Barbara started designing jewelry on the weekends because she loved the craft. She loved learning about the stones, placing them in unusual designs, and developing a look that was uniquely her own.

Kari put all of her energy into designing one of the most talked about weddings of the summer – her own. It wasn’t just the details she loved; she enjoyed every aspect of making something every friend and family member would enjoy as much as she did.

Sara started experimenting with different recipes, trying to find the perfect combinations of ingredients to make her favorite dishes vegan. Only when she perfected one did she share it with family and friends to find out if they enjoyed it too.

That’s the thing with many of today’s successful businesses; a great deal of them started out as hobbies. They were simple ideas a person took on in her spare time, and only turned into a business model once the true potential was discovered.

In many cases, it’s a hobby that starts it all.

hobby business big ideas

A classic example is Martha Stewart. Martha worked as a stockbroker early in her marriage until they decided to buy and restore a 19th century farmhouse. She put her full energy into the restoration, narrowing her focus to gourmet cooking after its completion. She trained herself by mastering Julia Child’s cookbooks, and used that knowledge to start her own catering business. When her clientele grew to include corporate and celebrity clients, she expanded into the world of publishing with her first book, Entertaining, as has never looked back.

What sets the hobbyist apart from the business owner? What makes one person continue doing something merely for fun, while the next turns it into a successful, profitable business venture?

Your mindset changes

Some people are happy with hobbies. They do what they do for fun, and they wouldn’t want it any other way.  They think of their hobbies as releases from life’s every day issues, and they have no desire for their hobbies to ever become something more.

For others, they start asking the question: what if? What if I could spend more time doing this? What if I could get people to buy? What if I could do this instead of my job? What if this could be a business? Once the “what if’s” begin, there is no other way to move forward than working at turning it into a business.

You start developing a reputation within your community

When you start out as a hobbyist, you invest in books and look towards mentors to refine what you do. You copy. Once you learn how to mimic your mentors and are good at copying, you begin developing your own style. You change things. You add your own flare. And as your own style becomes richer and filled with passion – your passion – people start recognizing it for what its worth. They can see your style just by looking at what you do. They want it. They crave it. They request it. And when they start asking for it by name, that’s when you know you’re onto something big.

You start getting more orders than you can reasonably fill

It usually starts with a family member or a friend wanting what you do. They tell a friend. And so on, and so on. Eventually the little hobby you started from your kitchen table is taking on a life of its own. You request help to keep the orders filled. You begin questioning how you can move forward with everything you do.

You enjoy the work enough that you put it first

Have you ever taken a day off from work … so you can work on your hobby instead? Do you spend your morning taking care of business … before you go in to work at your job? Do you bring what you do to the office to spend time at lunch working on your Big Idea? As hobbies begin to grow into something more, they quickly begin taking over time slots you used to spend doing other things. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

You start thinking of yourself as a profitable business

When your questions start focusing on “what if this were a business”, your mindset has reached the point of becoming an entrepreneur. You see yourself working at it full time. You see yourself bringing in a large enough revenue stream to replace your existing paycheck. You look at your product or service line above and beyond production, considering how much money you can make if you start charging for what you do.

You start developing a plan for the future

Your daydreams are centered on how successful you can make your business. You start seeing your ideas become a big part of your life. You develop a lifestyle that allows you to put more time and energy on what you do, and think of yourself in terms of being recognized in your community for what you have to offer. The idea grows and takes on a life of its own.

That’s when you know your Big Idea has more to it. That’s when you know its time to move forward.

Of course as big as it can grow at this point, it’s also the timeframe when the biggest setbacks can occur.

Not giving yourself credit for your knowledge and experience

As your hobby grows into something more, its easy to keep that hobby mentality. In some cases you may not put value in all that you’ve learned. Because you may not have the right degree or proper certification, it’s easy to discount your knowledge and experience. People will pay for both, and often will pay very well. People want to know about life experiences. To be able to shave off time from their own learning curve can be one of the most valuable things you can offer.

Not charging enough

Have you looked at the big picture to determine if you can make a healthy income for what you do? Many people fall into the lowball pattern where they average what others in the industry charge, and lowball it because they are new to the business. While that may give you a price for your first few sales, it won’t sustain a healthy business model overall. A true business owner understands how much revenue she must earn, and learns to create products and services that will sell easily and bring in the income she needs to succeed.

Continue treating it like a hobby

A hobbyist does what she does for the fun of the hobby. But as it turns into business, she quickly learns that equal time must be spent on learning the business. While the art form may come from what she does, the only way to succeed is to be good at business too.

Doing work for free

Especially as a new business is growing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “free”. You’ll be asked to do work for free to build up your portfolio. You’ll be asked to donate your time to a good cause. Evaluate these opportunities carefully. Free sets the stage for more free.

Not having a high level of passion for what you do

A hobby is something that consumes time when you choose to give it time. A business consumes you 24 hours of the day. You dream it, think it, focus on it. And even when you aren’t thinking about it, ideas pop into your mind anyway. If you don’t give it the time it truly deserves, the idea may just as quickly fade away.

Is your idea a hobby … or a business? What are you doing to give it every advantage of turning into something more?