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Turning a Passion into a Business

We all have passions and hobbies - things we love to do to pass the time or soothe our stress. For me, I have always loved creative arts, from dance to art there is something about creating something original and new that makes me feel accomplished. It takes my mind off anything else and my focus becomes the finished product. More than six years ago, I decided to turn this passion into a business and Sara Michelle Design was created.

At first, my business consisted of close friends and colleagues. From a former co-worker looking to create custom holiday greeting cards to a longtime friend wanting to commemorate her wedding anniversary with a personalized photo gift, my time was spent dabbing into my hobby. Overtime, I realized that my passion was starting to take off and I wanted to run a successful business. This meant many changes for me. Here are five steps, that I personally experienced, in order to turn your passion into a business.

(1) Get a Website - Launching my own website was probably the biggest step to creating a successful business. It not only gives you credibility, but it opens up your market base. Whether your hobby is jewelry-making, interior design, event planning, or coaching, a website will help you to solidify your goals and attract more customers. That being said, you must constantly invest in and change your website. Over the past six years, I have relaunched my website at least three times. Technology is constantly changing and we must change gears to match!

(2) Develop a Pricing Structure - This is probably one of the most challenging things you will do as a business owner. To take a hobby from a passion to a business means you have to really quantify what you are doing, how much time it takes you, and the amount of money you need to pull it off. Too many times, business owners cut themselves short because they worry about charging too much or turning away friends who may be interested in their services. The truth is, if your passion is not making money: it is not a business, it is a hobby. If you want a business, you need to push away any self doubt and confidently set prices that are fair to you. Don't be afraid to change prices as you move forward. As your skills grow, as your clientele develops, and as the demand for your work increases - you will find that prices changes are necessary.

(3) Network - If you are a social butterfly like me, networking is fun. I love meeting new people and learning about their businesses. If you tend to shy away from events or outings, this is something you are going to have to embrace! No matter what your hobby is, expand your inner circle! If you are an author, start attending events catered to writers, journalists, artists, and copy editors. If you are ready to market your own business, start attending small business events or professional networking socials. You never know, you could be meeting your future client, or someone with the skill set to take your business to the next level. Worried about the cost? Don't be. There are plenty of free networking events nationwide so you need only start signing up for the right mailing lists. Join business groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other platforms. Exchange ideas, support, and referrals. You can even organize your own online meet-ups.

(4) Never Stop Learning - Whatever your skill is, you need to constantly sharpen it. If your passion is handmade greeting cards, sign up for crafting workshops. If you want to pursue a web design business, start learning different platforms. Find any certification programs you can participate in. Interested in becoming a social media strategist, many social media platforms like Pinterest, Google +, and Twitter offer free webinars to show you the ins and outs of their systems. WordPress and Wix both have many online tutorials to help users become experts in their field. When in doubt, YouTube it! You will find it can be a very useful learning tool and not just the #1 source for hilarious cat videos.

(5) Treat Every Client Like its Your Last - I wish I could say that every client experience is the best, but that won't be true. Over the last six years I have worked with hundreds of clients. I have created over 200 websites and countless marketing materials. Many of my clients have become regular customers and good friends, but every now and then you will have a bad experience. It happens to the best of us. That being said, never ever take any action that would hinder your reputation. Always, always take the high road. From beginning to end offer the best customer service you can. Don't take critiques or bad reviews personally. You have to learn to step outside yourself and really examine to see if there is something you can do in the future to prevent it again. As time goes on, you will learn to adapt to change and build better business practices. You will also find that word of mouth can be our greatest source for new clientele. I would say about 45% of my new clients are through referrals.

I believe that every person has a hobby and if they so desire, they can turn their passion into a business. Best wishes to you and your dreams!

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