Is it possible to turn your hobby into a career?


Like many Australians, Bianca Lambert had a hobby that she loved. The craft was her creative outlet and she found joy in making things.

But unlike many Australians, Ms Lambert decided to turn this hobby into something more.

"I really got into making pots … [Around 2015], indoor plants had become very popular. And I realized that there was a real market for this," she tells ABC RN's This Working Life.

With that, Capra Designs was born. Ms Lambert started making and selling pots from her granny flat. Customers and wholesalers became interested and before long, as she puts it, "I just couldn't keep up with the orders."

"Within six months, I was having to outsource production," she says.

A woman kneels next to a small table with pot plants and books.
Bianca Lambert and some of her Capra Designs homewares.(Supplied: Catherine Elise for Capra Designs)

Today, Capra Designs pots and other products are in homes and gardens around the country.

More and more people like Ms Lambert are turning their hobbies, passions, and side hustles into a career. But the process can be fraught and success is far from assured. So how can it be done?

Tip #1: Be a realist

Dan Schawbel is an author and managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, a US-based HR research and advisory firm.

He says first up, it's about figuring out exactly what your passion is and why it's the right fit for you.

"For me, it's about doing as much as you can, as early in life as possible. I believe in experimentation and reflection," he says.

A man in a suit stands in front of a light and a table.
Dan Schawbel firmly believes it's possible to turn a passion into a job.(Supplied: Dan Schawbel)

But from there, he says a healthy dose of reality is needed.

"Not every passion leads to an income that can support you … You have to be realistic. Sometimes things are better left as a hobby than a career. And that's perfectly acceptable," he says.

Tip #2: Talk to those who have already succeeded

Chances are, there's someone (or many people) out there who's already successfully turned your hobby into a career.

Mr Schawbel says these individuals can provide invaluable advice and insights about the transition.

"People who have really lived and breathed that whole process are going to know [so much]," he says, adding that their advice "is almost like taking a big shortcut."

"And it's not just that they can give you critical information. They can also help connect you … to other people who can move you along quicker."

Tip #3: (Really) know the market

Capra Designs' Ms Lambert says one of her biggest pieces of advice is not to try and turn your hobby into a career overnight.

Ms Lambert says especially with crafts and other "hands-on" hobbies, "it's working out whether it is actually a product that people can purchase for the price that it's worth.""Don't give up your day job straight away, you really need to test it in the market, see how it goes," she says.

"No one's going to buy a $3,000 scarf, for example, because you spent 100 hours on it. It's about making sure your product is valued correctly and not undercutting yourself," she says.

Ms Lambert says this relates to an even bigger point: planning is paramount.

"Thinking out the entire process, not just the beautiful creating part [is so important]. I suppose that's the difference between a hobby and a business — it's not just creating the fun thing, it's actually thinking through every single process."

Tip #4: Know what happens if you succeed

Grace Watkins is another Australian who has successfully turned a side hustle into a career.

Ms Watkins was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers when she decided to move into the video game space.

A portrait photo of a woman in her 30s in a white top.
Grace Watkins took three months off work to try a passion project. It became her new career.(Supplied: Click Management)

In 2017, she co-founded Click Management, a talent management agency that now represents some of Australia's biggest gaming and technology influencers.

"So young creators that are making video gaming content on Twitch or YouTube or other social media platforms — we represent them."

But for Ms Watkins, success brought some unexpected challenges.

"As the business grew, suddenly we had 15 employees, and we had a huge rent bill each month and it felt like a lot more weight was on my shoulders," she says.

"I suddenly felt very unprepared and overwhelmed and like I wasn't qualified to be there. And I did suffer a bit of burnout. It took me a while to come back from that."

She echoes Ms Lambert's advice of the importance of "thinking ahead, planning ahead."

Ms Watkins says this is especially true when considering the initial people to hire.

"I think it's definitely an area when you should pause. Think about hiring someone senior that's then going to be able to help you structure a better team … Hiring 'slow' is really important."

Ms Watkins says the main advice she'd give people who hope to turn their hobby into a career is: "Test it out first. Don't feel like you have to jump in the deep end all at once."

Tip #5: Maximise digital opportunities

Mr Schawbel points to one major development that makes this transition much more possible than ever before: the growth of social media, digital platforms, and another tech.

And sometimes the digital platforms are themselves the hobby-turned-career, like in the case of Ms Watkins, as well as a new class of professional gamers."[This has meant] we're able to create all of these new opportunities where people can build their careers straight from their homes."

"Who would have ever thought that today, people would be getting paid millions of dollars to play video games and livestream that in front of an audience online?" Mr Schawbel says.

Mr Schawbel says on the digital front, and with all areas of a new career, "if you don't know as much as your competitors, you won't be as successful."

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