Turning your hobby into a successful business

Whether it's fixing old cars, unleashing your inner artist, or organizing get-togethers for your friends and family, you have a hobby that others find useful. You decide to commodify this pastime and make it into a side business, or even a full-time small business.

Now that you're ready to make the leap, how do you ensure your new company flourishes? Here are some tips on how to transform your hobby into a successful business.

1. Create a business plan and budget. Before you jump into your new business, take some time to get organized. Ask yourself: what kind of overhead and start-up costs are you are going to be facing? Are you going to work out of your home office, or are you going to invest in a brick and mortar shop? Do you have the funds for a start-up, or are you going to need some financial assistance, and how do you go about doing that? Prepare yourself by having realistic answers ready for these questions.

2. Research your customers and how best to reach them. Varying demographics will respond to your business differently, so before you invest in your company, take some time to get to know who your target customer or client is and how best to reach them. Consider your customer-base's age, location, gender, shopping and information gathering habits, and purchasing power.

3. Build a following using social media. It's never been easier for small businesses to connect with their customers and vice versa. Use social media to strategically market your product. In addition to sharing information, create dialogue between you and your audience by encouraging posts with testimonials, online contests, and other opportunities to interact.

4. Decide on a POS system. Whether you are selling out of a storefront, online or out of your home, you need to provide your customers with an easy way to pay for your product. Payment processing services like Elavon provide easy and integrated point of sale systems, and technology to track how your company is performing.