Back in 2008 I started my own "Virtual Buzz Assistant" business without even knowing it! I was marketing and promoting something I was especially excited about. My city, Ypsilanti Michigan.
Jump forward to the present. What started out as a hobby promoting my community's business's, organizations, and events is now my main source of income. Clients are referred to me by word of mouth and online. They spread the word about my work, telling their friends, family and colleagues how I helped to support their business. Today I am doing what I love, creating online content! I write blog post's and articles, admin on social media sites, and edit and produce multimedia content. Best of all I'm getting paid for it!
How I Turned My Hobby into a Business
In the midst of going through a major life transformation I took a long hard look at my life and asked myself, "when were you the happiest?"
It was nearly 20 years ago, back in the early 90's. I was 19, had a successful retail shop that I started out of my home, and I produced and hosted a public access television show. I had no idea what I was really doing, but it was fun, had meaning and it payed the bills. So there was my answer. Do what makes you happy!
I wanted an audience again. Being on television and working for myself made me super happy! These are the first initial steps I took. I hope my story might inspire you.
Decide what makes you happy and what your strengths are.
Get yourself a notebook and keep it near you at all times. Write down all the things you have done over the course of your life that made you happy. Recall complements you have received over the years. Think about all the things you did that gave you satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
For me, I knew I wanted to be on TV again. I loved producing videos and telling interesting stories. My strengths include being able to interview guests, help them to feel confident and relaxed while getting their message across in front of the camera. I also know that as long as the topic is interesting to me I can promote it, successfully. People have routinely told me over the years that my enthusiasm is contagious, especially on camera.
Research free and inexpensive resources.
Once you have a list of your strengths and activities you enjoy, the next step is to come up with a list of resources available to help support you. For me, being frugal is good. It makes me more creative. I began by researching what resources supported me in the past.
The public access television station was my biggest resource. It offers free classes on everything you need to know to host and produce your own television show. I took the free classes and became a certified volunteer producer. The station certifications allow any local resident to produce television shows in the studio and the opportunity to borrow remote equipment so that you can tape shows anywhere and air them on television for free!
Look at what non-profit organizations are available in your community. Libraries are a huge asset. Depending on the size of your community, many libraries offer a variety of free classes, workshops and various events. Other resources available include free online classes.
Reputation is huge. Build on it.
In addition to taking the T.V. Production classes I gave myself a virtual assignment. To write business reviews in the community. I spent a day downtown and visited my favorite shops, restaurants and lounges. I took pictures, jotted down notes, interviewed the owners, employees and customers. I published the reviews on my blog and made sure to go back and let everyone know their business was featured on my blog. This gave me a positive reputation within the communities small business district.
With the success of that first "buzz" assignment, I decided to create more work for myself and I turned my local blog into a virtual field trip of sorts with me as the fun, edgy enthusiastic tour guide. I even went a step, well a few miles farther and created an entire character persona to represent my blog and town. Someone between Lady Gaga and Flo, the Progressive Insurance girl.
When starting out, it is not only good karma to donate some of your services to qualified leads, but it is here where you begin to create buzz about who you are and what you do. Through volunteering your services:
- You are creating a reputation for yourself and business.
- You are producing and preparing examples of your work for your online portfolio.
- You are generating quality testimonials and positive customer reviews.
The most refreshing part of my story is that the pink hair is not enough to turn away even the most professional clients. In fact my character grabbed their attention. It made them want to learn more about my business, and through seeing examples of my work they are intelligent enough to notice I am darn good at tailoring content and my image to specific markets. In other words, I can be professional and/or entertaining, depending on the market of each individual client.
I hope my story will help inspire you to live your dreams. I am proof that a hobby can turn into a business. But, it does require us to take some chances and to be risk takers. You never know how it will turn out until you try.
Tanya Veilleux was awarded the 2011 Community Spirit Award by the city of Ann Arbor, Community Television Network. She is a freelance small business consultant, currently working with Direct Incorporation a company that assists with the core needs of a start-up business.