need for this business,” she says. “That you can bring something new and different to what already exists.
“And make sure you treat this as a business. There’s a big difference in running a business and pursuing a hobby. Seek the advice of others — experts, accountants, attorneys — whenever necessary. Starting and running a business is real and not the time to skimp.”