Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Turn your hobby into a business series - part 1

Today we have part one of a three part series running this week and next week on the blog entitled "Turn your hobby into a business".  This brought to the blog by Fiona Pullen from The Sewing Directory who is also the author of Craft a Creative Business which comes out TODAY in the US and is already out in the UK (UK readers click here, US readers find it here).


Part 1 – Could you be an entrepreneur? 

You’ve been quilting for a while, you make gifts for friends and family, people admire your quilts, cushions and other makes and then someone mutters the immortal words ‘you really ought to start selling those’.


You probably brush it off, make an excuse as to why you don’t want to. But once the idea is there in your brain you start to think it over, could you sell your creations? Could you turn your hobby into a business? Sure the extra money would be nice, more money = more fabric after all! But can you handle the business side of it? Is there too much competition? Is it even financially viable?

Well in this series I’m going to help you work through that idea to see if it is viable, and the right decision for you.

Before jumping into the financial and practical side of things there’s one important thing that many people overlook. It takes a certain type of person to be able to run their own business, to be able to stick to budgets, to be prepared to put their work out there and market it to the world, to keep on top of the admin and wrap your head around the finances and most of all to cope with being an entrepreneur.

I’ve identified a few characteristics I think are essential to entrepreneurs. Do you have them?

Passion - This is the most important thing, you should love what you do. This is what will get you through the tough times. Plus your passion will come across to your customers and make them more interested in being involved with you. You need passion to sell, and selling is something you have to do if you want to make money.


 Self-motivation - You will be your own boss so there is no one else to tell you what to do and when to do it. You have to be able to stick to the deadlines you have promised your customers or the other businesses you are working with. You also need to make sure you do not spend most of the day procrastinating and not actually doing anything productive (step away from Pinterest!) Let’s face it we all have days like that, but you need to be capable of making sure it isn’t all of your days. 

Organisation - There is a lot to co-ordinate from buying in supplies to setting up a website, doing the admin to managing your accounts. You need to be able to structure your working week to make sure you keep on top of all of the ‘boring’ aspects of running a business like the accounts and admin as well as spending time doing the things you love.


Willing - Willing to try almost anything, there are many things you have no experience in that you just have to try when you are self-employed. Particularly if you are a one man company, you cannot delegate the daunting tasks to other people so you have to take them on yourself. Some things like accounts, sales, marketing or admin can be delegated out to other people but it will reduce your profit when you are paying someone else to do them.

Positivity - Quite often people are investing in you as a person and not just your product. If you are positive and friendly people will want to work with you or buy from you. Furthermore there will be many days where things do not go the way you intended. You will come across all kinds of obstacles that you never envisaged when starting out. You have to be able to pick yourself up and get on with it and not become demotivated and give up.


Adaptability - If you can respond quickly and are willing to adapt your business plan to suit demand you can keep on top of current trends, customer demands and industry changes. It is also an advantage we small businesses have over larger businesses. Often their corporate structure means that it takes time for changes to be implemented where as we can do it straight away and be ahead of the game.

Honesty - Trust has to be earned over time and if you are true to your word your reputation for being trustworthy will spread. Equally in this internet age a bad reputation spreads even faster and it can be very hard to win trust back once lost.


Drive - It is your energy and drive that will help determine the success of your business. You need to be prepared to work 7 days a week if necessary, to be working past midnight to fulfil an urgent order or forgo a day out to catch up on work. There will be sacrifices to be made, especially at the beginning but the plan is that in the long term it will all pay off. Does that sound like you? Are you motivated and positive enough to keep going through tough times? Can you sacrifice sewing time to do admin? Do you have the drive and passion to promote what you make? Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone?

If so pop back for part 2 where I’ll be looking at researching and planning your business idea. If it’s not for you then don’t beat yourself up about it, it is better you think about it now than realise several months down the line. You don’t want to waste time and money starting something that you cannot see through. I’m not going to lie entrepreneurship can be hard, it’s certainly very different to working a 9-5 job for someone else. Not everyone is cut out to do it, but for those who are many thrive off the challenges that come from running your own business. Personally I love it and never want to go back to working for someone else again. I find it is as rewarding as it is challenging.


Posts two and three in this series will be published Friday 16 January and Monday 19 January so stay tuned.

23 comments:

  1. One thing most need to think about before they decide to turn their hobby into a business is will they still enjoy the quilting or will it have turned into work? if that is the case and it isn't fun anymore do not turn it into a full time business --instead when you have an excess of quilts in the house see if you can sell any of them then. Do not take commissions with deadlines that will also take the fun out of it and create stress -- just my opinion -- you have written a very good article on this.

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    1. Thanks Karen, I definitely agree you need to have the drive to keep quilting even when you are sick of doing it and to sacrifice doing it for fun quite often. Plus like you say when it becomes work it is much more stressful then doing it for fun.

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    2. I'm with you on this Karen. I always loved photography but once I started taking on clients, gigs and deadlines it wasn't fun anymore. I completed my gigs and stopped accepting new ones and stepped away for a while cause I'd lost my passion for it. A couple years later I got back into photography but under the pretense that it was for fun. A session here and there for friends for fun but no longer approaching it as a business but instead a fun hobby to share with friends and family.

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  2. Your article is informative but I don't think I could sell. It would be so stressful.

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    1. I found it one of the most stressful parts of setting up The Sewing Directory, I hate selling so I worked really hard to get to a point where I no longer have to sell, and people come to me instead of me to them. I think it does take a certain kind of personality to sell things.

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  3. Sound advice! Some great life-lessons in there too! Jxo

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  4. Thank you for hosting this, Lynne! I adore this book, and Fiona's attitude and advice. Looking forward to the next post :) XX!

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    1. Thank you I'm so pleased you like the book and the post. The next part will be going live on Friday :)

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  5. I've been waiting for this to come to the US! I just ordered it. Looking forward to reading more.

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    1. Thanks for ordering the book Krista, I hope you find it useful.

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  6. Looking forward to reading more!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Nicky, part 2 will go live on Friday.

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  7. I have a small quilt making business and agree with everything you have said. It is tough when the fabric colour choices of customers are not my favourites too, but I have met some lovely people and have been thrilled with their kind comments when they get their quilts. It is a big commitment though.

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    1. Hi Sue, it really is isn't it? I think a lot of people don't realise until they start how much work and commitment it is and by then it's a little late!

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  8. A great taster post of what it's like running your own business Fiona, particularly that bit about Drive! Sue is right (and a lovely lovely lady too) it's hard to work on so etching when you don't love what your customer wants too. Looking forward to the rest of these posts. And loving your book too!

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    1. Thank you Trudi :) So pleased you are loving the book and hope you enjoy the rest of the posts too.

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  9. Fabulous post - great food for thought. Look forward to the next posts. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Marie, hope you enjoy the next post.

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  10. Very interesting blog post!

    I love to teach quilting and have been told by my students that I'm really good at it. However, I tried and did not enjoy teaching for a local fabric store as much. The fabric store suggested the types of quilts, fabrics, colors, etc. and made final decisions on my recommendations & class scheduling. I was disciplined enough to do and meet deadlines of all of the administrative and prep work (e.g., designing and making a sample quilt, preparing a pattern and supply list, etc.) for classes that frequently got canceled because there was not enough interest in the class. To meet deadlines, I would have to prioritize class samples over other quilt projects that I wanted to make. I wouldn't know whether a class would be canceled until a week before the class date, which was frustrating and not great for planning my personal life. I was required to use fabrics purchased from that fabric store for my class samples, for which I did get an employee discount. Also, the fabric store kept a portion of the fees that students paid for the classes. It was a great experience to give me a taste of what it might be like to have a business as a quilt designer and instructor. I learned the things that I liked and what I didn't like so much about it. I'm sharing my experience just in case one of your readers are considering this.

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  11. Hi Nancy, that sounds like a nightmare. So much planning, time and expense upfront only to get a last minute cancellation. Sounds like you are better off doing it for yourself under your own terms not someone elses.

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    1. I wouldn't say it was a nightmare because I loved every minute of being in the classroom, sharing my knowledge & techniques that I developed, and seeing all of the different interpretation of my original quilt designs by the students. Also, it was quite a learning experience and I met a lot of really nice people.

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  12. A really interesting and informative post, thanks Fiona and Lynne!

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