Following your heart as well as your head? Turning passions into profits is a great way to bring more enthusiasm and purpose into your professional life, but it’s not without its challenges. From getting ahead of yourself, to lack of critical distance — there are some key passion pitfalls you’ll want to avoid, especially when it comes to marketing and business growth. Are you changing from full-time to freelancer? Starting your own business for the first time? Here are some tips that anyone venturing into a passion project needs to know — it’s not always going to be plain sailing ahead … Make a conscious decision about starting your own business If you have decided to go out there and start your own business, you need to consider whether the experience is going to be worth it. Starting your own business is a challenging and stressful undertaking, so you have to be 100% conscious about the responsibility you’re taking on. Have you researched what impact starting your business will have on your pensions? What about work/life balance? Do you need to hire a team, and where will you find them? Have you got enough budget for marketing? It’s important that you face all the challenging issues that running a business may bring up before you set out and start buying domain names and commissioning logos. Once you have made the conscious decision that you are ready and prepared to run your own business, the challenges will be a lot easier to handle. Distance yourself with mini brand audits If you love something, it can be hard to get enough critical distance from your ideas. A pet brand that’s based around your family pet might seem like a good idea, but in order to appeal to a wider audience, you may need to dial down the personal elements of the story. Marketing is all about setting up a dialogue between your brand and its audience: you need to know when to take a step back. Get trusted advisors and business associates to critique and comment on your creative ideas (even if it hurts). It’s important to be level-headed when it comes to making marketing decisions. They can put you on the spot and test out your ideas for you. Break your brand down in order to put it back together again. Get critical on the smaller elements of your brand — does this email really say anything? Is this headline going to work? How does my blog compare to others? Do I have enough products in stock to justify this category? By conducting mini-audits of your business, you will be able to focus more clearly on individual elements (useful brand audit template here). Don’t lose your mojo If you don’t believe in it, no one else will. With a passion project, the operative word is ‘passion’: drive, fire, hunger, and motivation. You need to reconnect with your initial enthusiasm on a regular basis in order to drive your ideas (and business) forwards. Marketing is going to be your lifeline in the early days, and you need to have the energy to be able to do Facebook lives, network, and write guest articles. Different people get energy from different things — learn what brings you motivation. It could be networking, conferences, meeting with customers, social media, blogging — even a holiday! Just ensure that you are still doing the things that keep you happy (and sane). Just because it’s a passion, doesn’t mean it needs to be 24/7 all the time. If time management is getting you down, project tools like Evernote can help bring sanity back into your days. Diversify or specialize for financial growth Financially it makes sense to always be thinking about your business a few years down the line. How are you going to grow? What is going to make you stand out in the marketplace? There are two distinct growth strategies that small businesses can start with— diversification and specialization. Whichever route you go down, ensure that your whole marketing strategy is built around these financial frameworks. Being a specialist usually means being able to charge higher fees, and it may lead to a more streamlined brand reputation. If you are known as a specialist, you’ll also find it easier to get referrals. At the same time, being too niche may mean that people find it hard to place you and don’t actually understand what it is that you do. Being a specialist is not the same as using jargon everywhere and anywhere. Diversification is a great way to ensure that all your eggs aren’t in the same proverbial basket. If you start your business with an eye on different revenue streams, you will be building a solid financial foundation. Experiment with creating products, service packages, or sub-brands, and see which arms of the business bring in the most money. Learn how to maximize your returns on investment, and don’t be afraid to walk away from something that’s no longer profitable. Get a head start and grow fast It can be easy to sit on a business or creative idea for a while, but markets move fast — and so should you. Some of the best businesses out there have come about quickly and re-actively; they can be a marketer’s dream! In order to really give your business a kickstart, why not buy up a business that’s already doing well and put your own stamp on it? Or collaborate with someone else who has similar dreams and aspirations? Having a co-founder or buying up an existing brand are both great ways to quickly grow and make your dreams a reality in no time. In today’s online marketplace, trading businesses and websites is becoming easier and easier. From Facebook groups to free websites like Exchange — shop around for established brands and businesses that fit the bill. It’s the perfect opportunity to validate your business idea further and see what the competition are doing. Use your marketing skills to take what someone else has started and take it further by refining it. Choosing a co-founder is a delicate matter – you need to ensure that you share similar values and visions, and that you have a joint agreement on the company’s financial and cultural future. People won’t share your vision (and they shouldn’t have to) Even if you are 100% convinced that your business idea is the best thing since sliced bread, banks and business advisers may not see it in the same way. Don’t get too carried away with the passion elements of your business idea, and always keep your business pitches professional. (At the same time, Dragons’ Den has also taught us that some passion can help ignite your pitch). Same goes for staff — you want people who work hard and who you can trust, but you can’t ask every single staff member to be a die-hard brand or product advocate. For some people, employment is employment, and you have to keep a healthy sense of perspective when hiring. Just because someone is nodding along and saying all the right things about your ideas, doesn’t mean that they are automatically qualified for the job. Know when to ask for help New entrepreneurs and business owners are notoriously bad at asking for help, and admitting when they need some external input. You have to be savvy about sharing your ideas with people, but there is such a thing as being too protective. These days, there are plenty of easy ways to get legal, marketing, HR, financial, admin, health & safety etc help on a consultancy basis. Whether you have a part-time finance director, or pay a monthly fee for legal help, there are loads of ways for small businesses to strategically outsource. Don’t sit there in a mountain of paperwork, tearing your hair out — get help. Especially legal, HR, and financial tasks are best left to the professionals. Passion project underwear brand Thinx is a great example of why start ups need HR sooner rather than later. Passionate leaders need a whole team of experts to advise on the day-to-day running of a growing team. Mark Cuban famously said “don’t follow your passion, follow your effort”. Though I might not 100% agree with this statement, he does have a point. Passion is never a replacement for hard work, sound commercial judgement, and teamwork. Don’t get blinded by your own brilliance, and ensure that you bring other people who you can trust along for the ride sooner rather than later.