Before deciding to focus on writing and creating books, I had tried making income from 15 different hobbies! Not all at the same time, thank goodness, but for about 3 years I bounced from one potential small business to another.
After a month of uploading 10 different digital products to my Etsy shop, I realized that this scattershot approach needed to end. Not all of my interests can be (or should be) turned into a business.
I decided to figure out what from my store of talents could be the most business-worthy. I hope my experience of trying to narrow down my business options will give you some inspiration if you struggle with wanting to start a business from uh…everything!
Make a list of all hobbies and interests
I created two lists to start weeding out my options. First, I made a list of all my hobbies. Then I made another list of my interests. I tried to keep my hobbies and interests separated, although there was some overlap. For example, I would consider writing to be a hobby, but the process of writing is my interest.
I didn’t realize it then, but separating my hobbies from my interests was an important step towards figuring out what I wanted to do. You’ll see why by the end of this post.
Cross off items you want to stay a hobby
Protect the things you want to remain a hobby. For example, I enjoy journaling, but I decided against turning my journaling into something to share on Pinterest and Instagram. I want my journaling to remain for me only.
I also crossed out interests and hobbies that I had just started learning about. If I start a business, I want it to be something that I have a deep interest in. Often I start things only to lose momentum, so I thought it would be best to focus on interests that have stayed consistent for me over the years.
However, I want to mention that many people have enjoyed sharing the process of learning something new and create products for absolute beginners. If you decide to build a business out of something you’re learning, make sure it’s something you are excited to teach others and have a strong emotional attachment to.
But absolutely avoid making all of your hobbies into businesses! I learned a lot from trying to make money from so many of my hobbies, but in the end, I realized how important it is to have hobbies that are only for me.
When you mark which hobbies and interests are not up for sale, you are making a collection of activities that will give you a break from work. Even if you deeply enjoy your work, it’s important to get a break from it. So look at those lists and remove hobbies and interests that you don’t want to monetize.
Make note of which hobbies and interests you have already earned money from
If you are a serial “jobby” creator, taking this step can be very helpful.
On my lists, I noted which hobbies and interests made money for me. Then I asked myself:
“Out of these items, which ones made the most income? Which ones made the least or nothing?”
“Out of these items, which ones brought me the most joy? Which ones were the most painful?”
If you’re not a major “hobby turned into a business” person, that’s okay. Instead, note if any of your interests or hobbies play a role in your day job. For example, I enjoy working with computers and technology, and most of the jobs I’ve had aligned with that.
So next to my interest in computers, I put three dollar signs ($$$) to show that I’ve made a good bit of money from this interest, not only at my day job but also from doing some tech work on the side too.
But looking at the emotional side of things, I gave this a ‘so-so’ rating. I was getting bored and burned out from fixing tech problems all the time.
I removed from my list anything that I either found ‘so-so’ or gave me notable emotional distress.
I enjoy graphic design and painting, but when I tried working as a graphic designer or a portrait artist, I found it emotionally impossible to bear. From this, I quickly learned that client work is not for me.
So the lesson is, although your list may contain activities you enjoy and have made some money from, they may not be the best fit emotionally when it comes to running a business. Cross those off your list.
There are also things on my list that I put out there as a business, but wasn’t able to make a single dollar from. I removed those from consideration as well. We’re going for low-hanging fruit here.
And if you haven’t tried making income from anything on your list, that’s okay! Thinking more about what you have a knack for may help.
Focus on what comes easy
Out of all the things on my list, the only things that made me happy and earned more money than I expected were selling an ebook version of a short original comic and handmade stationery items.
Looking at how well my comic performed reminded me of another short book I wrote about having naturally curly hair, which also did better than I expected. I also reflected on other book-related projects in my life, even the ones I did for free. The majority of them did well.
At that point, I realized that creating and selling books comes relatively easy to me. I decided to focus on that, be it books about my interests or books full of artwork.
Right now, I’m not making enough income from writing/bookmaking for it to be my part-time work, but it’s not out of reach. And by far, creating books has been the most successful hobby turned into a job I’ve ever had.
By the way, this concept goes beyond selling items. For example, have you ever created or done something that your friends, family, schoolmates, or workmates can’t stop talking positively about? Is there something you’ve created multiple times that others always seem to appreciate? That could be a clue to what comes easy for you.
Remove items that don’t match with what you’re willing to do.
Previously I mentioned that I have a talent for selling handmade stationery items. But I picked creating books over creating handmade stationery. Why? Because where I live, selling physical items involves dealing with another level of paperwork and taxes. I don’t feel like dealing with that, so I decided to create books instead.
Other things I’m not willing to do include teaching a group of people in real-time, working to create things for clients, and having to deal with an inventory of items.
Do you have any hobbies or interests on your list that would require you to do things that you’re not willing to do? If so, remove them from your list.
By the way, it’s important to note that all businesses have their unpleasant parts. If it’s important to you, you’ll be willing to endure that. But if you look at an item on your list and think, “I enjoy doing this thing but facing this, that, and the other would be a total deal-breaker for me,” then remove it from your list.
As much as I enjoy art, working with clients sucked the fun out of it for me, even when they were happy with my work.
Mix and match! (Hobby + Interest)
This is where being multipotentialite comes in handy. So if you decided to follow along, right now you have two lists: one of your hobbies and another of interests.
You’ve crossed out all items that:
- You want to stay for your personal enjoyment only
- When monetized caused you emotional pain
- You tried to monetize but made very little or no income.
- Includes activities you are absolutely not willing to do if it becomes a business. Things that would be merely “annoying” don’t count.
You also circled or highlighted items that play a role in your day job and comes easily for you. If you’ve been engaging in any of your hobbies or interests since childhood, highlight those too.
The next thing to do is to pair your hobbies with your interests. For example, I picked writing to be my main hobby to monetize. Interests that I wanted to write about were personality type, productivity, emotional health, the writing process, and now entrepreneurship. Writing is a medium that I use to create products related to my interests.
If I had the hobby of knitting instead, I could think about how I can make knitting projects related to emotional health, the art of writing, or any other thing I had an interest in. I’ve come to appreciate that pairing my hobby with my interests has a few huge benefits:
- I’m not stuck in the box of doing “one thing.” I can cycle through my various interests. Also, it’s easy to add another hobby to the mix to support my interests, if that is what I wish to do down the road.
- What I create is unique, which is important in the crowded world of starting your own business.
- What I create is specific. Since most of my work is online, my work must help specific audiences. This makes it easier for me to stand out in the noise. Also, I know where the people who are interested in the same stuff as me hang out, so it’s easy for me to find my audience and put my work in front of them.
So using your lists, put together a few business combinations that would be fun to try. Then pick the one you find the most exciting and get started. Don’t worry about the other ideas you turned down for now. Later you may find that you can include them in your business, or that they only seemed attractive on paper, but have no real-world appeal.
So that’s how I decided what I want to do. For more specifics on where you can sell your wares, there are plenty of other online resources that can get you set-up, be it teaching others or selling physical and digital items.
I hope this post has helped you get started on figuring out what business to start when you want to do everything!
Does anything in this article resonate with you? If so, feel free to reach out via Twitter or Email. I would love to know what you think!