Turn Your Hobby into a Career in 7 Steps
If you enjoy being creative and you feel that your spare time is not enough for you to truly hone your practise, then perhaps you should consider turning your hobby into a career. But where do you start?
While there is no set blueprint for beginning a creative career, there are some initial steps you can take to transform from a hobbyist into a professional.
1. Determine your strengths and weaknesses
First you need to consider what your strengths and weaknesses as an artist are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an illustrator, graphic designer, sculptor, photographer, or a practitioner of any other art form, at this stage you will need to be completely honest with yourself: are you really good enough to make it as a professional?
If the answer is yes, then great, if no, then you should practise, practise and practise some more until you are good enough. Consider taking a course in your artistic discipline to further improve your skills and give you expert knowledge on how the industry works.
After you’ve carefully considered your artistic aptitude, you need to determine your business acumen. Everybody who turns their hobby into a career starts off small, so forget the option of hiring an accountant or PA to handle your financial and secretarial matters. Are you organised enough to keep on top of your own business? If the answer is no, then do not despair. Do some research into jobs that suit your artistic skills and consider starting a career from an entry level position.
2. Find a professional niche for your hobby
You need to come up with a business plan that’s viable. If you plan on printing t-shirts with your designs on them and selling them online, you’d better make sure that they’re the best t-shirts for sale anywhere on the internet.
While there are many jobs involving art and design out there, there is huge competition from start-up companies, so simply saying that you’re going to sell your paintings, or you’re going to make ceramics isn’t good enough.
You need to find a gap in the market that your product is going to fill or else there will be absolutely no demand for your product, leaving you stranded as a hobbyist with little or no income for all your hard work.
3. Start off by thinking small
Don’t, whatever you do, give up your day job until you have a steady and reliable source of income from your artistic trade. There are many income streams that you can try to aim for such as finding full-time employment in the creative industries, running an online shop, or working on commission for clients.
However, all these things take time to set up and if you give up everything you are doing before the ball gets rolling, you will most likely soon wish that you hadn’t. Set short term goals that aren’t too much of a stretch and work towards completing these to the best of your ability.
A lot of success in the early stages is reliant on word of mouth, so make extra sure you are professional and complete every task to the best of your abilities. As you gain more clients, finally land your dream job, or as your online sales become enough for you to live off, then you can seriously begin to consider becoming a self-sufficient, full-time artist or designer.
4. Spend time marketing your business
As an artist you will need to think about promoting yourself appropriately. You will need to engage in social media as well as creating a professional looking, up-to-date website with examples of your work in a gallery or portfolio section. You should encourage your satisfied early clients to provide you with a short statement of feedback which you can proudly display as testimonials of your excellence on your website.
Again, this is not going to bring you success overnight but the effort you put in at the beginning will all be worth it in the long run. Have a look at our article on creating an online portfolio that’s fit for the future for more information on promoting yourself as an artist online.
5. Consider gaining a qualification
Studying for a professional qualification can help you gain the knowledge and skills required to succeed in your industry.
A course in your chosen art and design subject will not only give you the chance to improve practically, but you will also gain invaluable knowledge of the modern professional industry which will inform you how best to tackle it head on and carve out a career for yourself.
Audio clip from our ‘Design Your Future: Professional Development’ Webinar, featuring Programme Leader, Joe Lych.
Working alongside other students with a similar goal as you will give you a valuable group to network with as you move forward with your ambitions of making it as a professional. With feedback from tutors, you will also be guaranteed to improve your confidence and know more about your own strengths and weaknesses as a designer.
If you think you don’t have time for study, remember that there are a number of part-time or online options available these days that offer a more flexible timetable.
6. Join relevant professional organisations
Joining a professional organisation is a great way to meet and network with a range of professional contacts within your industry. There is normally a small yearly fee to pay, but you can rest easy in the knowledge that this money will go towards protecting your artistic practice as a profession.
The websites of some organisations also have fantastic forums and job boards where you can find work and get great advice from your peers. Take a look at our article on a few of the best creative organisations that are out there in the UK.
7. Always remember why you’re turning your hobby into a career
If you are dead set on turning your hobby into a career, you must remember why you chose to do it in the first place and regularly remind yourself of this reason.
If your hobby is something you do to relax and unwind, you will have to find something else that relaxes you as turning your hobby into your main source of income is far from relaxing. Any romantic notions you once had of your art are likely to be toned down.
You will encounter a never-ending stream of people who will say that there is no chance of a career in art but the simple fact of it is that they are wrong.
The creative industries is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK, as well as globally, and there is no shortage of opportunities in jobs involving art for skilled creatives like you; as long as you go about it in the right way.
Come on then… get going!
Learning how to turn a hobby into a business is not something you will pick up overnight. It takes dedication, a lot of hard work, research and passion to succeed. If you believe you have all these attributes at your disposal, then you should be set to give it your best shot.
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