When it comes to the things we love doing, most of us don’t need extra motivation. We all have hobbies, ways of decompressing and re-energizing our lives. That said, the time, effort, and energy it takes to truly dig into and pursue a passion project goes above and beyond a hobby.
Working on a passion project can be one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time. There are a lot of reasons to build this kind of project for yourself anyway. For one thing, chasing your passions actually makes you healthier. It relieves stress and helps you to invest your time in something meaningful that pays personal dividends over time.
Investing time in a passion project also builds your skill set. It makes you more marketable and improves your ability to do other things- whether that’s growing in your job, or in ways outside of your current work. Employers like candidates that are well-rounded with a range of interests.
With all that said, we’re an Ecommerce blog. We’re not just interested in chasing passions- we want to dig into the ways that your passions can become a meaningful income. So how do you turn your passion project into a paycheck?
Growing Your Passion Project into a Thriving Business
- Think outside the box
- Set realistic, focused goals for your passion project
- Connect your passion project to an audience
- Set yourself up for long term success
1. Think outside the box
Start by exploring the whole range of ways that you can create products out of your passions. Regardless of your set of interests, there are a ton of ways to approach monetization and, so often, the best path is not the most obvious.
Funk band Vulfpeck has built their career on non-traditional methods for approaching the music industry. Rather than using record sales as the primary method of supporting their music, Vulfpeck fund themselves via a range of creative methods, and in turn have expanded their passion project into a growing business.
Band member Jack Stratton partnered with audio plugin creators Goodhertz to create the Vulf Compressor. It’s a (really cool) software tool for musicians that the band uses to fund their projects. The band also sells Vulf Mono, a font that they use in all of their work. Choosing to use a product line that is not music to support music has a long history (think band t-shirts) but Vulfpeck has taken it to the next level and seen a lot of success.
So as you set about monetizing your passion project, ask yourself:
- How will I fund the parts of the project that need funding?
- What tools will I need?
- How will I get my project out to the masses?
- What does my audience look like, and what need can my passion project meet for them?
- What unique experience have I gained in pursuing my passions, and how might others find that helpful?
Let’s say, for example, that you picked up an instrument a couple years ago. You’re not an expert player by any means, but you know that ins-and-outs of the learning process intimately. You could create resources to help music teachers better assist their students based on your own experience. You could start a blog that explores and reviews music equipment for beginning musicians. If you have technical skills, you could build websites for bands and musicians.
The trick here is to remember that you have other skills that can support your passion project. You can engage this skill set to inspire and inform your project and bring it into the world in a unique way. You don’t have to be a cookie-cutter to bring in the dough.
2. Set realistic, focused goals for your passion project
The scope of your passion project will be vital to its success, so it’s important to decide early on what you think you can realistically achieve. Remember: you’ll be juggling all of your day-to-day responsibilities as much as ever. Work and family obligations will still be there, and so will bills, house cleaning, and a thousand other distractions. Whether you’re already running a business and looking to bring a passion project into your product line, or starting something new from scratch, you need a set of goals.
Start by estimating the amount of time you could feasibly put into your project. It might be worth breaking this down on a weekly basis initially, then zooming out and looking at how much time it adds up to over the course of a month. If you have an existing business, this is time that you’re adding onto your existing commitment.
The goal here is to see where you can block time off to focus on your project, then start building yourself a schedule. Again, it’s vital to be pragmatic (not optimistic) here. Lock down the time that you absolutely know you can set aside. You’ll be able to steal more time on the side as well, sure, but for planning purposes you need a conservative estimate to work from.
Once you have a sense of the available time, think about what you can create and manage given those constraints. You may find that you have a lot of availability and can be more broadly ambitious, or you may need to pick a laser sharp focus and commit to it.
Ask yourself these questions to help shape your ideation process:
- Will I be working on this project alone or bringing a team on board?
- What can I outsource to others? What do I know I will need to do personally?
- How much can I invest financially into this process?
- Where will I find funding beyond that if need be?
- How will I keep my existing operations running smoothly through this process?
- Is this an altruistic kind of project that would interest people enough to help fund it with GoFundMe or another crowdsourcing service?
- Am I hoping to release a single product, or build up an entire product line?
With all of this in mind, you can start making decisions about your product and the shape of your overall business.
Bring back the passion
One more note: let’s say you already run a business, but you’re not feeling super energized about it. Maybe it just doesn’t capture your imagination anymore, or you feel like you want to do something more. Bringing in an exciting new creative element is a great way to re-energize your relationship to your business.
Your passion project doesn’t need to be something you make, though. Social entrepreneurship, or business that seeks to solve broader issues in the world, can be a great mindset to reignite your relationship to your hustle. Think about ways that your business can give back to the community and take steps to update your practices with that in mind.
3. Connect your passion project to an audience
The beauty of the world wide web is the ability to connect with people regardless of physical location. You don’t have to be open for business during specific hours, and you can work on your project from anywhere.
The trade-off is that standing out and pulling in traffic online is difficult. Once you have your goals nailed down, you need to find a digital niche for your passion project.
If you’re already running a business, chances are you’ve done a lot of the work here already. The trick, then, is to spread the word about your pivot far and wide.
Begin by asking: Is it possible to start local? Are there other businesses or organizations in your area that you can connect to? Is this the kind of product that could benefit from a pop up or a release/launch party? If you have a physical storefront, consider hosting an event celebrating the release.
Once your passion project is alive and thriving, think about that interconnectedness that the internet offers. Tapping into the right audiences can help your business break through sales goals and social clout barriers that seemed unattainable before. However, now that your passion project is a legitimate business, it’s time to think bigger. Sales are key, but aim to create brand loyalists and fans, rather than just customers.
Social media is vital for any business that has an online presence. If you’re not careful, though, it can become a massive time-suck. Figure out which platforms are worth investing your time and effort into and focus on those. Remember: these can become powerful selling channels, but first potential customers need to see a reason to engage with them. The content that you post on social needs to provide value and not just try to sell your products. Explore your passion project more broadly on these platforms. Dig into the history, the process of creation, and the reasons that you’re excited to bring it out into the world.
Every brand needs a home. Building a website comes with plenty of concerns from the beginning, but you’ll also need to think ahead. You may not be selling online initially (maybe your focus is just getting the word out about your project), but you will need Ecommerce compatibility eventually. It’s easier to make smart decisions at the beginning than to attempt to retrofit Ecomm onto an existing site. Look for a platform that offers the features you need now with the ability to grow and scale into new features over time. Keep in mind the price point as well. You might not be able to afford a lot at the beginning, so look for multiple tiers that give your business room to grow. We’re confident that Selz is the best Ecommerce platform for small business.
Become an authority
Why should potential customers buy from you specifically? And how will they find your site? Establishing authority online involves both bringing out your personality and expertise on the web and proving to search engines that your site is reputable and worth pushing higher in search results. The two processes are intimately linked.
Use guest posting to drive traffic to your site and build your ranking in Google. Building up a base of content on your own page as well is a great way to both get new eyes on your products and explore your passion project more deeply yourself.
Remember that you don’t have to rely exclusively on written content. Think about the different ways that you can get across the value of your product. Try a variety of approaches and gauge how much engagement they generate. A Facebook Live session, series of YouTube videos, or a downloadable PDF guide could all be beneficial to growing your business. The trick is to find the communication method that works best for your audience, then lean into it.
4. Set yourself up for long term success.
Congratulations! You’re in it for the long haul. It’s exciting right now, but there are going to be days when you’re just tired, when you wonder why you chose such a difficult path. Burnout is a real concern for entrepreneurs selling online because it takes a ton of work (and a lot of energy) to juggle so many priorities. Over an extended period of time, the temptation to fold becomes greater. However, finding success with your passion project is like a marathon, not a sprint.
Ask for help when you need it. Look for integrations and other tools that can help you to streamline your processes over time. Find mutually beneficial partnerships to open up new marketing channels and bring in new customers. These are all methods for taking some of the pressure off of you. While the easy way isn’t always the best way, remember to do what you can to lighten your load. You have plenty to juggle, anyway.
Keep in mind the reason you started your passion project in the first place. It’s easy to get frustrated and lose track of the initial spark that got you going when your dreams start to feel like obligations. Write a mission statement or a series of guiding principles for yourself and keep them somewhere that you can consistently look back at them. Let these ideas, the “why” of your business, guide you over time. Find communities of creatives and get involved- these will likely become your biggest cheerleaders, and your conversations can open up opportunities to vent and share issues and crowdsource solutions.
Finally: remember to spend unfocused, fun time with your passions. It’s so healthy as a creative to play and explore without any real goal, especially when you’re pouring so much of yourself into a bigger project. Set little challenges for yourself, complete with arbitrary rules to guide the process. Spend time decompressing with friends and enjoying your other hobbies.
Passion got you this far. Hold onto it.