7 pitfalls to making your hobby a business

A business requires planning

Your chances of success will be greatly diminished if you don't do some planning before you launch your business.

Researching prices of comparable products, establishing policies for returns and exchanges, deciding which forms of payment to accept and setting up applicable merchant accounts are all tasks that need to be completed before the first orders are filled.

For online sales, you’ll also need to photograph the products, inform customers about possible variations in colors and textures of handmade goods, and estimate shipping costs.

Maintaining good records that include the cost of supplies and shipping as well as the revenues generated — and, if needed, involving an accountant to prepare business tax returns — is an often-overlooked element of running a small business.

"Initially there is an expectation that the business will be as fun as the hobby … but it really morphs into something different," says Ann Johnson-Stromberg, communications and special projects manager for the Norcal Small Business Development Center Network in Arcata, Calif.