Turn Your Passion Into Profit

Making a living doing what you love doesn't have to be a pipe dream. Here are some tips on turning your hobby or favorite pastime into a profitable business.

Friends shook their heads when Patrick Sincere Thompson made a dramatic career change 12 years ago. He was pulling in $80,000 as an investment broker for Morgan Stanley in New York when he cashed it all in to work as an intern at a recording studio for $5 a day.

“My mom and others thought I was crazy,” says Thompson, “but it wasn’t about the money. It was about the experience and the opportunity to do something I loved.

I dipped into my savings and just did it. Being successful meant more than having money. [Being] happy meant doing what I enjoyed, and I enjoyed being around the music and entertainment business.”

Today, the 31-year-old runs Frontline Marketing & Promotions, based in Harlem, New York, where his clients include artists such as Chico DeBarge, and his current billings are about $1 million. His first promotional project was developing a series of events in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles to promote R&B singer Erykah Badu’s album Baduizm. More recently, he’s developed promotional events for HBO, AT&T, Rock Star Games and Sony PlayStation. Not bad for someone so passionate about music he built a makeshift recording studio in his home at age 19.

Thompson is living proof you can turn your passion into profits. Many people dream of getting paid to do what they love. While some dream, others make it happen.

Eight out of 10 small business start-ups are the outgrowth of hobbies or long-term interests, according to Max Fallek, director of the American Institute of Small Business in Minneapolis. Though many small businesses fail, those started from hobbies tend to be quite successful. “When entrepreneurs love what they do, they work harder at it,” Fallek notes. “And they convey a positive attitude about their product that gets others excited.”

Of course mere passion isn’t enough. Before you ditch your 9 to 5 and take your product or service to the marketplace, you have to learn all you can about the business you’re planning to start. Will the thrill of your hobby dissipate once it’s a daily task? What price should you charge for your product or service? How will you market the business? And how do you weather the pitfalls that are likely to occur along the way? With strategies from business experts and entrepreneurs who have done it, we’ll show you how to turn your hobby into a successful business.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
How do you know if your hobby or interest will make a viable venture? Entrepreneurs who’ve made the leap say they do extensive research that goes well beyond the library walls. Attend industry conferences, trade shows and seminars to talk with people in the field and find out what it takes to start the business you’re interested in.

“Stop people you know and ask if they’d be interested in buying your product or service,” suggests Susan Brandt, a spokesperson for the Hobby Industry Association in Elmwood Park, New Jersey. “Or ask a shop if they would sell your crafts on a consignment basis

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