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How to turn your hobby into a business

Raise your hand (from your laptop) for a moment if you fantasize — on Monday mornings in particular - about ditching the rather mundane nine-to-five paycheque to start your own creative business. Yes, even if you're already making a few bucks with your one-of-a-kind bags, beauty products or bling, it can be hard to make the leap from doing something as a hobby to doing it for a living.

Fortunately for those who fall into this category, Jenna Herbut has walked in your mid-heel work pumps. That's why the founder of 'Make It: The Handmade Revolution', a crazy-cool craft show/party that hosts events across Canada, recently came up with a new idea: Make It University, a program designed to help "crafty entrepreneurs" take their hobbies to the next level. Herbut's been making her way in the world of business since launching a line of fabric sash belts (Booty Beltz!) fresh out of university. And in the eight years she's been her own boss, she's gone through all the highs, lows and mistakes that come with being a business owner. So how can aspiring entrepreneurs turn their creative efforts into cold, hard cash? [More: Raising capital: 4 things NOT to do (and one important secret) ]

Here are Herbut's top tips...

1) Choose something you love

Running your own business takes time, energy and, most importantly, heart, which is exactly what you'll need to get you through those inevitable low points.

"You have to really, really love it," Herbut says. "You have to love it every day and even on days when you're working in your pyjamas and you really want to cry."

And yes, if you're staking your fortunes on a business, sometimes you absolutely will want to cry. Choosing something you really believe in will give you the stamina to keep your business moving forward...come what may.

2) Test the market

You may think your handiwork is fabulous, but that doesn't always mean it will sell. Herbut recommends that aspiring entrepreneurs start out small and test the waters with friends and family before investing a lot of money into expansion.  [More: Gaganomics: 5 lessons in business from Lady Gaga ]

"When style and taste are concerned, it can be tricky to know if you're off course," Herbut says. "You have to know if there's a solid enough customer base."

3) Learn to sell yourself

No matter what you make, no one will be able to buy it if they don't know it exists. It seems obvious, but Herbut says one of the key mistakes new entrepreneurs make is failing to promote themselves.

"The whole self-promotion thing can be very scary territory for entrepreneurs. It's the equivalent of tooting your own horn and I think that takes a lot of people out of their comfort zone — especially women," Herbut said.

The bottom line: Get over it. Products can't promote themselves. If you don't sell them (online, over the phone, in person, whatever it takes), no one will. [More: More than just a pretty face: Celebrities with a 'social' edge]

4) Get inspired

One of the big perks of being your own boss is also its biggest drawback — you're stuck at home. So while you can skip the commute and spend the day in your PJs, you're also, well, sitting by your undressed, unwashed self all day. It may be relaxing, but it won't provide the inspiration you need to really tear it up in the business world.

"Surround yourself with people who have similar aspirations," Herbut says. "As soon as you start to get out there more, you'll realize that it's a lot easier to overcome obstacles if you work together."

So get up, get dressed and start networking!

5) Take the leap

There's irony when it comes time to really take your hobby to the next level, because while many entrepreneurs dream of ditching their day jobs, most are terrified to take the leap.

But here's the catch-22 with sticking to that steady paycheque: The less time you're able to devote to your business, the less likely it is to grow enough to actually support you. That doesn't mean you should quit your job today. Just know that if you're serious about your business, there will be a tipping point where you'll have to make the choice to either play it safe or embrace possibility and take the plunge. Herbut says fear comes with the territory.

"It should feel scary," Herbut says. "If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with taking some risks." [More: The changing labour market: Why older woman have the edge]

6) Pay yourself

If your hobby was your business, you'd be so happy you wouldn't care how much money you were making, right? Herbut cautions against falling into this common trap and teaches new entrepreneurs how to factor their own time and skills into their product pricing. Fail to do this and your business isn't likely to survive.

"Artisans are so used to creating things that when they become a small business, they still work like they're doing it for fun. They either don't factor their time and skills into the equation at all, or they pay themselves, like, $2 an hour," Herbut says. "It drives me crazy, because they aren't thinking about the big picture."

7) Dream big

Speaking of that big picture, you might assume that entrepreneurs are a conservative, number-crunching bunch of people. In reality, the most successful entrepreneurs are big-time dreamers.

"I believe that thinking bigger can actually help. It allows you to tap into an energy source that gives you even more enthusiasm about what you're doing," Herbut says.

Believe it, baby!

Think your hobby could never turn a profit? Maybe your thinking's all wrong. Herbut says she's seen many artisans trade their full-time jobs to become full-time entrepreneurs. Becoming a savvy entrepreneur isn't something that lands in your lap. It's about getting educated, getting active and believing in what you do.

"It all starts with a mind shift," Herbut says. "Believing you can do something is the first step to actually accomplishing it." is a free personal finance and education site for women.

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