Raise your hand if you have a hobby that you love. I mean really, really love.
I’ve loved painting and creating ever since I can remember. But I didn’t get the idea to sell my paintings until college. I guess I was always a little entrepreneurial - throwback to when I did hair and makeup for high school events like homecoming and prom, and *gasp* even used to sell handmade bracelets. Ok, yes, I was a little hustler. But selling artwork was a little different . . .
I had a few friends and family members suggest that I sell the pieces I made and gave as gifts. But the thing about artwork is that artists very much leave a piece of themselves with each piece, and trying to price that is crazy. There are no two pieces exactly alike. Charging for a certain hair style? You have a market to compare that to. Charging for a unique piece of artwork unlike another one that you’ve seen? I wasn’t exactly sure where to start, but gave it a shot.
I’m happy to report that it turned out to be a success! Nothing on a grand scale, but a victory in its own right. Granted, I posted all over our school’s social media pages as well as my own, and marketed my pieces to family and friends. I put in a lot of work. But it was much more successful than I anticipated! I painted primarily state, country, and world maps in different colors and patterns, and painted Florida State University-specific pieces (Go ‘Noles!). This gave me some other ideas. I started itching to find ways to branch out of my creative comfort zone.
From there I began experimenting with several different types of artwork. A few years ago I started creating abstract pieces. If you know me, you know these pieces are my true love in art form. I’ve also dipped my toes in calligraphy, decorating ornaments, luggage tags, notebooks, and many more projects.
If you’re thinking of turning your hobby into a business, here are some prompts to consider that might help you start formulating your business plan:
What product or service are you offering? Is it something other people are interested in purchasing?
Is it a one-time deal or are your products/services needed on a continuing basis (i.e. tax preparation, cleaning services, calligraphy services, versus perhaps one-time art purchases).
Who’s your target market? Do you have several?
How can you best reach your target market(s)?
How do you plan to market/advertise your business? Do you plan to utilize social media and apps, create your own website, or perhaps use good old-fashioned paper advertisements? Keep in mind the changing tide of innovation and technology and what that will mean for your platform(s).
Consider how much time, money, and energy you’ll have to invest in your business moving forward.
Will you be having any major life changes coming up that will require you to plan ahead? (This was a big one for me, as I’ll be starting my full time lawyer career soon. It doesn’t mean your plans are impossible though! Just set realistic goals and expectations, and plan ahead!)
Does your business require a team, or are you able to perform all tasks yourself? Also consider contracting out for tasks you can’t effectively or efficiently perform yourself (i.e. web design, photography). I did this with a friend for my logo design, and I can’t recommend him enough - thanks Mike Lazarus!
How do you plan to keep your business model dynamic so that it can adapt to market changes and shifting trends?
Do you have to register your business? (For example, I had to register my business in D.C., and received an Employer ID number. This is especially important for tax purposes, but also for other reasons).
There are so many more thoughts that run through a business owner’s mind. Honestly, I’m still figuring it out each day. The beauty of running a business is that there’s always new opportunities to learn and grow.
If you’re an artist in the DMV (DC/MD/VA) area, I highly recommend checking out Latela’s workshop (the one I mentioned in my last post). I attended one of their workshops a few months ago, and I swear it was the best investment in myself both as an artist and as a business owner. It was a great way to start thinking about my business more seriously than a side hustle or hobby. For the record, I’ve found that at least in my own experience, half of the struggle from switching from a hobby-artist to a professional artist is owning and embracing that title - and setting your rates accordingly, plus tax.
Have more questions about this process or things to consider when starting a business? Have more suggestions for prompts for me to add to the list above? Let me know below in a comment, or feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me on Instagram @DCBrushesandStrokes.