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3 Ways to Turn Your Hobby Into A Business

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Do you have a hobby and you go, wouldn’t it be nice to make money from this so that I don’t have to work my dayjob anymore?

I’ve read so many stories about successful entrepreneurs who said that they started out ‘for fun’ and it eventually snowballed into a five-figure, six-figure business.

And of course, that got me all inspired to start my own business. In fact, my first business did start from a hobby (hand-lettering), but as far as I know, I’m not a millionaire. (Yet.)

All jokes aside though, today’s newsletter is about figuring out how to JUMP into a business that’s based on something you love doing. I’ve got three ways you can approach this!

 

1) Help other people to get into the same hobby.

One of my aunts love quilling. At first I was like, quilling as in making quills? What the heck IS quilling??

Turns out quilling is the art of rolling paper and putting them together to make decorative designs.

She bought a quilling ‘starter kit’ from another ‘quiller’ (not sure if that’s what they’re called) that has a few tools and strips of coloured paper.

Which is pretty neat! My aunt could learn from Youtube videos, but getting the tools themselves wasn’t so easy. It was great that she didn’t have to hunt down the tools herself before she could get started.

So let's say that your hobby is something that requires tools or special components. Why not sell those tools that could help other people who would also want to get into the hobby?

You can:

  1. Make the tools or components yourself.
  2. Put together your own 'starter kit’ filled with recommended brands so that people could start out with quality stuff.
  3. Import hard-to-get stuff and resell them.
 
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2) Teach people the basics of the hobby.

If your hobby is the kind of hobby that requires a level of skill, you can also teach people that skill so that people can enjoy the hobby more.

For example, painting. If you can teach people how to paint basic flower shapes, they're going to enjoy painting a whole lot more!

Case in point: me. I don’t know anything about watercolour painting. So every time after a ‘painting session’, I end up feeling totally gloomy because the end result is complete crap.

Nobody enjoys an activity where they totally suck at it. LOL.

So what can you do is maybe plan a class or workshop where people can actually accomplish something small but concrete. You don’t have to turn them into Picassos.

Just give them the confidence to start that hobby!

 

3) Apply your hobby in another context.

Your hobby in itself may not be something that you can make money from. For example, if you like origami, people might not line up just to buy your paper cranes.

But if you can apply your hobby into another context or situation, there’s money-making potential!

Using the origami example, you can make origami flower bouquets that can be used to decorate all the guest tables at a kenduri. So in a way, you’re personalizing your origami hobby to fit the market.

 

Anyway, I'm not saying ALL hobbies can be turned into a business. There's probably a small percentage of hobbies that aren’t aligned with any kind of market.

BUT, unless you have a really unique, totally niche, what-the-heck-is-that hobby, you could definitely explore how you can turn something you already love doing into a business. Who knows, maybe you could eventually do it full-time. :)

What’s your hobby and how do you think it can be turned into a business? Let me know by commenting!

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What I Learned from Japan About Branding: Japanese People & Wrapping Paper.

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I was in Tokyo for 9 days for a holiday with my family. It was GLORIOUS. But when I got back to the office, I had 41 missed calls. ( Well, that’s not too bad, considering.)

Anyway, my observation from shopping around Tokyo? Japanese people really, REALLY like wrapping paper.

When I bought knick knacks and souvenirs from several stores, the store assistants would always insist on wrapping each thing INDIVIDUALLY with wrapping paper. Refer to photo below for a sample:

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When my mum bought cute pouches for her sisters, the shop owner asked, “Present?” And then proceeded to putting each pouch in a plastic sleeve, put ribbons and ‘Made in Japan’ stickers on each of them.

Sounds pretty excessive and wasteful in a way, doesn’t it? It’s like the Japanese are using MORE plastic, MORE paper for the packaging than what is absolutely necessary.

Also, when they were wrapping my stuff, I was like “Ummm are you done?” I wanted to leave but it took a while for them to finish. But then I thought: Maybe it’s not excessive.

Maybe they’re on to something here.

Here are my thoughts:

 

1) Some products deserve that special treatment.

I was buying things like pretty handkerchiefs, keychains and stuff, not groceries. So it kinda makes sense for them to be wrapped. They’re not "every day" products.

It’s like, some things deserve to be wrapped, some are fine in plastic bags. Yaknow?

Since souvenirs have that extra sentimental value + cost relatively more, it makes sense that the shops would take an extra step to make them look more special.

This would definitely work for you if you’re selling something that’s also ‘special’. Like a handmade item, something that’s made with love or something that you want to make more premium.

I think it's a great investment to make for your brand. Anyway, if you go with wrapping paper like the Japanese, you’ll do fine with:

  1. Thin paper in your brand colours / patterns. Choose something like tissue paper rather than anything thicker. Makes it easier to wrap around your product.
  2. A small sticker / tape to secure the wrapping. It can also be in your brand colours / patterns.
 

2) How you present your product reflects on your brand.

Wrapping paper is not just wrapping paper. The packaging is not pointless ruffles.

When the shop assistants wrapped my stuff, the act of wrapping itself represented the values of ‘Made in Japan’. Craftsmanship, quality and pride.

It’s as if Japanese people have this nation-wide conspiracy to make people fall completely in love with Japanese brands, and not just the products. And it worked! (I bought a lot of knick knacks.)

It’s like when my grandma takes out her nice cups and plates when we have guests over. She would NEVER serve guests with our everyday plates, even if logically her cooking will taste the same.

The whole principle behind it is that how you present your creation (or product) reflects on your brand itself. If you present it beautifully, people can appreciate the product AND the brand.

But if you ignore the presentation aspect, people may appreciate the quality of the product, but they may not fall in love with the brand.

It really depends on how you want people to perceive your brand. What kind of values do you want to present? See if you can infuse those values into the whole buying process from A to Z.

 

3) The experience doesn’t end when the customer hands over the money.

Logically, wrapping the products or putting them in nice packaging AFTER the customer has bought them isn’t necessary. The customer has already paid. Put the stuff in a plastic bag and say bye-bye. The customer will enjoy the product any way.

And if you asked me: Hey, do you want wrapping? It’ll add an extra 50 sen and 3 minutes. I’ll be like nah, it’s fine. Not necessary.

Most customers won’t say yes to something that adds cost and time to their purchase. We always want a good deal. We don’t want to spend more on things that we don’t think is necessary.

But when I got back home, it honestly felt so nice to unwrap the souvenirs. It felt special, AGAIN. I already know what’s inside the wrapping paper, but it felt special all the same.

There’s nothing wrong with a plastic bag of course. I’m not even someone who cares if her presents are wrapped or not. But unwrapping my things made me happy!

My point is: you may need to make that nice unwrapping experience ‘obligatory’ for your customers. Make the act of unwrapping or opening the packaging of your product a great experience. As if they’re opening a present for themselves.

This isn’t an excuse to charge high prices just because of nice packaging. But if your ‘unwrapping’ or opening the packaging will create a legit experience that customers will enjoy, go ahead!

Here’s some ideas for your wrapping/packaging:

  • Scented tissue paper wrapping.
  • Nice solid box.
  • A note for the customer.
  • A cute sticker.

These are just my ideas, so feel free to brainstorm according to your brand’s personality!

Over time, your customers will begin to think that your brand and products = special. It’s like when you go to a really fancy restaurant. The food may be really good, but it’s the decor, ambience and the way waiters treat you that make the meal extra special. And whenever you want to feel special again, you go to that fancy restaurant.

 

At first, I thought that my things were wrapped and packed so nicely because I was clearly a tourist buying souvenirs. But I saw that other Japanese customers also got the same treatment. So I guess it’s their culture.

I don’t think that as Malaysian brands are doing anything wrong. But there’s something to learn from Japanese people and their wrapping paper, for sure. 😊

Do you think wrapping products is a worthy investment for a brand? Let me know by commenting!

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A Simple Diagram to Help You Place Your Brand in the Market

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Hey! I know I haven't been around much in May, and now it's June. I'll tell you about it in my next post, but TODAY...

I have a very neat thing to show you.

I've told you that I work in the financial services sector right? To be more specific, I work in business financing. And one of my jobs is to prepare contracts for entrepreneurs whose applications for financing have been approved.

Along the way, I've read a lot of cool business proposals. Different industries. Different kinds of businesses. I've always made a point to read through all the proposals to see what business-related stuff I can learn.

And one day, I saw this diagram that immediately lit a huge lightbulb over my head:

What's the actual name of this kind of graph...thingy?

What's the actual name of this kind of graph...thingy?

It's a great way of looking at the kind of brands that are ALREADY in the market and how your brand fits into it.

You can also picture it as a map. Where is your brand right now?

I'm not an expert on handbags, but I sure do know that it's fricking impossible for us mere mortals to get a Hermes Birkin bag. I've read somewhere that you've got to know people -- JUST TO GET ON A LIST.

Super duper exclusive, right? And the price matches that level of exclusitivity.

On the other hand, Longchamps! They're not considered cheap, but I guess I wouldn't call them a luxury handbag either. And though I always see people carrying Longchamps everywhere, they're not exactly available at your local boutique or mall.

The biggest lesson I got from this diagram is that your brand can't be everything. It can't be accessible, affordable, exclusive and expensive all at the same time. You've got to find your PLACE in the market.

Basically, you need to choose what you want your brand to be.

The diagram up there is about handbags, but you can definitely do it with any other industry or product. Food, skincare and even notebooks (ahem, Moleskine).

Anyway, comment below and let me know which industry/product you most like to analyze!

P.S. Salam Ramadhan!

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Rebranding 101: Freshen Up Your Brand Look

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I'm back this week with another aspect of rebranding -- visual rebranding. I'm jumping straight to this because this is THE process that people think about when they hear 'rebranding'.

(Read the previous posts on rebranding: the overview of rebranding and how to rebrand your offerings)

Visual rebranding is about changing how people's eyeballs SEE your brand and changing what they THINK about your brand.

The usual goals of visual rebranding are...

  1. to make sure your brand is the same on the outside and on the inside. (E.g. My brand is fun, but it doesn't look fun.)
  2. to make your brand more attractive to the people you're targeting. (E.g. I'm targeting tweens, so the colours must be colours tweens like. Like purple and pink.)

For me, when I rebranded early last year, it was No. 1. I wanted to make Narrativity more fun but also more modern.

Here's a snapshot of what Narrativity looked like BEFORE rebranding.

My basic brand elements were OK, but they didn't quite reflect what I had in mind.

So instead of doing an overhaul (major rebrand), what I did was I TWEAKED (minor rebrand) my brand elements.

This is the current Narrativity AFTER rebranding:

The differences are subtle, but I managed to get the *vibe* that I was looking for.

You don't need to start from scratch when you want to rebrand. In fact, I advise you NOT to start from scratch. There's always a few things from the existing brand that you can use for your rebranded brand.

Not only does it save time, there's also no risk of turning OFF your current audience / customers. They'll see that it's still you, but just an updated version.

So I have one special but simple tweak that you can do for your own brand without having to know graphic design. You can apply it to your blog or social media or even your product packaging.

BUT...

Before you start, you need to know what you want to achieve with the rebranding. Think along the lines of this sentence:

"I want my brand to be more......."

More what? More feminine? More gender neutral? More fun? More serious? More adult? More childlike?

And when you know what kind of more you want, you'll know which aspect you should change from your existing brand.

OK, on to my #1 tip that I recommend to EVERYONE.

 

My #1 Rebrand Tip: Change up the colour combo in your colour palette.

If you ask me, colours are the BEST part about branding. I love my neutrals as much as any other person, but there's nothing like some colours to really GRAB people's eyeballs. You know what I mean?

I've explained about colour combos in this blog post, but basically all brands use a COMBINATION of colours, rather than just one colour.

For example, Red & Yellow for McDonald's. White & Blue for Samsung.

So if you feel like your current colour combo is boring / lifeless, try introducing a NEW colour into your colour combo.

This new colour should help make your brand more [keyword].

For example, I want something more cool!

I want something more feminine!

I want something more vibrant!

There's so many different vibes you can achieve just by adding a new colour to your current colour combo. Explore more combos using this nifty colour palette generator.

 

Bonus Rebrand Tip: Rebrand for a limited scope.

Sometimes, you may want to do something a little out of the ordinary, but you don't want to make it permanent. It's like the concept of temporary tattoos.

You like how your brand looks right now, but you want it to look different for a bit.

It's always possible to rebrand for a limited scope while allowing your brand to remain unchanged. For example, your brand looks the same, but your product looks different.

Or, your blog looks the same, but your blog post looks different.

This is what make up brands do when they're releasing a new range of products with a particular theme or in collaboration with somebody. 

The brand itself looks the same. Same logo, same colours on the website. But the product packaging will follow whatever theme they want for that new range of products.

This is what I do for my ongoing Whoa, Harsh! series. It's a series of blog posts that are supposed to kick butts. Imagine a really blunt friend giving you her harsh opinion without trying to soften it up.

(Read: One Insulting Thing You Should Stop Doing If You Don't Blog Consistently)

For this particular blog post series, I kept everything else the same but changed the background colour to a darker colour. You know, for that 'darker' vibe. 

So this definitely stands out compared to my usual bright colours for other normal blog posts.

Even if you're not a graphic designer, it is possible to change things up. In fact, I'd say you're the BEST person to start the visual rebranding process. You're the brand owner, so you'd know best what kind of change your brand needs.

Just keep thinking about this sentence: I want my brand to be more [keyword]. You'll do just fine. :)


Read more about rebranding!

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Rebranding 101: How to Rebrand Your Offering

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I didn't like what Narrativity was before this.

When I provided branding services, my branding package was RM700. The package included the logo and sublogos, brand colours, brand fonts, brand patterns, 4 illustrations and 2 collateral items (packaging, etc).

Good money right?

But when I got the payment, it completely TURNED ME OFF. The money didn't give me joy -- it only reminded of the stress.

That's when I knew I couldn't offer branding services anymore.

Last week, I painted an overview of WHAT you can rebrand for your brand. One of it is offerings and that's what I'll be focusing on today.

Yes, you definitely have an offering.

All brands have offerings, aka things you OFFER to people.

  • PAID offerings, like your product or service.
  • FREE offerings, like your blog posts, vlogs or social media content.

And sometimes, along the way, you just don't feel happy with what you're offering. You either grow to hate your offering, or you just feel...bored. And empty.

But despite that, it's natural to think, Is it OK to just change?

Let me tell you now: It is always the RIGHT time to rebrand your offerings.

You don't have to be stuck with the same offerings until you close up shop. It's *your* brand. It grows with you and it's not static.

So the question now is -- what steps can you take to rebrand your offerings? Let's look at the THREE major steps that you can take.

 

Rebrand #1: Change to a new income stream (or package it up with your current offering).

An income stream is your brand's source of income. It usually comes in 3 different forms:

  1. Client Work (or service) -- Baking and decorating a personalized cake for a customer.
  2. Product -- Selling ready-made cakes.
  3. Teaching -- Conducting a workshop on baking cakes.

All three examples above involve a cake, but HOW the cake's offered to people is different.

All of the income stream come with their own pros and cons, but you might be suitable for one income stream more than the other.

For example, you might be someone who's friendly and loves solving people's problems. You're also assertive and you don't take people's shit. The interactions with clients give you energy.

Then Client Work might be a perfect fit for you.

So if you're currently just selling products and feel that it doesn't excite you -- change it to Client Work. You're still with the same "thing", but you're offering it differently.

Alternatively, instead of choosing between income streams -- package two income streams together for a really dynamic offering.

I'm still very, very passionate about branding. If you know me in real life, you'd know that I'm a pretty easygoing person who prefers to agree with whatever other people are saying.

Branding is the one topic that I can really argue about with other people. BUT, I can't do Client Work because it puts a crazy amount of pressure on me.

SO...I've shifted to my own combo of Product + Teaching. My Starter Branding Kit for Bloggers is a Product that *teaches* people about how to brand themselves as bloggers.

Still about branding, but a combo of Product + Teaching instead of Client Work. :)

OK another example. Let's say that you still like Client Work, but you keep running into problems where your clients don't understand how much work goes into baking really good-looking cakes.

You can package up your Client Work with a little bit of Teaching. Each cake order will now come with an educational booklet on baking. Like baking techniques or differences between ingredients.

This way, you get to mitigate the cons of the income stream and enjoy the pros more.

>>>> If this is the route you want to go for, list down all your strengths and weaknesses. And then change / package it up with the income stream(s) that plays to your strengths.

 

Rebrand #2: Widen or narrow down your target customers/audience.

Target customers/audience are the people you want. The people who are supposed to buy from you or enjoy your free offerings.

Knowing who to target allows you to brand more effectively. Like, a restaurant who wants to target fine-dining customers won't brand itself like a fast food restaurant. (Think Nobu vs. McDonald's)

But sometimes, you can accidentally target a customer group that is TOO BIG or TOO SMALL.

Let me give you an example.

Business: Event planning

  • TOO BIG: Everyone who wants to hold an event.
  • TOO SMALL: Birthday parties for little boys who only like Superman.

If you target a group that is TOO BIG or TOO SMALL, your offering won't be personalized / tailored / special enough.

  • TOO BIG: Different events have different requirements to be successful. If you don't specify what you can do, customers won't be confident about your ability to handle their particular event.
  • TOO SMALL: What about little boys who like Ironman? Are you gonna say No to them? (Plus, you won't get to really exercise your creativity.)

BTW, this also totally applies if you have a blog about event planning.

>>>> In order to fix your targeting, you need to answer these questions:

If your group was TOO BIG, think about all your past experiences. Was there any particular situation / type of customers that you liked? When did you feel most confident?

If you group was TOO SMALL, look at your current offering and remove some of the 'filters'. Think about other groups of people who might enjoy what you're offering. Or people who have the same problems as your current customers.

 

Rebrand #3: Test stuff using 'Special Projects' and 'Limited Editions'.

Rebranding can be very scary. You just don't know if your current people (customers / audience) will enjoy your new offerings. And that's enough to make you not want to take the first step.

As I mentioned a little bit in the last email -- rebranding doesn't have to be ALL OR NOTHING. You can tweak your brand or overhaul it completely, it's up to you.

And you can do tweak or overhaul under the concept of Special Projects or Limited Editions.

Let's say that you have a blog about fashion. But lately you've felt like you wanted to write about your experience as a parent. Two completely different things right? Would your fashionable audience enjoy reading about parenting? (You just don't know)

What you can do when you want to introduce a new thing to your offering is by introducing it for a limited amount of time, aka the Special Project.

Instead of changing completely from fashion to parenting, you write a blog post series on parenting. Three blog posts that talk about your experience as a parent, maybe merge some fashion and parenting tips together (how to dress up your child for Malaysian weather?) and that's it.

At the end of the three blog posts, you add: "Did you like this series? Let me know in the comments!"

Ask for feedback from your audience. And then analyse these two things:

  1. Did my audience enjoy the [Special Project]?
  2. And most importantly, did I enjoy the [Special Project]? Did it feel right?

If YES to both, great! Dive in! Otherwise, you might want to experiment a little bit more by doing more Special Projects.

(In the coming emails, I'll touch on the unfortunate effects of rebranding -- like having customers not like your rebranded brand -- and how to deal with it.)

It's the same thing if you have PAID offerings. Instead of replacing your inventory with totally new products, add some Limited Edition stuff.

For example, instead of launching a new fashion line with a completely different style (think rocker chic to modern corporate), why not come up with a Limited Edition item or two?

When you want to sell something new than what your people are used to, it's always good to test the market first before investing a lot into the new product.

If the response to your Limited Edition item is good, then you know what you can do. :)

>>>> This is one of my favourite methods! Be creative and find ways to merge two interests/passions to create your own unique, creative THING. You can do it!

 

Which route would you like to try? Let me know in the comments below! :)

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