Your Side Hustle: Can You Turn A Hobby Into A Business?

I had coffee with my neighbor, Patty, after I saw her loading dozens of packages into her car. “It’s my side hustle,” she explained. “I sew small clutches and purses. I sell them on Etsy.”

Patty’s a grandmother. She turned a spare bedroom into a sewing room and runs her small business from an antique desk in the family room. In addition to fashion accessories, she makes bespoke homeware items like curtains, bedspreads and cushions.

After my chat with Patty I realized that I know many people who’ve turned a hobby they love into a side hustle—some members of our writers’ group have done it. They turned their passion for writing (and the time they invest in it) into funds to pay off the mortgage, or to afford family holidays.

I mentioned Patty in an online group, and people wanted to know more. How do you turn a hobby into a side hustle and make some extra money?

So, I did a little research.

How to turn your hobby into a side hustle: start with research

Before you invest money and time into developing your side hustle, do a little research.

Start with Google. Enter “sell my (whatever-you-want-to-sell LOCATION)” into the search query box, without quotes.

You’ll see how many people are operating locally.

Patty’s tip: start your side hustle with local sales

If you’re like Patty and want to sell home-sewn items like clutches and purses, enter that into Google, or Facebook, with your location. Although you can sell globally, try selling your items locally first.

Why start by selling locally? Because you can get feedback on what works, instantly.

Our little town has a Sunday market. Patty told me that she sold her items at the market for months before she started selling on eBay, and eventually Etsy. Her next goal is to sell from her own website, because her profit margin on her items is tiny; she wants to keep more of the money she makes.

Patty told me: “My first big seller was a planner cover. I wouldn’t have made planner covers at all. But a lady who bought a denim clutch asked me whether I could make a matching A5 planner cover. Of course, I said yes!”

Side hustle profits: keep your costs down

Josie, a photographer who sells prints online, gave this advice: “Keep your costs down, because everything is a cost.”

Your costs will include your time, as well as your raw materials, and packaging. Also consider:

  • Space in your home: if you’re making things, you need space for operations, as well as for packaging materials;
  • Taxes: get advice from an accountant;
  • The amount of time: how much time do you have available daily and weekly?

Additional tips to help you to succeed with your side hustle

I collected these tips—I hope they help you to get started.

  • Start with a tiny (or zero) dollar investment so that there’s less stress on you. Patty said: “I already had most of what I needed. I started with two bags of leftover fabric I wanted to use up.”
  • Be brave. Josie said: “Putting yourself out there takes courage, at first. It took me months to talk myself into framing a couple of prints and offering them for sale. Months! It gets easiest after the first four or five times.”
  • Talk to people. Listen to your customers. They’re your best resource for ideas;
  • Your side hustle may be a big success within a short time, or it could take months. Accept failure. If a product doesn’t sell, relaunch it, or launch something new.

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