We may not always see them, but opportunities are all around us. Traditional jobs are just one way of earning a living; now there are myriad ways to make money, whether you’re freelance, self-employed or contracted. You don’t have to get all Walter White to make the most of a lucrative business opportunity. Below are six examples of people who transformed their hobbies into legitimate, profitable businesses. Could you do the same? First, here are 13 questions to ask before you start a small business.
Photography: Karen Wiltshire
Karen Wiltshire made her mark in business by photographing newborns, a skill that she honed by practising on her own young children while working full-time at a magazine firm. Karen had always enjoyed photography, but it had remained a hobby for most of her life. However, when she was made redundant, she was given a chance to pursue the craft more seriously.
Karen has since been awarded The Guild Photographers Photographer of the Year – so clearly, she made the right choice. She attributes much of her success to social media, as it helped her to network with customers and others in the industry. She also believes it’s important for creative entrepreneurs to seek guidance with the business side of things. I doesn’t matter how brilliant or talented you are at crafts, painting, sculpting or whatever – without good business acumen, it can be hard to sustain success.
Gardening: Craig Jenkins-Sutton
Much like Karen, Craig Jenkins-Sutton was no industry professional when he started out – just someone with a natural talent for landscaping, helped by growing up on a farm. When Craig first started working for a landscaping service, it became clear to him that he preferred not to work for someone else. So he decided to start his own garden design company – Topiarus.
It began with a series of ads in the Chicago Tribune. Gradually, Craig built himself a customer base and was able to get the business off the ground. He puts his success down to trial and error. Certain forms of advertising seemed to work wonders (door hangers, for example) and the whole venture snowballed from there. Topiarius now generates millions of dollars in revenue every year.
Blogging and writing: Jeff Goins
Back in his old job, Jeff dreamed of writing all day long. Now, that’s exactly what he does. Jeff started writing regularly on his blog and gradually accumulated an audience of fans in the hundreds of thousands – all of this possible because he promoted himself effectively on social media. For some while, Jeff remained at his day job while writing for his blog on the side, but it soon became clear which was the more profitable. On releasing his first e-book, Jeff earned $1500 in just one week.
Since then, Jeff has written five best-selling books, including The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve, and continues to write often on his blog about life, writing, and working in the creative industry.
Tennis: Christine Watanabe
Christine Watanabe was (and still is) a big tennis enthusiast. Out on the court almost every day, she became frustrated at the lack of good scorekeeping solutions, until one day she decided to invent her own. She designed the concept herself, with the help of an engineer for the more technical aspects. Over the course of three years, the result was Score at Hand, a professional tennis racket scorekeeper that keeps her in business – whether she’s on or off the court.
Flipping websites: Chris Guthrie
Chris Guthrie is an investor – of websites. Website flipping, much like property flipping, can be a very lucrative game if you know what you’re doing. It seems safe to say that Chris does. For more than 10 years, Chris has been buying and developing websites, keeping those that turn a good profit, and selling those that would only generate a few hundred dollars a month.
Chris understands that to make money from flipping websites, you’ve got to know which websites are worth buying and how you’re going to make them profitable. One website – netbookreviews.com – he sold for six figures. It’s not uncommon for him to make at least five figures in profit just from flipping one website, but he’s still hoping to hit that seven figure milestone. With website flipping marketplaces like Exchange, it’s easy to buy and sell an online business – but something else to perfect the art, as Chris has.
Cell phone accessories: Nadia Shuaib
Nadia’s Canadian husband had made a hobby of out selling cell phone accessories from home, something Nadia liked to help him with. When they first started listing these products on eBay, they found that they sold incredibly well – mostly to local retailers at first. But it wasn’t long until the market for phone accessories grew, and with it, their competition.
Nadia and her husband decided to diversify their channels and start selling via their own website, as well as through online marketplaces. They also decided to start building a relationship with their suppliers over in China, giving them a full view of the purchase and shipping process. The company has now moved its operations to Toronto and serves both online and walk-in customers – always maintaining its ties with Shenzhen, China, to catch the next big mobile accessory craze.
After a long day in the office, what is it you like to do? Do you have any hobbies or skills that you could turn into more than just a pleasant pastime? You may not become the next Bill Gates (few have, except Bill Gates), but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a respectable living doing something you really love. Sometimes, opportunities arise in the most unexpected ways.
Patrick Foster, ecommerce growth consultant
Ecommerce consultant with 10+ years experience in the industry. I’m currently writing as a side hustle – I love to create content for entrepreneurs and business owners that helps them scale and succeed. The aim? Turn that hobby into a legitimate business.
Read my previous article: 7 Ways Your Ecommerce Start Up Can Combat Cart Abandonment