What you do after hours could boost your bank balance and your health, as these four women discovered. These are their tips for making your passion your profession

As anyone who indulges in a happiness-boosting pastime knows, zoning in to what you love is more rewarding than zoning out to, say, another re-run of Private Practice. But besides the fulfillment factor, hobbies are officially good for our health. According to research published in the journal Heart and Vessels, they can improve our quality of life by “alleviating stress, improving daily activity and normalizing autonomic nervous system function” – that’s science-speak for a healthy heart, respiration and perspiration rate. And, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, hobbies can even reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a hearty pay-off for simply doing what you love. And there’s more. Hobbies can boost your bottom line too, and in these gloomy economic times, couldn’t we all do with a cash injection?

Description: Follow your heart and business will start blooming

Follow your heart and business will start blooming

According to Ernest Boateng, operations manager at the South African Institute for Entrepreneurship: “When people tap into their skills and follow their heart, they can turn a domestic activity into a commercial one because it’s so much easier to address challengers.” Joburg-based HR consultant Roelien Henry agrees. When we enjoy what we do, we are committed and more motivated to work harder. Her tip? Start small. “Avoid large start-up costs until you have tested the market and built up a clientele.” Do this by marketing your product or services to friends (set up a Facebook page or blog) or showcasing your wares at local markets. Take these creative examples…

Hone your craft

Description: I’ve sold hats right off my head in the street

A year ago, 25-year-old copy editor Lila Stapelberg-Richter from Cape Town followed in her costumier mother’s footsteps and started making hats for fun. “I realized I could make a business out of it,” says the milliner, who now makes hats for brides, horse races and everyday wear. “I’ve learnt that you don’t need all the bells and whistles to get started,” she says. “You can make do with very little until your business starts to grow organically.” For example, to cut down on business promotion costs, Lila wears a different hat, fascinator or decorated Alice band every day of the week. “I’ve sold hats right off my head in the street!” she laughs.

Tip-off: Set short-term goals. “These will motivate you on a day-to-day basic and provide you with a sense of satisfaction when you reach each milestone,” says Henry. For example, Lila aims to get a certain number of orders per month. She admits that this is a big challenge, but says that staying positive is essential. “People are inspired by anyone who chooses to do their own thing, and I’ve found that they like to support new ventures.”

Get going: Sell your handmade or vintage crafts online at www.etsy.com. By registering, you get to list your items for free and purchasers pay you directly to ship to anywhere in the world. You can even get your own URL for your “shop”.

Find your zen zone

Description: Find your zen zone

Until recently, 30 year-old Deevya Vasson was a junior beauty editor for a magazine in Cape Town. A qualified hatha and pregnancy yoga instructor, Deevya has turned her pastime into her full-time passion. “My mother was a yogi and I grew up doing yoga with her,” says Deevya. “I decided to do a teacher’s training course because I knew it would give me the deeper knowledge I was yearning for, while giving others the tools to move more freely within their bodies and in life.”

Deevya was lucky enough to get an after-hours enough to get an after-hours teaching post at the studio where she’d studied. She also began offering classes to company employees and gave private lessons. Gradually building up her client base while working full-time meant that when she handed in her resignation, Deevya was in a strong position to turn what had been a sideline business into her sole source of income.

To succeed you need to be prepared to put in the work, says Deevya. “Keep studying and attending workshops in your spare time to update your knowledge. The more variety you are offering, the wider your reach.”

Tip-off: Hobbies that have a positive impact on your health can have an automatic motivating effect, says Henry. But the motivation brought on by the people she teaches is just as important, says Deevya. “It’s so heart-warming to see my students open their eyes at the end of my class, looking so peaceful and relaxed – it inspires me to continue teaching.”

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