biz ladies: 5 steps to turn your passion into a paycheck

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Mariah Danielsen, an award-winning graphic designer and marketer who discovered she could build a business around what she loves: weddings, stationery and DIY projects. She is the owner of Oh, What Love and the co-creator of The Create+Connect Project, a program that helps creative entrepreneurs turn their passion into profit. Today Mariah shares some key steps to making the leap into the career of your dreams. Thanks, Mariah, for this inspiring and helpful post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Getting paid to do what you love sounds like a dream, right? Working with clients you love on projects handpicked by you is ideal, and it’s closer than you think.

To create a successful business, there are a few major things you need to figure out before you can truly succeed. These steps will help you focus on what you really should be creating, who you should be marketing to and how to make money. Use this downloadable worksheet to help you through these steps.

Step One: Define Your Unique Talents

First you need to figure out what it is that you want to do in your business. If you really focus on these steps, you’ll have a business that is perfectly suited to your talents and passion. Write your answers on the worksheet.

  • First figure out what you’re great at. What are your skills? What do you do well? Not just in your job but in your everyday life, as well. Whether you make killer pancakes or know HTML, write it down.
  • Next think about your hobbies. In your free time, what do you like to do? When are you the most happy? What do you enjoy creating? What would your closest friends say your best qualities are? Write ‘em all down.
  • Now take a look at your list. In your skills list, circle all of the things you might like to do in your business. What things do you find the most fun? These are the things you look forward to each day — your favorite things about your job.
  • Then look at your hobby list and circle all the things you think people would pay for. Don’t be stingy here; if someone somewhere would pay for it, circle it. This gives you clarity on what will bring you a profit in your new business.
  • When you look at your lists and everything you’ve circled, you should be excited about what you see because these are the things you enjoy doing. Think of different ways you can create a business based around these things. In the space provided on the worksheet, brainstorm all of the products and/or services you can provide with the things you have circled. Don’t discard any ideas — you may find a way to incorporate them into your new business.

These steps are critical because if you don’t absolutely love your business, it will be very hard for you to keep your business thriving without getting burned out.

If you have a business that is centered on what you love to do, you won’t mind spending a few extra hours at night or on the weekend putting the finishing touches on a project.

Step Two: Find Your Ideal Customer

Knowing your ideal customer is a must when you are designing a business you are passionate about because clients that you don’t get along with can zap your energy and kill your attitude toward doing the things you love.

To find your ideal customer, you need to really get to know them. Get inside their mind for a few minutes — feel what they are feeling, experience what they are going through.

Write down everything about them: age, gender, income, likes, dislikes, hobbies and values. Describe this person in detail, even give them a name and describe what they look like to really make them come to life. Write it all down on the worksheet.

Then ask these questions:

  • What are they afraid of?
  • What would they need to have a dream experience while working with you?
  • What blogs do they follow?
  • Who are their key influencers?
  • What conferences do they attend?

Get to know them so well that you know exactly how they feel, exactly how they speak, exactly what they are thinking and where they spend their time.

This can sound like a daunting task, but make sure you take the time to do this. Once you know your ideal customer, you’ll know exactly who to work with and how to market to them.

Step Three: Figure Out How You’ll Make Money

A business isn’t a business if it doesn’t make money, so writing down all the ways you’ll make money can help you decide what prices you should charge and how you’ll profit in your business.

  • Write down how much you’d like to make each year.
  • Break it down by month and by week: Now you have a basis for how much you’ll need to charge for your products and services to make the amount of money you’d like to make.
  • Charge premium pricing: If you try to charge the lowest price in your niche, you’ll attract customers who only want the lowest price, and they are less likely to be loyal to you and your business. If you charge premium pricing, you’ll attract your ideal customers who are happy to pay you the money you deserve, will keep coming back for more and will recommend you to their pals.

Step Four: Outsource Things You Don’t Know How to Do

When you’re first starting out, it may seem like you have to do it all yourself to save money. While this might be true, it is important to delegate tasks or hire them out so you can focus on the main components of your business that will make you money.

Here are a few inexpensive ways to hire out the things you don’t know how to do:

  • Hire an intern or a personal assistant to take care of the everyday tasks that take time away from what you really need to focus on.
  • Hire designers on, and
  • Hire a virtual assistant to handle all of your web and design stuff.
  • Find a friend to trade services with.

Stop doing the things you don’t like to do and focus on what you really love — that’s why you started your biz in the first place, right?

Step Five: Make the Switch

Set a date for when you will make the switch from your old job to your new business. Write the date on your calendar and stick to it because if you don’t, you’ll probably keep putting it off.

This means:

  • Fire all of your old clients (but don’t burn bridges).
  • No more blogging about your old business.
  • No more telling people what you used to do.

Start fresh — get your new website going, order new business cards, change your email footer and start networking with the people in your new niche. Tell everyone what you are doing and pitch to everyone. The more you get the word out about your new business, the faster you’ll get clients and the faster the money will come.

These tasks will give you a clear idea of exactly what you want your business to be, exactly whom you need to market to and how to make money doing the things you are really good at. Completing these steps will help you craft a strong foundation for a very profitable career doing the things you love.

  1. So glad this is helping + inspiring lots of you!

    If you have trouble downloading the worksheet, contact me at and I will send it to you. The pdf is getting all jumbled up for some people.

  2. Kay Perret says:

    I am SO grateful for this post! I have had a business (that I am passionate about) for ten years, but no logo. Thanks to you I hooked up with fiverr and am having a logo done!

  3. Monica says:

    I love these posts – they always give me hope! Can’t wait to read and learn.

  4. Thanks for the great advice all in one place! It always help to have a little push sometimes

  5. Shannon Tate says:

    Thank you for the AWESOME and detailed post. It’s just what I needed today to kick my booty into gear and get me clear on my next steps.

  6. Good picture for this post!

  7. Cheri says:

    You know what? Crowdsourcing will get you hundreds of logo ideas thrown together in 20 minutes or less by designers that care very little about your business because they have a 1/100 chance of being paid for their work.

    You do not need to pay $500 plus for a logo if you dont have the money. I am an experienced designer, and will happily work with and create a logo design for $100-$200 for a small business owner that comes to me with enthusiasm and respect.

  8. Thank for for these tips…and the worksheet! I’m a stay-at-home mom w/ 3+ years of interior design school under my belt but no time or $$ to finish my degree. This Fall my youngest will begin kindergarten & it’ll be time for me to start my next chapter. I know what I’m good at but it’s hard to get it all organized and know where to start sometimes. I’ll definitely be using your techniques to see where my talents take me!

  9. This is wonderful. Just what I need right now. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    To dip a toe into the designer conversation I think finding a student is a very viable option for those who are starting out and/or moving from hobby to business. I’m lucky enough that my sister is working on building her portfolio.

  10. Lisandra says:

    Love this article! I’m actually in the process of starting my own craft business & though the ideas are flowing like crazy through my head is just hard to figure out were to start! I bought this great book “The Handmade Marketplace” and it tells you step by step how to get there (it’s also how I found this blog!); one of the key aspects is blogging. I’ve never blogged in my life and I’ve been looking how to and where to but for someone who’s never done it before it’s a little overwhelming! Then I saw this article and it was just perfect! I like the idea of the worksheet to help you narrow things/ideas down and also the fact that you have to put down a transition date so that you focus on it and don’t post pone it for any reason, something always comes up, but I’m setting the date today!

  11. may says:

    Apparently you forgot to mention how graphic designers are in fierce competition against crowdsourcing and then go on to break your own rule of not knowing your customers.

  12. Nina Gomez says:

    Great article and worksheet! I am a graphic designer and HIGHLY recommend ThemeForest and WordPress Templates for new businesses on a budget.

  13. Nik says:

    This article is just what I needed today. I am starting a business in home decor and life-styling. I have a lot of ideas and have already started building the website (launching in March I hope). I keep back peddling in the confidence department. I have a full-time job and here so many inspiring stories about how people just quit their jobs to follow their passion. Most of them don’t seem to have much overhead though, i.e. a mortgage or student loans. I’m sure I have the talent and skills to do what I love as my only job but making that leap is daunting, and I know it also takes time and planning (maybe your next article could talk more about those realities). Anyway, the tips here were very helpful and encouraging.

  14. Yay!! Six years ago I replaced my corporate high heels with Wellies and never looked back! Today I am mixing work with pleasure!

    I love my landscape/garden business! I also love blogging and turning others on to the land of green!

    Thanks for more inspiration!

    May all your gardens grow,
    Jan Bills

  15. Kelli says:

    I feel like Mariah gave some solid advice and is only trying to help. Unfortunately, you can’t make everyone happy. Successful women don’t have to help others succeed… she chose to and I think that is fantastic and very unselfish.

    @mariah: I am a freelance Interior designer and event planner who is trying to gain momentum this year. Is it detrimental to not focus on only one avenue? I love both and have experience in both… I can’t give one up!

  16. ‘Stop talking about what you used to do’ Great advice! Thanks biz ladies!

  17. @Kelli – I found a way to combine all the things I love to do into one business, each hobby is just a different branch of your biz. Fill out the worksheet for each different branch of your business – it’s definitely okay to love more than one thing :)

  18. Paru Mahtani says:

    Thanks for the excellent advice!! Have been following most of the steps…am getting there..slowly but surely!
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  19. Joanna Swan says:

    Thank you for the tips…part of me wants to start a biz but am really afraid and alone-feeling. How do I branch out into the community? I want to start an art consulting side biz but worry that I dont’ have any clients nor will be able to find any!
    Guess it’s time to study. Thanks again!
    Joanna in Berkeley

  20. We are professionals who are offering their backlinks on fiverr.

  21. Good blog post. I definitely appreciate this site. Keep writing!

  22. I have read so many posts regarding the blogger lovers however
    this piece of writing is genuinely a good article, keep it up.

  23. Pris says:

    Awesome article, I see you support websites crowdsourcing design websites. Maybe I could recommend I started a contest to get a logo for my business BeFit and I was pretty excited about the winning logo.


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