What Does It Take To Turn a Hobby Into a Business?

Photo By Mykola Makhlai on Unsplash

A reader of my columns asked for my thoughts on her decision not to turn her hobby into a business.

Her letter: “I recently retired from a job I had for 25 years. I receive retirement benefits that allow me to continue living as I have lived, but I have never lived a fancy life. I have a very small house, the same mismatched furniture I’ve had for years and inexpensive clothing. I am not materialistic.

“Since retiring, I have pursued several hobbies I enjoy very much — making beaded jewelry, painting, reading and gardening. Friends have complimented my jewelry designs, and one friend thinks my pieces are beautiful enough to sell.

“I told her if I turned my hobby into a business, I would no longer be doing it for fun. She didn’t respond, but she has stopped complimenting my jewelry pieces, and I feel she thinks I have an emotional problem that is causing my decision.

“Does my reason for not turning it into a business make sense, or do you think I have an underlying reason holding me back?”

My response: Going into business means different things to different people. What does seem apparent is that you have made a decision without considering the many options you have for selling items. Many people have held garage sales to clear out unwanted household items and clothing, and they do not see it as a business. On the other hand, people have started businesses managing garage sales for others. A business is whatever a person wants it to be.

Some businesses may require more effort than others, but without looking into the possibilities, you have cut off all opportunities, regardless of the amount of work they may take. On this level, your friend may be right about you having underlying issues causing your thought.

Ultimately, you are stating that if you are paid for doing something, that will take your joy away from continuing the activity. Ironically, most people dream about being paid to do something they love.

Another possibility might be a fear of failure, which may be what your friend is suggesting.

Businesses can take many forms, some more formal than others. You do not have to be the salesperson to get your jewelry sold. Clothing boutiques, beauty salons, spas or gift stores in your area may be willing to sell your jewelry on a trial basis.

When a store agrees, present a straightforward agreement to the store owner or manager stating the period of time the store will showcase the jewelry and the prices you want for it. This may involve some negotiation because storeowners know their clientele and often know the prices they can charge for items.

There are also websites where individuals can post items for sale or open online stores without creating a dedicated website for selling the items. One well-known site is Etsy, which was created to represent artists of handmade goods. This saves you the hassle of having to create your own site, where you would also have to advertise it to the public, which usually involves advertising fees.

Resale shops are another option where the storeowner, with an established clientele, may agree to sell your jewelry. All of these types of sales can be made without you setting up a formal business. If items don’t sell, remove the posts from the online and retail stores. You will have lost nothing because you are creating items you like, not products you think the public will buy.

If all of these options seem like too much work, perhaps you need more time away from those 25 years where you lived a routine life at the same company.

Don’t feel guilty needing the time to feel free from a schedule. You may have given your friend a gut-response reason for not wanting to sell your jewelry without realizing that all you need right now is unstructured time.

Lindsey Parker Novak is a Certified Life and Executive Coach and a Nationally Syndicated Workplace Columnist.