What separates a business from a hobby? My husband and I watch a fair bit of the show, Shark Tank, and often one of the investors will explain the difference to wannabe entrepreneurs. It is one thing to have an idea, and I am in no way diminishing the importance of that crucial element, but there is more to building a business than just having something to sell.
In order to transform a hobby into a business yes, you need a product or service. But you also need a path to market, a sales strategy, a plan for what to do with revenue once it is received, a plan for what to do when the money doesn’t flow as it should, and a plan for what to do when faced with an outright threat. There is so much to do that having the actual innovative spark is almost more window dressing than requirement. That is a minimum of five parts plan to one part innovation!
While at my day job, I usually deal with established companies releasing their next big product offering, but occasionally I get the opportunity to meet with the independent idea person. Typically these are people fresh from one of the nearby university technology incubators. These people a fun to meet with because they are so incredibly passionate about their product, but really have no idea how much they don’t know about the challenges of bringing an invention out of their garage.
One of the biggest mistakes they make in their plan is forgetting that though they might have a great rapport with the person at the other side of the table, at the end of the day, “its nothing personal, just business.” I have to watch as they are forced to question their own faith in their product and their existing partners. For example, patents are only as good as they are enforceable and established companies usually have much deeper pockets along with capable supply chains and effective sales channels.
The reaction varies. Sometimes the innovator’s ego doesn’t allow him or her to accept these questions. They get angry and defensive. Of course their product will sell itself and they will become overnight millionaires. They are such geniuses that no one could possibly find a way to build it cheaper, quicker, or in a way that gets around their patent. The public will never accept a lower quality solution at a cheaper price – they will demand the real thing. All of their suppliers will deliver and all their customers will pay on time just because they have put some words together on a piece of paper and called it a contract.
Some throw their hands up in despair. They give up on their dream the moment they are asked to answer tough questions. Others listen with open minds. They are humble enough to realize that they don’t know all the answers and that their product may not be ready for the mass market. Perhaps it is not in their best interest today to accept that large purchase order with all its many zeros. These are the people who will buckle down and return to pitch their idea another day. They leave even more committed, but with their eyes wide open.
As much as my novels are the children of my imagination, I have to treat my writing as a business, and books as its product. While so far I have found there to be quite a bit of cross over, I recognize that I am new to this industry. I recognize that I can’t rely entirely on instinct alone. What I believe is my best strategy may well be wrong.
In fact as I near the final weeks of writing the first draft, there are a number of things that I intend to do differently this second time around. I enjoyed the speed to market that self publishing offered, but I do think that this time I am going to at least query a few other channels. Yes, I will likely get rejected, as that seems to be a recurring pattern in the industry, but I’ll never know for sure that I picked the course best suited for my own business needs and personal style if I don’t at least ask for other opinions from time to time.
- Should Your Hobby Invention Idea Become A Business? (inventorspot.com)
- The Patent Troll Tragedy (growthology.org)
- Making the Most of Creativity (kauffman.org)
- Just because writing is a business doesn’t mean it’s a good business (jeffmarkowitz.wordpress.com)
- New Podcast Up: The Props Under the Platform (writingishardwork.com)
- Writing Business/Hobby? (sushrutthorat.wordpress.com)
- Should Authors and Illustrators Form an LLC (and Other Business Questions)? (sylvialiuland.com)
2 thoughts on “Separating Business from Hobby”
Good to meet another creative head that realizes that once the lovely dreamy part is over there has to be a concrete plan to market.
This post was great. I also love ‘Shark Tank’ which knocks seven bells out of it’s predecessor ‘Dragon’s Den’.
There is a quote from an entrepreneur I rather like which goes, ‘be humble, you don’t know what you are doing. No one does.’ – it is a good reminder about providence. Even with all the experience and money behind them the sharks sometimes get it wrong. Even without doing the research, business plan and the cash flow charts the dreamer occasionally still makes good.
I completely agree with you on the comparison between Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den, and that’s a great quote. Thank you very much for sharing it. You’ve got a great blog by the way. I really enjoy reading your posts too.