Over the years, there have been many a mum (myself included) who have looked at how to “make it work” in a way that honors school hours, skills and interests, and launch a business that financially does more than just “get by”.
My game changer happened on boxing day in 2015.
It was a hot as hell summer day and my 13 year old semi trusty kid-snack stained blue Subaru Forester spectacularly died on the side of the road. I’m talking smoke gushing out the front, get my daughter aged seven and son aged four out the car and stand on the side of the road. And watch it, well be towed away.
That night, after the kids went to sleep, I sat in my wardrobe and cried. Like full on sobbing. I’m not a pretty crier.
I wanted my business to succeed. It needed to be viable.
That meant allowing for school hours, school holidays, co-parenting schedules, maintaining my own wellbeing (i.e. down time) and also making the most of my skills and passions.
So, here’s how I approach it & how I’ve guided others.
Becoming viable means you have intentions of making a profit.
As well as reviewing ATO guidelines and criteria on the difference between a hobby and business, it’s important to think about your available time, skills and passions, and of course, if there is a market for it.
The first steps to turn your hobby into a viable home business
GET CLEAR ON YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS
Create a personal budget for yourself and for your hobby/business idea – whether it’s making tote bags or managing other people’s social media – you need a budget.
In your personal budget, look at setting the “survive” total first. What do you need to cover basic living expenses? Are there any areas to trim back on to invest into your business? Look at selling anything no longer needed in the house on gumtree. Those funds can be used in making your business viable.
Add in a “thrive line”. A stretch income goal. It needs to be believable and achievable. How you want to live. For me, it would go toward taking the kids on a camping holiday or saving up for a surfboard.
- Total Income from Sales
- Less Expenses
- Less Superannuation
- Less Tax
= what I have to survive or thrive
It is important to look at what impacts your business will have on any other income sources such as child support or family tax. Nothing worse than having a tax bill, or repaying a debt that was not budgeted for, so keep that in mind as you succeed.
PRICING YOUR PRODUCTS
A common mistake I see when running courses is many well-intentioned mums forget to look at the time that goes into creating a product to sell, or a service.
I would see women who started out with photography as a hobby starting to burn out because of the amount of time that went into editing their shoots. Their mindset was that they wanted to be “affordable” – totally honorable; but not viable long term.
We would walk through their whole process. More often than not, they would be paying themselves below minimum wage (about $20 per hour for an adult in Australia).
Check whether you can meet your income goals with your pricing strategy, and if there are any beliefs about money that need reviewing.
For example, comparing yourself to someone who has been going for 10 years is not the best benchmark when you are starting out.
It’s like me expecting to have the surfing prowess of Layne Beachley when I’ve only got two years behind me.
CAN YOU DO IT DIFFERENTLY?
If I take my amazing photographers, once they sat down and looked at what they had to offer and potential business ideas, they became empowered to choose. They found ways to go from a hobby to profitable home-based business in a way that worked for their lives.
Some chose to teach photography workshops online, some chose to remove weddings altogether as it didn’t fit with family needs, and some chose to focus on mini photoshoots at a higher price and educate their customers about their process.
They did all of these by focusing on what matters most to them and automating or delegating tasks like making invoices and scheduling clients.
These same principles can help you scale and give you a better return on energy and return on time, so think about how you can make a hurdle your hero.
If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s the power of the pivot. Options to make money from home include:
- Teach what you know in an online course
- Coaching sessions or workshops live via zoom
- Ad revenue from blogging about something you love (and something that is searched for)
- Drop shipping with an online store
- Selling digital download products
An amazing chocolatier who attended one of my programs was devastated when the local government wouldn’t allow her to sell chocolate from her kitchen; something to do with couverture and the department of health.
She had invested in skills, her products were amazing, the art that went into it was amazing, so seeing her show up feeling defeated really hit my heart.
Upon suggesting she create a “how to” digital chocolatier course, her eyes lit up. I watched relief wash over her face. She was back in business in a way that worked for her.
Changes in personal circumstances can impact business.
My daughter was accepted into ballet college. Her success meant my available time reduced as we travelled two hours three days a week during school hours so she could go and be brilliant. I could no longer work the same way.
My office became a coffee shop or the back of my (now new) car. I shifted to Zoom consults, reviewed my business offerings and added in a little web design to the mix.
It became really important to hold my boundaries in co-parenting with their dad whilst enforcing that I was working otherwise Miss Keep-the-peace-for-the-kids over here would end up becoming Miss Freaking-out-about-deadlines-and-pressure!”
CAN I TURN MY HOBBY INTO A BUSINESS?
GET SET TO LAUNCH
Evaluate your ideas and explore what you can start with that fits your time, skills and resources.
I recommend starting with something easy and focus on the step not the staircase.
Despite what “experts” will tell you, you don’t need to invest a huge amount to get going. Start with as much prep work as you can (like pricing your products) and use what you have within your budget.
I started with a ten-year old laptop, a logo I created in Canva, and permission to fail and permission to succeed. Don’t let perfection stop you from starting.
Invest sensibly in platforms, and not high-ticket programs only to find out you have no more money to invest in what the high ticket program tells you need to be successful (*experience talking*).
THE BUSINESS OF BECOMING A BUSINESS
Doing “trades with mates” or cashies might seem like a good idea, however, if your goals include one day asking a bank if you can join the mortgage club, they won’t hold much value on your generous trading or lack of proof.
I watched small businesses get caught out with the Job Keeper program during 2020 COVID – no record = no support.
Decide on your business structure (sole trader is the simplest), and take the appropriate steps with insurances, any permissions you need, and policies to set you up.
Keep track of your income and expenses and be unapologetically brave in launching your products and services.
BE CONSCIOUS OF FEEDBACK FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS
We can have great supporters who tell us something is brilliant, yet then wonder why it’s not selling; likewise we can have that one relative who “I’m only trying to help” poo poo’s our vision.
The first words uttered to me by a family member when I launched were “who is going to want to buy that”.
Their words were a little different (read quiet) when Christmas rolled around.
Be sure to get balanced feedback, and if they have never launched or run a business before, keep that in mind. Talk to people who have, and ask them what risks they see, and how would they improve it.
Remember, you don’t have to take on suggestions if they don’t feel right. Your business, your choices.
Be consistent and persistent with your marketing efforts in launching and growing your business, otherwise it can feel like a guest rocking up to a party shouting “I’ve got a jumpsuit” and leaving the room.
Set aside time to look at numbers – both analytics on web and socials, financials and what products or services are doing better than others.
When you are in a position to do so, hire in help for areas that you don’t enjoy doing. Ironing, Bank reconciliations, gardening, whatever.
Do more of what you enjoy.
CHANGE AND GROW WITH YOUR BUSINESS
Businesses are very much like kids. Just when you think you’ve got it sorted, an algorithm changes, or a pandemic happens, or a new social media platform springs up.
Remember you are already resilient and adaptable – skills that are awesome and essential to business. You can probably (like me) smuggle veggies in a lasagne and make it last three meals, get a kid out of a locked bedroom with a teaspoon, and hold a conference call while pushing a pram.
Stay amazing, ladies. Reach out and ask for help along the way.