Merriam-Webster defines “hobbyist” as “a person who regularly or occasionally engages in an activity as a pastime rather than as a profession” and “entrepreneur” as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”
Hobbies are fun; I have several myself – playing violin, walking, baking, cooking, gardening, crafting, and if I put my mind to it, I could take any of my hobbies and turn them into a business (okay, not playing violin…). For instance, I looked into opening a catering company for my first business, but the regulations were mind blowing and I didn’t have financial backing. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I wish I had gone for it anyway.
Ten years ago when my medical transcription company was in full swing, the main four-lane road in our neighborhood was undergoing rather large changes and there was a vacant lot for several months or a year, and my mind kept percolating (pun intended); what a perfect spot for a coffee bistro – I could incorporate healthy baking, cooking, my love of coffee and tea all wrapped up into one enterprise. I had the perfect name, what I’d serve, operating hours, everything… “Perks and Pastries.” The coffee bistro would be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., serve options for healthy breakfasts, salads, soups, fresh baked muffins, scones, desserts, coffees, tea… and then along came two chain restaurants, Panera Bread and Bruegger’s Bagels, within a mile of the location where I wanted to open. Sigh. Next.
Another hobby I really enjoy is gardening. I love putting my hands in the dirt, transplanting and dividing plants from one spot to another, starting plants from seeds and watching them come to life. We have a greenhouse on our property and every year I start seedlings for our garden; anything from vegetable plants to flowers – annuals and perennials – you name it. A florist shop or garden center/nursery is another enterprise I could see myself immersed in owning. I actually took landscaping classes years ago.
What’s my point? I could have made most of these hobbies into a business but for one reason or another I didn’t. Was it fear, mindset, lack of funds, a plan, focus, knowledge of market…? The list goes on, but one thing I know for sure is I am an entrepreneur and the reason I know I am is because I have been one since I was eight years old!
My first business, if you will, was selling Camp Fire Girl Candy to earn scholarships for summer camp. Sure, when you’re eight years old you don’t know you’re “in business” and you don’t have the fear of asking people if they want to purchase from you. Really, most people aren’t going to say no to a little girl selling candy! So every Saturday, every year in November from 2nd to 8th grade, my mom took us out, and I sold Camp Fire Girl Candy in order to go to camp for one week during the summer. I was one of five kids, and my parents couldn’t pay for all four of the girls to go to camp so if we didn’t sell the candy, we didn’t go.
My second childhood business was tagging along with my older sister and her friends when they went door to door asking for canned good donations for a Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy carnival fundraiser. Then we’d plan the event and set it up for the day of the carnival – right there I was an event planner and a marketing specialist!
Twenty-three years ago my adult entrepreneurial journey started; it was a medical transcription business, and I’ve never looked back. It hasn’t always been easy and things have changed that’s for sure, but I keep plugging along and I haven’t given up yet, no matter what.
People tell me, “Colleen, you have entrepreneurial blood running through your veins.” It really is true. I’ve grown and sold seedlings for Tower Gardens, made and sold jewelry for our Relay for Life team ($4,500.00 in three months), baked goods for events… I’ve sold Tupperware, and the list goes on and on.
Great, so you’re an entrepreneur. You like hobbies. So what? My point is I want to discuss how I could have taken almost any of my hobbies and turned them into a lucrative business, but there are certain actions people take which determines if they’re a hobbyist or an entrepreneur. Which are you?
Five actions separating the entrepreneur from the hobbyist:
Determine Your WHY: Site down, ask, and answer these questions to figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing… Why are you in business? What’s the vision for your business? What makes you put your feet on the floor in the morning? What is your ultimate goal or goals? What pushes you when nothing else can? Is your WHY in alignment with your vision?
For instance, when I was selling candy as a child, my WHY was to sell enough candy so I could go to camp in the summer. My GOAL was to sell 135 boxes of candy and it was a game. My SUPPORT SYSTEM was my mom. She took us out every Saturday in November (folks, this was in the rain, in the snow, in the cold, in Cincinnati, it didn’t matter, and she’d have my youngest sister and baby brother with her entertaining them in the car – talk about support!). My vision was one week at camp swimming, hiking, singing songs, having fun..
Determine Your Plan: Do you have your business plan, marketing plan, book plan, retirement plan in place?
Entrepreneurs plan for every aspect of business, from beginning to end. What’s needed to start the business – is your business going to be a limited liability company, a corporation, a partnership, or are you going to be a solopreneur? What type of marketing plan do you have in place? Yes, it may be small at first, but if you don’t market who is going to know about your business? When do you plan on retiring? Five years, 20 years? Do you have a financial planner you’re working with?
I was a guest on a podcast with Kathleen Gage of Power Up for Profits a few weeks ago, and I mentioned where my friends might call on the spur of the moment and ask me to go swimming or others might pop in on me and not realize I’m working. What I didn’t mention in the podcast and wish I had is I can take off a day to go swimming or hiking or a three-day weekend when I plan to do it because I am an entrepreneur and that’s what’s great. I love taking time off with friends to go out to lunch or swimming, etc., but I have to plan it and they respect it; they mentioned afterwards they just don’t want to exclude me, and I appreciate not being excluded. But besides planning to take time off for “downtime” in business, we have plans in place for every quarter – plans for marketing, plans for new services or products, plans to complete the book we’re writing, plans for projected income in the next three, six, nine, and 12 months. Entrepreneurship is not a “fly by the seat of your pants” option if you intend to stay in business and make a profit!
Determine Your Systems: Hobbyists don’t take the time to create systems; they don’t devote the time to their business. Entrepreneurs realize systems are the foundation for having a profitable business; they invest the time needed and create systems.
- Accounting and bookkeeping – Hire an accountant and bookkeeper – know where your money is coming from and where it is going. Every. Single. Day! A working communication with your accountant and bookkeeper is imperative; meet with them quarterly, if not monthly.
- Invoicing – Once a month; twice a month; retainer – no matter what system you have for invoicing, be consistent, and put it in place now! We work with Quickbooks, but there are other systems you can use for invoicing. Again, speak with your bookkeeper and accountant so you’re all using the same software.
- Project management system – Keeping tasks and client information in sync is imperative for everything to run like a well-oiled machine and having a digital system for you and your team to use in sync works wonders. Here are some suggestions: Trello, Basecamp, and Asana.
- Scheduling calendar – Having a calendar in order to make sure appointments don’t overlap is important; imagine double booking or making a costly mistake and missing an appointment. Gmail, Google Calendar, interacts with scheduling tools like Calendly. When someone schedules an appointment in Calendly it links with your Google Calendar and you’ll never miss an appointment.
- Marketing – Hobbyists are not consistent in marketing. They know it is important but they do not create a system so it falls by the wayside. Entrepreneurs know marketing is the life of the business. They consistently plan their marketing and make it happen – no matter what!
Determine Your Ideal Audience:
Hobbyists work with anyone and mostly work with one client at a time. Entrepreneurs narrow their niche and know their ideal client; they also start coaching groups in order to uplevel their business. As an entrepreneur, I know it is difficult and scary to narrow your niche, but it is imperative. When we were working on discovering our “ideal client” I kept losing focus and wanted to work with everyone. I’ll never forget what Peter said to me, “It doesn’t mean we can work with other people, but to grow our business, as entrepreneurs, we can only market to our niche.” It took me forever to admit this and start doing it.
We have a short worksheet for discovering your ideal audience; if you’d like us to send it to you, shoot us an email and we’ll be happy to forward to you.
Determine Your Strengths and Your Passion:
Hobbyists try to do everything on their own; they have limited resources. Entrepreneurs build teams of experts who handle parts of the business they don’t enjoy doing or they aren’t an expert doing. Entrepreneurs know the difference.
Hobbyists are perfectionsists – they think they need to do it all and they think they know it all. Hint: no one knows everything and no one can do everything. Period. This is where hobbyists fall short. They don’t and won’t give up control. No one can do it like they can. On the other hand, entrepreneurs realize they can’t do it all and better yet, they don’t want to do it all. They focus on what they like to do, what they are great at doing, and they allow their team members to do they rest. Ah. What a wonderful, wonderful idea. Entrepreneurs don’t have to do it all. Entrepreneurs can have a life when they choose to do so!
So the bottom line: do you know your WHY, do you PLAN for everything, do you have SYSTEMS in place, do you know your IDEAL AUDIENCE, and do you know your STRENGTHS and your PASSIONS?
Your actions and mindset have to align with your goals (which is part of your WHY). If you want to be a hobbyist great; if not, set yourself up for success as an entrepreneur.
Where do you see yourself – more of a hobbyist or an entrepreneur? What is your vision and what are your ultimate goals? If you’re looking to change it up from hobbyist to entrepreneur, schedule a time to chat with us and let’s help you figure out where you want to go.
Until next time,