Turn a hobby into a business while working a full-time job ?


Look at that. Isn’t that beautiful?

That graduation souvenir was hand-made by a woman called Danny – mother of two with a full-time job.

But her full-time job is NOT making these beautiful cards. No – making the cards is what I’d call her “paying hobby”. It’s what she does after she puts in 40 hours a week.

And just how “paying” is her “paying hobby” exactly? You guessed it – not that much. First off, if Danny was making enough money with her hobby, she’d have turned it into a business. She would have quit her job running without turning back. (You can support Danny by visiting http://handycards.blogspot.com )

Danny works for a really big company that employs thousands of people. I don’t know what her job is, exactly, but I’m guessing that her job is STABLE. And I’m guessing that Danny hasn’t really thought about actually quitting her job someday. (After all, she has two kids, remember?)

Well, Danny and I only exchanged a couple of emails and I didn’t really want to pry and shower her with questions about her personal life and her job, which is why I’m doing a lot of guessing and I’m working based on assumptions. Anyway, back to the point of turning your hobby into a business while working a full-time job…

The reason Danny wrote to me was to ask about my first e-book (so far in Bulgarian only); she also shared her thoughts about her hobby:

“I make cards and sell a little while I’m “sitting” on payroll. I started with babysteps in 2009, but last year I felt tired and underappreciated. I lost my muse… I used to enjoy this and now I feel it as a burden, I started declining orders (for no obvious reason), and so far I had built a pretty big client network where regular clients would bring new clients.

At the end of 2012 I decided to really take a break, think all of it through, and think about what I might be doing wrong… I can’t hire people to work for me because that would be like Rembrandt hiring folks to do his paintings :)”

Here’s my reply to Danny:

“I don’t know why you’ve started to feel tired and decline orders. The possible reasons, off the top of my head, are two:
1) you think that the money is too little compaired to the work and the commitment you make;
2) the fact that you also have a “regular” job, a full-time job – trying to turn your hobby into a business while still hanging on to a full-time job is pretty tiring. I speak from experience, because I have been doing that for years – I work a “normal” job and I find someting supplemental to do in the evenings – be it English lessons or dance lessons or writing.”

After a while, those extra hours you keep putting in day after day after day will start to wear you off. Moreover, besides the extra work itself, there’s also mental stress. The pressure of finding new clieents, time management, planning and buying materials or posting ads – all of this beats down on your head. This is a very different kind of pressure, and it’s nothing like the stress at your job where no matter what happens, you know you’re just a worker.

One thing that Danny should definitely do, in my opinion, is RAISE HER PRICES. If she’s bold enough to turn away orders “for no obvious reason”, why not make a buck in the meantime? Instead of turning away orders with the argument “I’m too busy” (or whatever), just raise your price. That way if you turn the customer away, it’s fine because you were going to turn them away anyways; but if they agree, you will see some *real* money for your work. Also that might enable you to gradually raise your prices as a whole and start charging more.

hand-made card
Img src: handycards.blogspot.com

Danny says that this big company she works for gives Christmas cards to the employees (and to a few selected partners). “Only their cards are boring, and they are all the same. So I was thinking,” Danny writes, “that I could offer them MY cards. That way I would win only one new client, but it would be a big one… However I got scared by the mere volume of the project.”

The first thing that came to my mind was that Danny should always keep some cards on her desk. Change them every two weeks or so with new ones. I bet her colleagues would ooh and aah each time they go by her desk. And she has THOUSANDS of colleagues. Who have kids, and cousins, and friends… who at any given time might be having a wedding, anniversary, baby shower, or graduation ceremony. So I think Danny is extremely lucky in that she works for such a big company.

Oh, but wait! Danny said in her letter she was scared by the mere volume of the project! Is that… normal? Yes it is and it’s called FEAR OF SUCCESS. Fear of success deserves a piece on its own but in short, it’s the fear that you won’t be able to handle your success. For example, let’s say Danny talks to the HR department (or whoever handles the Christmas cards) and they accept her proposal and she has to make thousands of cards while also keeping a certain deadline. If for some reason she can’t get the materials she needs, or she gets sick and can’t put in the time needed, her big success might turn into a big failure. Boo! Scared ya!

What I told Danny was she shouldn’t let that fear stop her and that if she actually wins that big project, I’m sure she’ll find a way to make it happen. And why not? Just look at how beautiful her art is.

hand-made card
Img src: handycards.blogspot.com

PS: Do you have any suggestions or ideas about how to help Danny? Or have you been in a similar situation yourself? Share some wisdom in the comments.

Like that? Check all our stories in the archive.

3 thoughts on “Turn a hobby into a business while working a full-time job ?”

  1. This might sound like I’m whining, and maybe you’d be right in accusing me of that. But if I’m noticing it, I’m sure that other people are feeling the same way. It’s hard to turn a hobby into a full-time business. Easier said than done. I know it sounds easy in theory but do you know how many businesses make it to the five year mark? Not that much.

    Sometimes it’s better if a hobby just stays a hobby.

  2. Thank You Rya!
    I just learned that you wrote about me in your site. I do not know how to thank you for the advice you gave me. Furthermore, readers of your site called me to order cards. So I found out about this article. I want to thank you and do something for you. Is there anything I can do? Send me an e-mail to your mailing address to give you one of my cards.
    This is the least I can do to express my admiration for you!

  3. Hi Dani,

    You are very welcome! :) I wrote about you and your site and your craft because your story made a great impression on me. Keep up the good work! :)

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