Did it ever occur to you that your hobby might be more than just that? Many people don’t realize that some of their most pleasurable sideline activities can be effectively leveraged into a small business. Take Nohemi Moran for example, mother of three from Chicago, Illinois. Nohemi always loved taking photos but never thought her hobby could grow into a part-time occupation. It was only when friends started repeatedly asking her to shoot their events and family gatherings that she clicked. Today, Moran is the proud owner of NC Photography, her own family photography business.
Moran’s story is inspiring but not exceptional. Websites like Etsy, Elance, ArtFire and Fiverr are living proof of a growing “small business movement”, a movement that is sweeping more and more people who want to transform their talent into a viable source of income. These are good times for home-grown and home-made products: even unique hobbies like yarn and felt accessories can be turned into a business. And the timing couldn’t be better: today, the web offers countless, cost-effective solutions for anyone wishing to start their own business. You no longer need a “big break”, a big budget or a PR team behind you. A free website builder and strong presence on social media are what you need to get started. Here’s how to do it.
Step #1: Set Up your own Website
Wix.com is a web platform that allows people to create free websites. Creating a website with Wix is an easy and intuitive task – over 35 million people have already created websites using the Wix platform and you can see some of their work here. Just like you, none of them had previous web design or programming skills – using Wix is that easy. Wix’s templates are ideal for showcasing hobby-related products. They’re visually appealing, have beautiful photo galleries, eCommerce functionalities and cover dozens of different hobbies and lifestyle topics. The template you choose can then be easily customized into your own website, with your own logo, photos and original content. Creating a website is absolutely free but you will be asked for a small fee for adding a personal domain and for removing Wix ads. If this is the first time you create a website,take a few minutes to read these two important posts before you get going: My First Website – A Checklist for Absolute Newbies and How to Transform a Wix Template into Your Website in 3 Steps. If you find yourself in need for some extra help, Wix also has a comprehensive Help Center full of tips, tricks and video how-to’s.
Step #2: Build an Email List Through your Website
One of the most important things you should do when creating your website with Wix is adding to it a “subscribe to email/newsletter” functionality. Collecting visitors’ contact information is one of the only ways for a new small business owner to foster and grow a valuable relationship with their clients. Newsletters, when used in moderation, are a great tool for exposing your clients to new products, offering them special deals, and basically reminding them of your existence. In order to add this functionality to your website, go to the App Market from the Wix editor and add the TargetHero app. This will instantly display an email sign-up form on your website and will allow you to eaisly create newsletter campaigns later on. To encourage your visitors to opt in, make sure you offer them a valuable freebie in exchange for their email. This could be a free sample of your product, a coupon, a recipe booklet, an eBook packed with tips or any other reward you feel will be valuable to your clients.
Step #3: Promote your Website on Social Media
You created a website and now it’s time to promote it. There are many social media channels today but the trick is using only one or two that work best for you and ignoring the rest. Which channels work best for you? Well, that depends. The first thing you need to determine is where your potential clients are likely to hang out. For instance, if the product you’re offering is visually appealing (food, arts and crafts, fashion, photography or hospitality) you want to choose a strong visual platform like Pinterest. Although Pinterest casually presents itself as a”tool for collecting and organizing things you love”, it is actually a tremendous business force, driving more sales per click than Facebook or Twitter. One of the best things about Pinterest is its ease of use. It’s a very straight-forward social platform, orientation is easy and you will feel at home quickly. Another strong advantage Pinterest has, is the tiny amount of written text required for promoting a product. This isn’t Twitter, where a single line can make or break a promotion. However, you do need to remember that today, Pinterest is the most powerful visual platform on the web which means that anything that falls short of an excellent photo will not be picked up by fellow “Pinners”. Do focus all your energy on getting a perfect shot. Here’s a great video with some eye-opening tips on marketing your products on Pinterest.
Facebook and Twitter
If, however, you’re offering a service or product that aren’t necessarily visually striking, you need to consider opening a fan page on Facebook or starting a Twitter account. A common mistake that new business owners make is opening accounts on various social media platforms and spreading themselves too thin. For most people, operating and maintaining more than two social media accounts at the same time is simply too much. So be picky, review both platforms and see which one serves your needs better. Whichever platform you choose, the general idea that is right for both is offering your fans/followers some serious added value. This does not only mean exclusive coupons or deals but also valuable content that is related or reflects on your product/service you’re offering. For example, if you’re offering professional gardening services you could post DIY gardening tips and photos of easy-to-grow seasonal plants. Sharing this kind of information with your online community will gradually mark you as an authority on gardening and people will be more likely to share your posts with friends who have similar interests. The amount of creative things you can do to keep people interested in your account is endless. And your fans/followers are expecting a steady stream of great content for their loyalty.
Check out Flora Couture’s Wix website to see how they use social media to promote their business:
Last Tip for the Road
Growing your hobby into a business is a process that requires vision and patience. It’s also a process that requires getting a broad education. Marketing your website on a limited budget is no less than an art. Make sure you keep yourself in the know by following these excellent resources:
- 10 Quick Tips to Increase Online Sales
- Quick Guide to Facebook Advertising for Small Businesses
- Get More People to Revisit Your Website With These Wix Apps
- Create an Effective Newsletter to Build Customer Relationships
- Optimize Your Website to Increase Traffic
- 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a New Business
- Valuable Tips for Getting PR for Your Small Business
- 10 Tips for Effective Product Photography
- How to Create an Effective PPC Campaign for your Small Business