What does working in a coffee shop have to do with being a freelance writer? Well, not that much if I’m honest. But before I became a published author and full-time writer, that’s what I did for almost a decade.
I worked long days in a variety of cafes, pouring espresso, frothing milk, serving muffins, making staff rotas, and cleaning toilets. I made a lot of friends working in the industry, I had the best nights out, and learned a few good soup recipes over the years, too. But I knew in my heart that I wanted to do something different.
It wasn’t until I had a mental breakdown in my mid-20s that I had time off to reconnect with my passion for writing. I started blogging and, eventually, I was paid to write for magazines, got a book deal, and the rest is history. While I’m not suggesting you need a mental health crisis to find your dream job, I do think it’s possible to turn your creative passions into a profitable business. Here are seven simple steps to help you get started…
Sometimes when we dream about making big life changes, we automatically go into the thought cycle of telling ourselves that it can’t happen because we’re not good enough. Instead of letting this negative self-talk rattle your confidence, it can be helpful to write down all your skills and qualifications on a piece of paper so that you can see for yourself all the amazing qualities you bring to the table.
Next, consider how these skills could be transferred. For example, my years in customer service have taught me how to deal with clients in any industry. My degree in music nurtured my creativity. Doing amateur acting as a teenager taught me confidence tricks I now use in public speaking. What are your transferable skills?
We often think about values in terms of brands or big businesses, but they can help guide us as individuals, too. Sophie Cliff (aka The Joyful Coach) says, “So often, we can feel unfulfilled by our work because it’s in direct contrast with what is most important to us – for example, if you have a core value of freedom, sitting at a desk for eight hours a day is never going to feel great.”
So, think about what your biggest priorities are in life. Is it rest? Creativity? Collaboration? Helping those in need? “Once you’ve started to gather some ideas, you can then start to explore what roles or career paths might feel more in alignment with them,” says Sophie. To get started, consider the moments in life when you feel most like you. What contributes to that feeling?
“By leaning in to the things you enjoy, you’ll create space for an exciting path to unfold”
The great thing about side projects is that they come with zero pressure to succeed. So have fun! Pick a few things that speak to you, and brainstorm some ideas that might one day turn into a business. I certainly didn’t think that being open about mental illness combined with my love for writing would become the foundation of my brand, but when you find the things you’re passionate about, everything tends to fall into place.
“Give yourself permission to experiment,” says Sophie. “We can sometimes believe that we need to have the whole plan figured out before we get started, but the best ideas usually come from simply taking some form of action. Think about a couple of things you’re curious about and start to experiment – whether that’s by reading a book, taking a course, or having a conversation. You might not be able to join the dots straight away, but by leaning in to the things you enjoy, you’ll create space for an exciting path to follow.”
Get a notebook and write down all the things that you need to do to explore your new passion project. It could be anything from watching YouTube tutorials and researching suppliers, to setting up an Etsy store or building a portfolio of work. Now highlight the three tasks that you’re most drawn to, either because they’re simple or because they sound like fun. Now schedule those three things on your calendar over the next few weeks. Repeat this over time, and before long your new project will take shape.
Keeping your passion as a side hustle, while you have financial stability from your day job, mitigates a lot of the risk that comes from a new business. Start by setting small, attainable goals such as one sale per month, then gradually build on them to increase your income. Once you’ve got a few paying customers, then you can figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how you can improve in order to grow the business. Do this by engaging in genuine conversations with your customers on social media, or asking them to complete a short feedback form.
Think carefully about how much you’re going to charge. Will it be a set price in exchange for one item? Or an hourly rate for your services? Would a day rate make more sense? If you work on unique projects, maybe each one requires a customised quote?
Do some market research to get an idea of what other people charge and take it from there. It might be tempting to charge less than your competitors to attract more business, but remember you need to cover running costs, and eventually pay yourself a salary too.
“Instead of investing money, start by investing time in your business. Dedicate a few hours a week to your passion, work hard, and hone your craft”
I see a lot of people spending thousands of pounds on website design, business coaching, and digital marketing support for their side hustle, before they’ve got a fully formed idea – or even their first customer. While there is certainly a time and place for investing money in your business, it can also serve as a procrastination technique. You’ll launch when the website is ready. You’ll launch when you’ve got a bigger social media following. You’ll launch when you’ve completed that online course. The list – and the money spent – can be endless, if you’re not careful. So instead of investing money, start by investing time in your business. Dedicate a few hours a week to your passion, work hard, and hone your craft. Don’t forget to make the most of free resources such as blogs and podcasts too, and before you know it you’ll be earning a profit!
Sophie Cliff (aka The Joyful Coach) is a coach and positive psychology practitioner, focusing on mindset, positivity, and practical action, who helps people live their most joyful lives. Visit sophiecliff.com for more, and listen to her podcast, ‘Practical Positivity’.
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