Go to where the fish hang out. Who is interested in your hobby?
First off, you need to identify who might be interested in your hobby. You do this by going to where the fish hang out. It’s just like a fisherman wanting to catch fish.
It means identifying your ideal customers (who are they? – gender, age, background, etc.) and going to where they hang out. Ask them whether they are interested in your hobby.
If they are interested, ask them what they want to see or buy from you.
There are lots of target customers if you look properly.
There are two options for you to venture into:
- Your services are more suited to the local community where you live. For example, you love gardening. You are thinking about offering weekend gardening services to your local community.
- Your services have worldwide appeal because of the Internet. The world is your market because of digitization – there’s no need for manufacturing a product. With the help of the Internet, you can acquire paid customers from anywhere in the world by selling digital products and services related to gardening.
Depending on the nature of your products and services, you can have different customer types who can be in different geographical locations.
Start by telling people about your hobby and testing their interest.
The quickest way to find out whether your ideal customers are interested in buying your services or products is to run small advertisements in local or trade newspapers or on free online notice boards.
This will quickly give you the feedback you want.
Always find creative ways to tell people about your hobby and test their interest in it.
Run paid advertisements.
This may require you to invest in paid advertisements – online or print. It will require you to set aside some savings to fund these paid advertisements.
This is the best way to start.
Don’t waste your time doing anything else. This must be conducted at the very start especially if your hobby is unique or if you are unsure about yourself.
Here’s an example of how you could approach your marketing and testing:
When Craig Jenkins-Sutton started designing gardens he had no formal landscaping training, just a lifelong green thumb. Growing up on a farm in central Minnesota, he always had a love for gardening.
He ended up working for a landscape service but knew he didn’t want to work for someone else. In 2003, he put a small ad in the Chicago Tribune, offering his garden design services. Within a week, he received 40 calls but only one turned into a customer. It was enough to get the business going. That year he founded garden design company, Topiarius, in Chicago. –Source
Word of mouth
Always tell people about your hobby. Getting the word out there is critical for your long-term success.
You are exploring and testing whether there’s interest in your hobby or not.
How you market your services and products is important.
Note that the wording and description of your advertisements can play a big part. People can respond positively or negatively to the advertisements.
Consider trying out different versions and mediums.
Unless you try, you wouldn’t know how your customers will respond.
Use local community notice boards.
You may just prefer to start small with your local library where you can pin up a handwritten advertisement about your services.
Starting small can slowly build up your confidence to progress to paid advertisements.
You don’t have to overcomplicate things.
Testing Market Demand
If there is interest in your hobby or interest in your advertisements, then the next question you need to know is whether there are real demand and potential for monetization.
Given that your aim is to ultimately make money from your hobby, do address this all-important question early. You don’t want to waste time doing something that is not going to make you any money.
The best way to find out if there is any demand for your hobby is to test out the market demand for your product or service with a potential group of people.
Test customer demand early.
Don’t waste time doing anything else at this early stage except testing for consumer demand for your service or product including their willingness and ability to pay you.
There is no need to invest time and money into a business when people aren’t interested.
Test for customer willingness and ability to pay.
Some people can pay your asking price but can be unwilling to open their wallets (e.g., misers). While others are willing to pay but don’t have the ability to pay (e.g., students).
Testing both ability and willingness to pay your asking price will be your next assignment. Both conditions must be satisfied for you to make money from your target customer group.
Testing out your product or service with friends can be an option if you do not want to spend money on paid advertising or time on local community advertising.
Here’s an example of how this could be done.
Jonathan Heine, owner of You Are Loved Foods in Los Angeles, was a Wall Street banker for twenty-five years before turning a passion for health foods into a new business. Suffering from diabetes and fibromyalgia, Heine’s journey began with a simple search for ways to live a healthier life. He created a selection of sugar-free, gluten/grain/starch-free, strictly certified paleo foods and snacks. They were a big hit with friends and family, which eventually led to the inception of You Are Loved Foods. – Source
Rather than closing off the idea of turning your hobby into cash or monetizing your hobby, test it out first.
Be creative in your testing methods.
Don’t limit yourself.
The information received from your testing will be invaluable for you to determine the commercial viability or feasibility of your hobby. It will provide information on whether you can make some money from your hobby or not.
You will never know until you try it out.
Here’s another example.
When Terry Finley bought his first horse, Sunbelt, for $5,000 in 1991, he felt stuck in his job selling life insurance. Finley had been betting on horses for years but had never made an investment like this. After Sunbelt won his first race that year, Finley started running small ads in racing papers and attracted an investor who paid $5,000 for partial ownership of Sunbelt. Within two months, he bought his second horse, Cal’s Zen Jr., and continued buying more horses on credit cards. – Source
(PS. I am not suggesting your max out your credit card for your hobby business.)
Use social media to reach the world.
Social media is another avenue for you to promote your hobby business. When there’s enough commercial interest, you can monetize it.
Here’s an example of how this could be done.
After chemical relaxers destroyed her hair and forced her to shave it off, Rochelle Graham-Campbell—then a college student—experimented with an online journal of styles for her natural hair while she tested out homemade organic conditioners. She began posting her tutorials to YouTube, and the channel BlackOnyz77 grew to attract more than 104,000 subscribers. Graham-Campbell went on to create Alikay Naturals hair care, which is now available in many stores nationwide. –Source
Get Your First Customer
Even if you have to work for free.
Your first customer will give you confidence in yourself. It will make it psychologically easier for you to market yourself in the future.
If necessary, do your first job for free in exchange for a nice review or testimonial.
Listen to the Feedback
What are your customers are telling you?
The best advice I can give you when starting a hobby business: Talk less and listen more.
There are potentially three outcomes that people will tell you:
- People love what you are offering.
- People hate your offering (and they do not respond to your advertisements).
- People are lukewarm to your offering and give you mixed signals as to whether this offering is a winner or not. This is the worst place to be.
Human feedback is gold.
Whatever the outcome, always talk to a few people in your target market. There is no better feedback than to speak to a human about yourself and your products and services.
- About their needs. Inquire if your service or product could be something they would need and buy.
- What they like and don’t like about your service or product offering.
- How much they are willing and able to pay for their product and service.
Consider asking them about potential improvements you should consider as you continue developing your service offering.
Ask the right questions
People may not know what they want. But they do know what they don’t want.
So, ask them what they don’t like. Learn about their pain points and challenges. Then address these pain points in your marketing and service offerings.
Do You Enjoy Marketing Yourself?
Here’s the kicker.
If you don’t sell, you don’t make any money.
You are selling your personal brand (i.e., yourself) and your product or service offering.
Businesses must be able to promote their services and products so that people are aware of them and pay for them. Without advertising or promotion, no one will know about it.
You only make money by selling.
The reality is that if you don’t sell, you are not going to make any money for yourself.
How much you earn will be determined by how many people know about you. It also depends on how many people will buy from you.
Sell benefits and outcomes, not features.
Sell the benefits and outcomes associated with using your products and services.
For example, no one is going to care if you have the largest digital storage ever built into a mobile phone.
What people care about is their ability to listen to their favorite music all day long.
To deliver this benefit, you need very large storage (feature).
The Fear of Marketing
Marketing is the action of promoting and selling products or services to someone else.
This is one of the key reasons why people do not go into business for themselves. They fear marketing or promoting themselves. It feels cheap to them, like a used car salesperson.
While this is a real fear, there are good ways to promote, and there are bad ways to do so as well.
There are many introverts who are in the marketing profession, and they are doing well. It’s a matter of perception and how you go about it.
Your personality counts.
Knowing your personality weaknesses and working on them can significantly improve your chances of success in your hobby business.
Use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory test to find out more about yourself. The results will give you clues on how you can improve yourself.
Those who know their personality type can capitalize on their strengths. At the same time, they can take the opportunity to overcome their weaknesses to become better people.
Do consider taking an MBTI test.
This is Part Two of a five-part series.
Part Three- Driving Sales to Your Hobby Business