A hobby can be more than just an enjoyable pursuit – it can also make you money. Here, The Mail on Sunday looks at ways to turn pastimes into a profit.
Bright idea: Zoe Pocock used social media to show off her funky furniture designs
HAVE AN IDEA
The best business ideas often start with a personal interest. At this stage you are only held back by your imagination.
Former manicurist Zoe Pocock, 41, from Bermondsey, South London, got her business inspiration from discovering a niche in the market – being unable to find funky-looking furniture at prices she could afford.
Using her skills in home decorating she starting picking up unwanted furniture and renovating it – often painting pieces and decorating them with imaginative bright designs. Soon, her friends were asking if she could make furniture for them.
Zoe says: ‘It started as a hobby. I couldn’t find anything I liked that was not at flat-pack prices so I ended up creating my own furniture.
‘After showing off my handiwork on the internet – using both Facebook and Instagram – people started asking if I could do something for them.’
Zoe’s interest in renovating furniture is part of a new craze known as ‘upcycling’.
This concept is a modern twist on the ‘make do and mend’ ethos coined in the era of austerity during and after the Second World War when people could not afford to let anything go to waste.
It is all about turning old junk into something new and useful – and hopefully worth some money.
Turning passion into profit: Websites like handmade crafts trader Etsy can help you sell your creations
Zoe, who is married with two grown-up sons Charlie, 22, and Alfie, 18, does the majority of her business through the internet. She uses handmade crafts trader Etsy for selling.
She suggests those interested in upcycling should visit local auction houses that often include items from property clearances.
Upcyclers also create bespoke items using old furniture given to them by customers.
Her work has been so well received that last year she quit her job as a manicurist and established local upcycling shop Muck N Brass.
Karen Stylianides, deputy editor of lifestyle magazine House Beautiful, says: ‘There are lots of ways you can make money out of pastimes but upcycling is one of the best – transforming unloved and unwanted pieces into something desirable and stylish.
‘But it requires commitment, lots of practice and a high level of artistic skill. Start with simple projects such as painting wooden furniture.’
She adds: ‘After you have mastered the basics you can then turn your hand to upholstery and more ambitious paint effect projects.
‘It can save you a fortune on buying new furniture as well as potentially offering a cash-generating hobby.’
Upcycling ideas and practical advice can be found in specialist magazine Reloved.
EXPLORE THE INTERNET
The internet provides the ideal route through which to turn a passion into a profit.
The biggest trading arena is online auction website eBay which attracts more than 19million regular users in Britain – 1.5million of these using the website as the basis for a business.
More than 2,000 eBay millionaires have been created since it was launched in 1995. But despite the obvious benefits of eBay’s size there are other websites worth considering.
These include handmade crafts trader Etsy, classified ads website Gumtree – owned by eBay – and internet shopping giant Amazon.
There are basic rules you need to follow if you are to make a success of trading online – no matter which website you use.
Internet giants: Websites Amazon and eBay can be used as the basis for a business
You should always be open and honest. For example, when describing items being sold it is important to point out any imperfections and provide photographs if possible. You should also reply to any online queries promptly.
It is vital not to oversell by describing items as good as new when they are not. Do not be greedy but competitively price products.
Even when an item has been sold, your job is not over as you must ensure it is posted promptly and well packaged so it does not get damaged in transit. If you are sending valuable goods then it is worth posting by ‘recorded signed for’ delivery.
By taking these steps you should build a good reputation as buyers provide a positive rating for your service. It also encourages customers to return and recommend you to others for being trustworthy.
You can list up to 20 items for free on eBay but the online giant takes a 10 per cent cut of your final sales price – inclusive of postage charges.
After you have used up this limit each listing costs 35p. Motors are not included in this deal and have a minimum fee of £10 a listing – and you pay 1 per cent of the sales price.
Although eBay allows you to post 12 photos for free there is a £2.50 charge if you want to provide larger, more detailed pictures.
Etsy charges 14p per listing and a 3.5 per cent ‘transaction fee’ of the final sale price excluding postage.
It is free to advertise on Gumtree but there are charges of typically between £5 and £15 if you wish to boost your sales profile with a ‘featured ad’.
Amazon takes a cut of the sale price dependent on what you are selling. For example, consumer electronics are charged at 7 per cent, books and DVDs at 15 per cent. In addition, Amazon charges a 75p listing fee for putting an item up for sale.
How customers pay will also have an impact on the amount of money you will receive. For example, PayPal – owned by eBay – is favoured for convenience by many customers but it takes a maximum 3.4 per cent cut of the sales price and imposes a 20p transaction fee.
New leaf: Emilie Holmes used crowdfunding for her tea business
Crowdfunding websites such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Seedrs enable you to raise funds for your business. They fill a void left by the high street banks that are reluctant to lend to many start-ups.
Would-be investors are asked to commit an amount towards your fundraising target. If this is not reached they get their money back. If the goal is achieved, investors either get a stake in your venture or other rewards, such as goods made by your fledgling firm.
Although an innovative industry, crowdfunding is not free and providers typically take at least a 5 per cent slice of any money you raise.
Emilie Holmes, 30, from Brockley, South London, used crowdfunding to turn her passion for tea into a business – quitting her job as an account manager for an advertising agency to focus on her business dream.
She says: ‘Although we are a nation of tea drinkers I was appalled at how badly most tea is made – so I felt there was a niche in the market.
‘I ran a fundraising campaign on crowdfunding website Kickstarter and within a week I had reached my £12,000 target – eventually raising more than £14,500.
‘It enabled me to set up a van outside King’s Cross train station in London selling different teas from all over the world under the company name Good and Proper Tea.’
Emilie, who is married to supermarket store planner Tom Forsythe, 30, says that to attract backers she offered a range of rewards.
A donation of £5 meant the donor’s name was listed on the firm’s website; £15 included a goody bag of Good and Proper Tea; while a £1,000 pledge meant investors could see 100 of their friends served free tea from the van at special events.
Emilie adds: ‘Although my tea bar attracted a lot of attention I then wanted more money to take it to the next level – to set up in a shop.
‘So I returned to crowdfunding last year. This time I used Crowdcube where investors get a stake in my company.’
Emilie raised £185,000 and in return investors took a combined 19 per cent stake in her firm. She now runs a Good and Proper Tea kiosk in Shoreditch, East London.
Although crowdfunding can be great at helping fledgling businesses, it is not a way for investors to get rich quick.
Companies such as Kickstarter allow backers to get rewards rather than cash. This is not the same as investing.
Even with crowdfunding websites such as Crowdcube where an equity stake in the business is offered investors should not expect instant returns. There is also a risk of losing everything if the business fails.
REMEMBER THE TAXMAN
If you are running your business as a hobby, you will probably not need to pay any taxes. But if you trade on a commercial basis to make a profit you will need to pay income tax on profits.
Since 2012, some 14,000 letters have been sent by the taxman to traders, warning them that their online activities suggest that they owe tax.
If you are in any doubt it is important to seek expert advice from a local qualified accountant, as ignorance is no defence – you could be landed with a hefty fine if you are deemed to be cheating the taxman.
When you are growing your business you will also have to fill in self-assessment tax returns as a sole trader or set up a private limited company. Accountants charge from £150 for a basic self-assessment service. Personal recommendations are worth seeking.
You can also find local qualified accountants who are members of either the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England Wales or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants online by visiting icaew.com and accaglobal.com.
They can also be found via the websites VouchedFor and unbiased.
Grow your own veg, get out in the air AND save some money
If you enjoy getting out into the fresh air and doing a bit of gardening, then growing your vegetables can be a financially rewarding pursuit.
The average household spends more than £60 a week on food shopping. Although you would struggle to grow enough vegetables to meet all your needs, with shrewd planning you could save on average £10 a week on your shopping bill.
Cookery book author Celia Brooks, 46, and art director partner Justin Marazita, 33, have a local council allotment plot in Tottenham, North London, which has been providing them with food for the past ten years.
Value: Celia Brooks rents an allotment for just £36 a year
Celia says: ‘We grow vegetables and fruit – potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, kale and purple sprouting broccoli. We live in a top-floor flat with no garden but for £36 a year we get an allotment that provides an abundance of crops.
‘It not only tastes far better than supermarket food but means we spend hardly any money on vegetables during the summer months.’
During the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign in the Second World War there were 1.4 million allotments in Britain. But The National Allotment Society says there are now waiting lists with only 330,000 sites surviving.
Costs to hire an allotment range up to £200 a year with the majority owned by local councils. A traditional plot size is ten rods – 250 square metres – which is slightly larger than a tennis court. For many people half an allotment is sufficient for growing vegetables.
You can also grow produce in containers on your patio if you have no garden. Tomatoes and chilli peppers are great starter plants that are quite easy to grow in pots or growbags and do not take up a great deal of space. Lettuces and potatoes are among the best value-for-money crops.
The average family throws away £700 worth of perfectly good food every year, according to charity Waste Resources Action Programme.
Vegetables, salad, fresh fruit and bread are among the most common edibles thrown out for no good reason other than too much food was prepared. Simple planning should put a stop to this unnecessary waste.
You can start by looking in the fridge and cupboards before you head off to the shops so that you do not buy unnecessary goods that are already on kitchen shelves.
The WRAP charity offers advice on being smarter at planning your menus on website Love Food Hate Waste. There is no need to throw scraps in the bin as the charity also offers recipes aimed to help you turn leftovers into fabulous next-day meals.
For details of allotments in your area contact your local council or The National Allotment Society (01536 266576 or website nsalg.org.uk).