Do you treat your small business like a hobby?
The USA article on profitable hobbies paints a vivid picture that many small business people may relate to.
"…one of the biggest mistakes that people make is treating their new business like their old hobby.
"A hobby is not generally responsible for paying your mortgage, maintaining your lifestyle. That's what a business is for. So you have to shift from thinking about this as a hobby, which is something I do simply when I feel like doing it, to thinking of it as a business," Johnson says. Kimberly Seals-Allers, author of The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit, agrees, noting that not every hobby is a business."
Never was a truer statement spoken!
I'm writing this post today for people who have started (and maybe even failed) with a small business that began with a hobby or talent or even a half-baked good idea. My experience in this area includes an art/craft business that I never pushed beyond a hobby, in spite of a few art festivals and the business cards I had printed. In retrospect, I can point to two things I neglected: marketing and a business plan.
Regarding the business plan: Certain metrics exist to help you know if you have a feasible business idea. You look at overhead, manufacturing costs, markets, prices, employment and hiring costs, and decide if you can make some money. When you search for business plan guidelines you'll see that you could easily spend a year or more writing a business plan if your goal is to receive funding, woo partners, attract investors, etc. But don't be daunted by some of the more formal templates. DO use them to get ideas, however.
Writing a business plan is a straightforward task that will help you identify strengths and weaknesses of your business. For some entrepreneurs, it could take two weeks and 20 pages; for others, 20 minutes and one sheet of paper. You can access online tools for business planning on many websites, but even a rudimentary plan is better than no plan at all. Just don't get too caught up in it while you neglect actually starting your business.
You can bypass this step of formulating a business plan, but then the importance of marketing takes priority. I read an article not too long ago in which a savvy entrepreneur challenged, "Who cares about market research, etc. just get out there and sell your idea…" In that cavalier spirit, how exactly do you "just get out there?"
Advice for marketing your new business:
1. Start Soon.
You can get a domain name today. Keep a simple placeholder on your new domain and start chatting it up with your friends and contacts online and certainly wherever your customers are to be found. A Twitter account and Facebook page are free and easy to begin spreading word and igniting interest. Email is also a great way to reach out directly to the people who respond.
Several years ago I applied for space in a juried outdoor Christmas art show at a local museum. At the end of two days standing around chatting with art-lovers under my 10×10 canopy, I didn't have a lot of money in my pocket, but what I did have — pages of emails from people interested in my art — was almost as valuable. I only wish I knew then what I know now…at the time, I didn't have the first clue what I should do with my new email list. Now I know.
2. Start Small and Keep it Simple
Remember this sales advice: KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). Especially when you're just starting your business, it's easy to get bogged down by all the things you need to do. Your marketing should get your message aloft without too much time and expense involved.
Keeping it small and simple also saves you money. It's not uncommon for marketing agencies to require $20K just to start working with you. However, small businesses often evolve rapidly in the first few months. Several years from its inception your business may have a shape you would have never imagined when you began it. Be careful how much money you use to get it going. Let your marketing budget evolve with your business.
But definitely invest in it. Your first marketing steps will require consistency. If you start with a strategy you can manage, you'll use your marketing budget wisely. Don't bite off more than you can sustain.
I keep thinking back to what Lisa Price said about starting a small business; that you may go for years without turning a profit. (Hey! That sounds like this hobby of mine…)
Now that you know at least two of the major differences between a hobby and a business, if you need help getting your email marketing off the ground, consider MyTeamConnects email service. We'll create an email that plays nicely with all email clients and delivers quality content to your customers. Email is a great way to start marketing "soon, small and simple."
Give us a call at 210-501-0051 and we'll set up a template that reflects your small business. In a matter of days, you'll have a grass roots start with email marketing. A smart move for turning your hobby into a growing small business.
Let us know if you have any doubts or concerns; I'm happy to help!
Written by Jen McGahan