Turning Your Hobby Into an Online Business? Don’t Make These Mistakes

I started my first online business Geo By Riss as a sophomore in college. I had a passion for outfit styling but especially loved completing a look with stand-out jewelry. As layering jewelry become the new fad, I knew I needed to make my own jewelry to afford the style.

My first interview!

After making a name for myself only locally, I realized that I had limited myself from growing to my full potential. I had one or two sales in those two years come from someone who did not have connections to Baton Rouge or LSU (my college). I had two full years of success, failure, and fun before I decided to reevaluate what I really wanted to do [post graduation]. I’ve compiled a list of what I wish I was more thoughtful about from the beginning in hopes you will avoid making these same mistakes!

#1 Research, research, research

You set yourself up for failure when you neglect research. This can be so difficult for us right-brained individuals who spend more time in lalaland {dreaming up the next big thing, duh} than the data. But the truth is that nothing happens by chance on the internet these days. Stay up to date on SEO to make sure you are ranking high in Google search. Also, understand that social media has logarithms that prevent business content from showing up on feeds unpaid for. These are just very basic examples of imperative knowledge an online business owner must understand. Stay on top of the game because it’s always changing!

#2 Find your target market

Narrowing your target market is important {gender, age, location, interests}, but for a specific online product, a niche market is more viable for your business. It’s easier to find success with the 10,000 potential customers who avidly search for beaded chokers than with the 2 million customers who are looking for bohemian jewelry. [Keep in mind that every jewelry company may be targeting those looking for bohemian jewelry since it’s on trend right now.] The latter has way more competition than the other. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but it will be easier on you as a small business owner to find your niche. When you find your niche market and develop a customer relationship with them, you will build repeat customers. There’s an 80/20 rule…20% of your customers give you 80% of your revenue. Keep that in mind.

#3 Keep your SKUs very minimal

I learned this on my fave show Shark Tank and through person experience. More product does not equal more success! I made the mistake of throwing together a bunch of random pieces just to look like I had more product. Guess what…I’m still stuck with them! I wouldn’t want to buy them either lol. The bottom line is that having 100 mediocre pieces is far worse than creating 5 exceptional, cohesive pieces.

#4 Blog with e-commerce or e-commerce with blog?

If you plan on staying a small, handmade business, I strongly advise you to start as a blog and add a store to it. You have so much more potential to grow a following and community support. Blogs are also a great way to keep a higher rank in Google search. Geo By Riss was an e-commerce site with a blog, and the blog was the least of my worries. See #3 as to why I never had time for blogging…too busy overstocking! In my opinion, it’s easier to start as a blog creating revenue and then grow to an e-commerce site as your business scales with more sales, a higher volume of product, and more social media engagement.

#5 Forget the logo and promo items

Things that don’t make you a business: logo, promo items, abundance of product. Things that do make you a business: sales, LLC. Please do not let all the “fun” stuff blind you!! Yes, it is important to have these things eventually, but do not get hung up on this part. You do not need anything to be a legitimate business except for an LLC and some customers. Get your platforms created and active, and then spend more time creating an interactive site, stellar social media, and great customer relationships. Your priority should be driving traffic to your site and selling your product. {Pro tip: Fiverr.com is the cheapest place to get a logo.}

#6 Spend money to make money

See #1 for the importance of marketing. All marketing comes at a cost and will benefit you in the long-run. Do not expect to ever stop paying for advertisements. Expect to generate more sales from your ads and therefore have more money to spend on advertisement. It’s probably exponential, but this is a blog, not math class. 🙂 Here’s an equation you can use to calculate your marketing budget. Marketing budget percent of sales x monthly revenue = budget [7% x $1000 = $70 a month more Facebook&Instagram advertisements]

#7 Embrace competition

Study your competition, befriend your competition. We have so much to learn from those doing the same thing as us. Also, entrepreneurship is more than creating business. It’s like a secret society of determined, like-minded individuals. Your mind is not in the right place if you think that putting down your competition will get you far. Also, competition is inevitable so do not let it discourage you! You must learn to adapt.

#8 Connect with like-minded individuals

Facebook Groups are the best place to meet other like-minded individuals we discussed in #7. There’s a group for EVERYTHING. This is the best support when you’re feeling doubtful or in trouble. Most of the people in your group have been in your shoes. So if you don’t know something, just ask! If you find the right group for you, the members are so responsive. It’s a lifesaver!

I hope this helps anyone transitioning their hobby into a business. Need any clarification or would like me to dig deeper into a different topic? Comment below with any opinions or questions of your own!

Thanks for keeping in touch. 🙂