Editor's Blog

Is it a Business or a Hobby?

June 13, 2010
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

“Is it a Business or a Hobby?”

That’s the question I ask contractors that I speak to at workshops, webinars or in teleseminars. I even ask my clients that when we begin our one-to-one work together.

Usually, I want to know that the trade or trades they do are being done by more than one person. Because if only one person can do this work, they need to stop kidding themselves about running a business when they’re really supporting a hobby!

If this sounds like you, ask yourself what would you do if the one person who can do this work gets hurt, quits or worse yet…dies?

It’s only a business when multiple people can do the same set of tasks in a similar manner and get the same consistent positive results.

It’s only a business when you can make money at what you are doing. So, if you continue to lose money over a period of time, you’re not running a business you’re supporting a hobby.

Even our friends at the IRS would tell you that what you’re doing is just supporting a hobby if your company fails to turn a profit year after year. Too many contractors delude themselves by staying afloat by borrowing money or putting in their own money year after year. But it’s only throwing good money after bad until you commit to what it takes to turn your hobby into a business.

Here are 7 steps to move from having a hobby to running a profitable business:

  1. Know what to charge for each task you do so you make a profit.
  2. Track your callbacks so you can see if you’re trying to “Fill the profit bathtub with the drain wide open.”
  3. Make sure you document in writing how you do each of your tasks so it’s objective and repeatable.
  4. Make sure you cross-train your staff to handle multiple tasks and preferably multiple trades.
  5. Market yourself based on the value added you bring vs. strictly the low price you can charge.
  6. Get testimonials from happy customers that validate how good you are so it’s easier to sell to prospective customers.
  7. Know your financials so you can either get more of the calls you seek, get better at the calls you run or dump the tasks, the trades and the customers that never make you money.

Are you ready for more ways to move from having a hobby and running a real business?

Here are just 3 more steps to reach the next level:

  1. Create an Organizational Chart that has the boxes [not the titles] it takes to run your company and show your staff that there’s a career path at your business vs. just a dead end job.
  2. Write up the activities that each position on the Org. Chart is responsible for and make it measurable as to whether they are or aren’t doing what you desire.
  3. Get the staff to prove to you they can do whatever task is in their box by doing a side-by-side with them and having them either do a “Tell Me” or a “Show Me”.
    Note: A “Tell Me” is getting them to say something to you that convinces you they know how to handle a task.
      Ex: Give me the first 3 steps you’d follow as a CSR when answering the phone. Then, listen and see if it convinces you they know.

    Note: A “Show Me” is getting them to do something in front of you that convinces you they know how to handle a task.
      Ex: Have the Accounts Receivable person input an invoice into your computer or have the Accounts Payable person pay a vendor.

Do this well enough and you will graduate from supporting your hobby to owning and loving your profitable business!


You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

The 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition

A look in photos at the 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition, which was held from April 24-26 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center and Spa in Frisco, Texas.


Yes, it's only February now - several weeks or months before the thaw depending on where you live - and hopefully this winter has been a profitable one for your business during the historical slow season. But now's also the time to start planning for the busy season - spring - so that you can hit the ground running. In this episode of The Hitman Advertising Show, John Braun shares tips and tricks on how to make this spring your most profitable yet.
More Podcasts

ICS Cleaning Specialist Magazine


2015 March

The March ICS issue features content on cleaning services, green chemistry, encapsulation, terrazzo floors, educating clients and new products.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Janitorial Work

In addition to residential and commercial carpet cleaning, do you do any janitorial work on the side?
View Results Poll Archive


The Carpet Cleaner's Book of Unlimited Success! (ebook)

Don’t worry about the recession or about your competition.  Now you can be the owner of over 400 ways for carpet cleaning professionals to make more money and get more jobs!

More Products


Director_Buyer.jpgThe premier resource and reference guide for the cleaning and restoration industries.

Click here to view


facebook_40.png twitter_40px.png youtube_40px.png


Truckmount.jpgEquipment listings and specifications from the leading industry manufacturers.

Click here to view