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How to go from hobby to side hustle

BY: SGI|14 May 2019
BLOG| My future career

Many hustles stem from hobbies, which makes sense given that a hobby is usually a passion project. After the success of our, “Every day, I am hustling” blog piece released earlier this year which explained the meaning of hustle and how to start one, we thought we would explore this topic further.


If you really love doing something, you want to do it all the time, which makes it much easier to turn it into a business. The chances are you might be working a little longer than eight hours each day – in the beginning especially, when you’re probably doing some online courses to brush up your skills as well! But it’s all worth it once things start happening and you see your little side hustle grow.


Take Babalo Kohli for example; by day he’s a PR professional, by evening, a photographer extraordinaire and founder of photohimself. We asked him some questions on his journey from hobby to hustle:


Q: Why you decided to turn a hobby into a business?

BK: Photography is something I started as frivolous attempt to try to be relevant in high school. Back then, I was using an entry level mirrorless camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T3. The more I took pictures, I suppose the better I was at it. I started to monetise it in 2017 when I was more entrenched in adjusting my camera settings effectively and editing using Adobe Lightroom. Taking pictures and editing takes a lot of time, and I wanted to stop shooting for free since I saw there was an opportunity to make money from it.


Q: What’s the journey been like so far?

BK: It has been incredible. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot both South African and international celebrities within the entertainment and music industry. This includes Bonnie Mbuli, Youngsta, Mi Casa, Hugh Masekela, Amber Whittington, Ava Pearl, Masego and FKJ amongst others.


Q: Biggest challenges?

BK: One of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced is not having a good quality camera when I needed it most. I resent other photographers saying, “It doesn’t matter what camera you have - it's what you do with it”. I think it absolutely matters – otherwise I would still be using the same mirrorless camera I was introduced to seven years ago.


Q: Highlights?

BK: In 2015, I started working for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF), and later, enrolled for their photojournalism workshop as part of the festival’s extended programme. With much determination and drive, I became one of the photographers for their Sustainable Training and Development Programme. Two years later, I was one of the main festival photographers - a unique experience with sought-after networking opportunities, where captains of industry, government representatives and celebrities mingle.


Babalo’s story is inspirational, and he has some take-outs for other aspiring entrepreneurs. Firstly, assess whether your hobby has the potential to be turned into a full time (or part-time, money-earning) endeavor, that you could scale up, down-the-line. Try to do an objective poll to assess whether people would pay for your particular product or service to gauge interest. Take some samples to stores and ask store owners if they’d be willing to stock them. And ask around to see what people would be willing to pay.


It’s also critical to assess the competitor landscape – if no one else is offering what you’re offering, ask why… Is demand low or are you just ahead of the curve with a product or service no one else has thought of yet? Consider what skills you might need to thrive, and which online courses could help bridge the gaps.


Think you’re on to a winner? Here are a few ways to make the transition from hobby to hustle:


1. Be Prepared

For most of us, financing a new business venture is the biggest hurdle. By taking a financial management course, you can honestly assess how to make your idea financially feasible. Plus, you’ll know how to run your company’s finances down-the-line. Importantly, you will need to consider what the impact will be on your taxes. Every cent needs to be reported to SARS and these small sales could bring you into a higher bracket for taxes.


2. Be Efficient

Get smart with your skills. Think laterally and consider how you can use your talents in new ways to diversify your potential products and services. If you’re a writer, can you join a freelancing platform like Fiverr and offer your wordsmithing to online clients? If you’re a photographer, can you sell images online to earn a little extra cash to put towards the new camera you’re coveting? Make sure you optimise your time, have a plan, and think strategically, with a big-picture approach.


3. Be Aware

Starting a side hustle comes with its own very particular set of risks. Think about the challenges you’re likely to face, write them down and scenario-plan solutions for each potential pitfall. Some basic risk management training could be invaluable for this kind of problem-solving.


4. Be Compensated

Your friends and family are likely to be your first clients. It will probably feel weird to set pricing and ask for money from them. Do your research on what the market rate is and be prepared to ask for compensation. Thankfully, there are many services that will simplify the exchange, like online payments, snaps or debit transaction capabilities.


5. Be Happy

Remember that this all started with something you love doing. You want to continue to feel joyful as it builds into a business. If it becomes too serious, you may need to reclaim your passion just for yourself and leave behind a stressful situation.


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