Putting all the chips in: How to turn your hobby into a successful business

If you’ve got a hobby that you love, you’ve already cracked the hardest part of running your own business. That’s because if you don’t love what you do, you won’t have the drive and dedication needed to run a business successfully. Having a hobby means you have a strong passion for something, which is a rare quality in today’s distracted, throwaway society.

What must you consider before going all in?

It’s incredibly hard for most people to identify their passion, so if you’re already clear on yours, then embrace it with open arms – no matter the monetary return at the start.

Turning your hobby into a business

So, you want to turn your hobby into a business? It’s important to distinguish between something you love doing as a hobby and something you see yourself working on full time.

Does the hobby solve a problem that you want to share with the world? Will it entertain or delight your future customers? Or is it simply something you enjoy doing in your spare time, and turning it into a career could potentially dampen your pure enjoyment of it?

What are your reasons for delving into your hobby? Perhaps you have a positive childhood experience, or your family has previously worked in the area. For example, I started building my dealership management system, VIRTUALYARD, when I was 20 years old. I was inspired by my father, who was a car dealer and wanted a website to show his cars for sale.

From dipping your toes to taking it full-time

Once you’ve figured out your reasons for wanting to turn your hobby into a successful business, start slowly. Taking your hobby from a pastime to a serious business doesn’t happen overnight, and it can sometimes take years or even decades to make the transition.

I ran VIRTUALYARD as a sole trader for 14 years. During the early years, I also worked as a software developer for hire and rental software Baseplan, and later on as a creative technologist for advertising agency, The Works. Eventually, you’ll feel ready to take your business full time. It can be hard to judge exactly when is the right time to make the leap.

Listen to your gut. If you’ve got your life in order, and able to keep expenses low, then it’s time to push the button and start your business. When I quit my job, I had 30 car dealers using my software and was earning less than $1,500 per month and had a baby on the way.

Taking the leap isn’t easy – but often the risk is worth it. Putting everything on the line helped me stay focused and gave me the time I needed to build a better system for car dealers.

Keeping the fun in full-time

‘Playing around’ and experimenting are important in creating great tech and business ideas, but often that sense of fun can get lost when you make the transition from a hobby to a full-time business. I made a rule that I would build all my tech myself, which allowed me to explore various methods of solving problems that I’d have complete creative control over.

This gave me the fun I needed in my work and the benefit that I could rapidly develop what I need without the challenges of using pre-made tools that always manage to slow you down.

To this day, I still take the time each week to play with new ideas.

Treating your business like a business

Having a strong passion for your industry is great, but it’s vital to treat your business like a business. In order to keep doing what you love, you have to learn to sell what you’re doing.

No matter who your client is, they all share an uncanny ability to see beauty in the same way. The most valuable part of selling your output is to present it beautifully. Keep it simple, clear and one message at a time. Pricing your output is a vital plan. You should only price things low if you want to take market share quickly and you’re willing to work harder to do it.

Pricing will dictate the quality of your clientele. My advice is to price yourself at what you’re happy to work for and remember there’s nothing wrong with being the most expensive if you’re the most passionate and you’re not interested in taking market share rapidly.

Do one thing and do it well. We all have the ability to do anything and everything but what is going to make you successful is to be the best at one thing first. Once you’ve mastered one thing through iterating ideas and methods, only then should you extend your offering.

Iterate. Iterate, iterate, iterate. You have to be the best and the only way to achieve this is to keep exploring and coming up with new or improved ways to produce the best output you can. Finally, remember to listen to yourself and run as fast as you can. By run, I mean work, create, do, don’t stop. Don’t just follow your dreams, run to them and never give up.

 

Kadir Gunduz is the creator of Virtual Yard – one of Australia’s fastest growing software solutions used by more than 600 car dealers world wide. Kadir Gunduz taught himself to code at age 14 and has since had roles as a senior software developer at advertising agency The Works, before founding the air tasker of online Car sales – Cars For Sale, alongside his previously launched software solution Virtual Yard.