Are you looking for ways to monetize your hobby? Maybe you paint miniatures on commission. Whatever hobby or interest you love to do, I’m sure at some point you will have thought about the possibility of making it into more than a hobby. In fact, you dream of a way to take what you’re passionate about and transform it into an effective business that you can draw a steady income from. Well, let me tell you up front that it won’t be easy. But, I do have a bit of business acumen built up from my years working for an advertising agency. This knowledge has been helpful for me to understand not just how to make money with my hobbies, but also the mechanics of why money-making with any hobby is possible.
In this article, I share with you 5 simple ways you can start marketing your hobby skills and products. Whether you’re a photographer, providing a miniature painting service, or a copywriter, these tips may come in handy and motivate you to start taking your hobby to the next level.
Let’s start with a few cool business principles you need to know. Or, you can skip ahead to the 5 tips for starting and growing your hobby business.
What is “marketing”?
Marketing is defined as the study and management of relationships. Businesses are all about creating and maintaining relationships between parties who need or want something (e.g., a product or service). The act of marketing is essentially the process of:
- creating bridges to new places
- making sure your old bridges grow or stay strong
The metaphors and philosophy are endless for how you can describe the act of marketing by forming relationships and building a strong network. Check out other tips for marketing here. Or buy a good book.
Here are a two I highly-recommend:
How does marketing drive business growth?
All human relationships can do 3 things: grow, stagnate, or die.
The same is true of business, which is as organic as the humans that make up the system. You can build a business, let it wallow, or allow it to wither away.
Marketing feeds relationships so they can grow.
I like my metaphors:
Think of a new relationship within a hobby business endeavor as a dirt road to new villages. The villages are people in this case.
As other villages see you building your road and driving lorries (or cargo trucks) past their homes, the villagers may become interested or curious. They come and ask you to built an exit ramp.
And, so you built a small off ramp to the village.
Soon enough, you’re delivering the amazing products to that village. And, satisfied with your product, the village grows.
Now, the village grows and they want more and more. So you build larger roads to carry more goods and services. And, then the villagers share what they have with others, and more villages want what you are selling. Soon, you have a large network of highways transporting your wares to multiple villagers.
And, those villages become cities.
What is money?
Money is a physical representation of “trust”. Trust is the word we describe the bridge between people relationships.
The more trust you have between people, the stronger that relationship. Less trust, weaker relationship.
Money is a third-party, physical proxy for exchanging trust between two parties.
When you buy something, you’re exchanging your trust to a seller who giving you a product or service. The more value you believe in is in that product or service, the more money (or trust) you’re willing to give the delivering party.
In economic terms, value is a relative (and personal) measure of the benefit provided by a good or service. In other words, YOU place value on things and services.
We won’t dive into the relativity of monetary values and exchange. Instead, to keep things simple, you should remember: Money is relative to the value placed upon things.
The 3 principles of a business and how to implement them in your hobby
As you read these simple tips, keep in mind the principles of business: marketing is means of feeding relationships, money is a trust, and value is relative.
- Marketing creates and feeds human relationships
- Money is a unit of trust between people
- Value is relative (personal)
These 3 principles are not isolated. They work in tandem and feed into each other to continue moving your business forward.
You market to build relationships with other people, who in turn help establish value for your product, and forms a trustworthy interaction.
Importantly, if you think about it, money is secondary. You should not build a business driven by money (you’ve seen the disasters of this method in the news). Instead, I’ll say it again: a proper business is about building trust and good relationships.
Continue reading to see how to put all of this information into practice with your hobby.
Here are the 5 tips for marketing your hobby business.
- Be natural
- Be Observant
- Get Inspired
- Find Help
Read on for more details!
Tip 1: Be Natural
For the hobbyist, you may already be in the process of “marketing” and not even know it. Do you paint miniatures and share photos of them on social media, like instagram? If so, you’re engaging in a marketing strategy. You’re forming relationships with your viewers of your “product”.
And, therein lies an important side tip: the best way to market your hobby is to do in a way that is natural, organic.
The most talented advertisers present their wares/products/widgets to you without disrupting your daily routine. They remind you of a need or fear that you forgot or tried to repress. And, therefore, through simple video or image, they simultaneously present you with two key things: a problem and solution.
Can you do this? Are you sharing tutorials or how-to videos of your work through the most popular social media sites?
If your goal is to attract people toward your work (that you want to eventually sell), you need to find where the people are. The easiest places, of course, is online where your target consumer may be engaging with content from many places.
This is the veritable marketplace where you should naturally setup your shop (e.g., share and present your services or product).
Of course, don’t make a big deal about it.
Avoid screaming into the void, hoping someone may hear you. Instead, be natural and take notes about what your public audience needs or wants. Can you deliver a solution?
Tip #2: Be Observant
This follows from #1. You’re naturally sharing your hobby products or service. Now, watch what people do as they pass by (using the marketplace metaphor).
Do they engage with you? Are they asking questions?
If so, then you’re on the right track. Now, if you want, go ahead and reach back out. Collect contact information and follow-up. Answer questions. Be interested in what your potential consumer is looking for and find ways to deliver.
Cater to the needs of your passersby and you will find yourself forming a business relationship that you can grow. Of course, the only way to know what your potential buyers want is to watch how they interact within the marketplace across the entire space. Where are most people going? Are they drawn to competitors, or merely browsing looking for something new.
Depending on this observed behavior, you’ll want to follow the next tip.
Tip #3: Adapt
You’ve set up shop (sharing on social media, e.g., Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or your local hobby shop with paper signs/ads).
Now, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned from being observant.
Your product may only partially fit the wants or needs of your audience. In this case, you’ll have to adapt your produce or service based on what people want. If they want something less expensive, you may have to adjust your price structure, offering a lower tiered service.
Or, maybe people want something extra, like a custom doodad. Do you have the hobby skills and tools necessary to execute? Is it worth your time to scale up your offerings?
You may need to adapt your product and service to form new relationships or grow.
If you know anything about evolutionary biology, you may know the axiom: “adapt or die”. The same axiom applies to any business.
Adapt or die.
You’ll have to work hard to organically stay ahead of the changes around you. Your external environment, the people and their needs/wants, will change and so must your hobby business.
Remember, there are a lot of questions that come up when you’re trying to build and maintain a business. This is especially true when you’re starting out. But, in my experience, it also doesn’t get easier as your business grows.
As more and more people engage and purchase your product/service, you’ll find it gets more complicated because different people want different things. You have to weigh the cost-benefit of investing in your business to cater to a particular audience.
Tip #4: Get Inspired
After a while, you will certainly get bored or burnt out by your hobby business. It’s work after all.
If you’re looking to stay in the game, as it were, you need to continually find inspiration. Take breaks from selling and engaging your audience (aka “go on a fishing vacation”).
When running my miniature painting commission service, I often burned-out from projects that required long tedious paintjobs of the same models over and over.
When this happened, I made sure I had another project (a personal piece I wanted to do) that would allow me to experiment with my tools and paints. This would give me a way to break-free from the “sameness” a hobby business may inject into your free time.
I write a lot about the hobby on this site, which helps me find new ways to think about old ideas.
This is the key to making any business work: “think different” (source).
Get inspired by reading about your hobby, or engaging with others within your hobby community. You can find a lot of support resources online that you can utilise to find inspiration when it comes to motivation or even creating a better brand for your hobby business.
Tip #5: Find Help
Marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships. It is the business process of identifying, anticipating and satisfying customers’ needs and wants. Because one aspect of proper marketing is to attract customers, marketing is one of the primary components of managing your hobby business.
As your hobby business grows, you’ll find that you have less and less time for actually working on producing your product or service. Can you be the cook, the server, and cashier at the same time in a restaurant that serves a hundred patrons a day?
You’ll need help if your business has grown. Remember, this is a good problem to have!
Being new to the business sector with your hobby, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of other things you need to consider. In large companies or even more established businesses, outsourcing work is a viable means of making sure a business continues to grow without getting bogged down by details.
For example, for law businesses, public relationship building (i.e., a PR task) and marketing support from places like Elite Lawyer Management could be useful. In the medical sector, my previous company Grey Group provides full-service marketing, advertising, and strategic support for large biotech and pharmaceutical companies across the globe. For those with hobbies, my hope is that you find this site as a resource, too.
If you’re looking for help for your hobby business, my suggestion is to first find friends or family who can help with the simple things that tend to take up a lot of time. This could be photographing your completed miniature or model projects, or painting terrain props. Maybe you need help managing your social media accounts and can have someone help you routinely post to your various accounts.
Of course, whether you pay or barter with your helpers is up to you.
Again, if you’ve gotten to the point where you want to continue growing your business, but need help to do so, this is great news!
Hobbies can be self-sustainable, financially, if not profitable. I am no expert in business, but I have run a miniature painting service for years and years. For me, the ability to garner some profit from painting miniatures happened organically, without a plan.
Over the first year or so, however, I realized that if I simply put a bit more effort into thinking about how to bring in more work, I could actually keep my hobby afloat without any spending down my household budget.
Though, I no longer really work on commission at the same pace or regularity as I did years ago (e.g., I had kids), I do enjoy writing and sharing my experience with others (which is another hobby that you’re reading right now).
If you found this article helpful, please like and share it. I’d also love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!