How do you convert your hobby, dream, or passion into a successful small business idea? Even if you are not an artist, this excellent article in the NYT Shifting Careers column about Artistic entrepreneurs showcases artists who made the leap and lessons learned. Science has proven the connection between job satisfaction and matching your personality with self-employed careers. Once that match is made, you can work on starting your own business if that’s right for you.
In a self-employed career, whether it’s in art, social work, or as a scientist, here are some lessons learned from others’ success:
Embrace new technology and make it work for you. Getting started on the Internet is relatively cheap. But one of the biggest challenges to starting a business is the “Google” business model, where advertising is supposed to be the holy grail – and your sole source of revenue. With the proliferation of free Internet content, open source software, etc., making money can be a challenge when people expect everything for free. Not everyone can drive traffic to their site with the words “green, sex, cancer, secret, and fat.” Get creative about providing something of value people will pay for.
Business (making money) is not evil. I know it’s hard to say this after Wall Street’s implosion. But ideology only gets you so far (and so poor). I’ve written before about my late artist grandfather who was trained in the early 20th century to distrust and disdain commercial art. And yet it was his beautiful commercial work, America's first children’s moveable books, that supported his family during World War II. Making a living trumps ideology – but they need not be mutually exclusive.
Job experience in different fields can be an asset. For people who have changed careers at least once, your experience – working with different types of people and exposure to a variety of customer needs can really work to your advantage. You get needed perspective about what people want and need – which is what business is there to provide.