I was 15 and in serious need of a good hair stylist to give me that every six weeks perm (thank the Lord those days are over) and get my edges together. I searched the internet for stylists in Austin and found it extremely annoying that most didn’t have an online presence. We were in the 21st century and those stylists with hands that were blessed couldn’t be found online. I finally found a stylist, got my hair in check, and then realized that I happened to really enjoy graphic design and making websites, and they could use some serious help in that area. So, at 15 I started freelancing my services, having clients who were small business owners, non-profits, family friends, and companies give money to this teenager whose office was her lavender themed bedroom. A few years later, I picked up photography and during college that became my creative medium of choice. Family portraits, engagements, senior photos — all those kept my bills paid and my fridge stocked.
So, what am I saying? I was doing things I loved to do — things I would do everyday even if no one paid me a dime and yet, I found ways to get a dollar out of them. So, let’s say you don’t write code or design or take pictures. But, let’s say there’s something you do really well, something you love to do and would love even more if you could earn money from it. Well, chances are that you can, it just takes a little creativity to figure out how. This is not a shortcut guide on how to make money, nor is it a blueprint for how you can make money with what you do. Everyone’s story is different, everyone’s plan is different, but here are some tidbits that worked for me and can hopefully help you turn your passion into profit.
1. Identify what NEEDS your passion meets
This is a key step in turning your hobby into a “side hustle”. Who needs this service? How can it help people? Is there a market for this? Answering these questions will help you figure out who your audience is and how to best meet their needs. For instance, today I was talking to a friend who happens to be a singer who turned that passion into profit as a vocal coach. If your hobby is something you can provide as a service (ex: taking photos), you can teach (ex: singing), or you can sell (ex: you’re an painter/artist), then this step should be really easy for you and if you’re not already monetizing on it, you need to be!
2. Take yourself seriously
One reason I often hear for people not making money off of things they do really well is that they don’t believe in themselves or take themselves seriously as an entrepreneur. There’s no magic sauce in achieving this, first you need to realize that you have a gift/talent/skill for a reason and believe that with a little hard work you can be successful. Second, take your business seriously. Come up with a name, acquire that domain, develop a business plan, research laws in your state, examine your market (your competitors and audience), see what others are doing and how you can do it differently. Take yourself seriously!
3. Don’t compromise your worth
About two years ago, I raised the prices of everything I did. I was terrified. I had always cringed whenever it came down to asking people for money (some people do this with ease, not I), and now I was about to increase my rates. With a little shove, push, and nudge from those who cared about me, I was able to quantify my worth in actual dollars. Meaning, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to settle anymore, I wasn’t going to be the discount photographer or the discount web developer. I was putting my blood, sweat, and tears into running this business and I wanted to get what I was worth out of it. Far too often, people (especially POC & women) compromise their worth for the sake of not looking greedy or appearing too arrogant. Plot twist, my business grew exponentially after I increased my prices because I understood what I was worth and people saw those prices as an indication of worth. Let’s say you see gold earrings for $5 and another pair for $100, not saying you’ll buy the $100 pair, but in your mind you’ll likely automatically assume that the pricier pair must be made out of real gold or must be worth more while the $5 must be cheaply made. That’s the same way customers can perceive businesses. You don’t need to be a luxury entrepreneur, but don’t be that $5 pair.
4. Get better at your craft
Don’t chase the coins in someone’s pockets if you haven’t gotten yourself together first. Constantly strive to get better at what you do to the point where you can validate getting paid for it. Don’t let this be something that holds you back and keeps you saying “I’ll turn this into a business when I get perfect at ___”. Aim for excellence and quality rather than perfection.
That same month I raised my prices, please believe that I did my research and invested in the best portrait lens I could. I paid $1500 for a camera lens because I wanted to make sure that if I was asking people to pay me, I was also doing my part and delivering my best quality work. I spent weeks and weeks booking shoots trying to break even on my purchase but it was completely worth it and eventually paid for itself. In turn, it allowed me to do my job better.
I’m just going to keep this short and devote a whole separate post to this because branding takes many forms. If you’ve never heard this word before and you’re considering being an entrepreneur, look this up and get your branding together! If you’re a creative entrepreneur, then this needs to especially be at the forefront of your mind. People take things more seriously when they looks good, are well thought out, and are put together. Think Tiffany’s and that iconic blue box.
6. Put yourself into it
There are thousands of people who probably do what you do, and a good percent of them do it really really well. What makes you different? The fact that there is only ONE YOU. Don’t be afraid to put your personality, your story, and ultimately yourself into it. There are qualities that make you unique, use yourself as your secret weapon.
Side note: If you’ve ever watched Proud Family cartoons, remember when Suga Mama put her foot in those treats as part of her secret recipe. I would say put your foot in it, but…. don’t take that literally.
7. Dream Big
Think outside the box! Don’t wait for someone to do something before you realize it can be done. That singer friend turned vocal coach I was talking about earlier, well he teaches lessons in Austin by meeting with people face to face. Me being the type of person I am, brought up ways that he can expand his audience to well… the entire world. We live in the technology age so don’t hesitate to use the power of the internet to your advantage. Ever since they invented Paypal, Venmo, SquareCash, and every other way you can get your money without physically getting your money, the gates of possibility opened! Think of the wildest heights that your talents can take you and aim for just that.
I would love to hear what you guys do and how you’re turning your passions into coins! If this helped you in anyway, let me know so I can make more posts similar to this.