I recently reconnected with a high school classmate who, it turned out, also runs a small marketing/communications business. Business had been good, she said, but recently she found something new that really excited her (she was even writing a book about it in her spare time!) and was now rethinking what it was she wanted to do. Actually, she knew what she wanted to do. The question was how to blend her passion with her business — or how to shape or re-shape her existing business to focus on, and profit from, this new area of interest.

In reading and writing about entrepreneurs and small business owners over the years, I have learned that the most successful ones are passionate about what they do. In fact, oftentimes the business was the result of an idea or concept or product the founder felt passionately about. Or a hobby or skill the person enjoyed and was good at and wanted to share and see if he or she could profit from it. (There’s a reason there are a lot of sites selling hand-crafted jewelry and crafts and pottery and silk-screened t-shirts and photographs.)

Curious about how easy or hard it was to turn something one loved into a business, and sustain it (as well as the initial passion), I wrote an article on the subject, called “Turning a Hobby or Passion into a Business.”

As many of you already know, it’s often a lot harder than you think. While passion and drive are essential, running a business requires more than just an emotional investment. So I asked several small business owners, who had turned a hobby or passion into a business, what were the secrets to their success? And I came away with the following:

Tips for turning your hobby into a business:

1. Really ask yourself, “Is this something I really enjoy doing and can sustain, or am I just swept up in the latest craze? (Think Beanie Babies and Magic cards.)

2. If you think your passion or hobby still has potential as a business, try to find out if lots of other people are doing it — who or what the competition is. What is it about your offerings that are unique or hard to find? Is this something people really want?

3. If you are planning on selling online, make sure you have enough money to invest in creating and maintaining a decent e-commerce site — and make sure your site is being picked up by the major search engines (which may require some advertising).

4. Remember, the customer is king (or queen). Don’t underestimate the power of customer service or how a lack of customer service can cost you sales.

5. Network with other hobbyists or dealers.

6. Have fun. Once you lose your passion or drive, what made you go into this in the first place, you’re going to lose business.

If you’ve turned a hobby or passion into a successful business, or recently re-tooled your business, or have more tips to add to the list, let me know by sending me a comment or emailing me at jennifer [the “at” symbol”] schiffandshiff [dot com].

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