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Turn Your Hobby Into a Business With Pinterest

What if there was a free way to market your hobby, in order to gauge interest, build an audience—and possibly, make money in the process? There is, and it’s called Pinterest. In fact, you may be one of the twelve million and counting registered users of the online pin board site (according to AppData tracking). But if you’re not using it in a way that can transform your your hobby into a potential profit, you may be missing out on a ripe opportunity to transform your finances and career. Here’s how to start:

The Pinterest boom

There are many speculations for the phenomenon that is Pinterest, which may be attributed to the design simplicity, or creativity it inspires. Whatever the reason, Pinterest’s growth has boomed 866 percent from September 2011 to February 2012, according to Mashable. For some hobbyists and small business owners, particularly those who are in a “creative” field, it’s also provided invaluable exposure to a captive audience.

If you’re not currently on Pinterest, your first step is to get on the wait list — or ask a friend using it to “invite “ you to register.  But once you’re “in,” you can start to build exposure for your hobby, by transforming images that you currently have on your site or desktop, into “pins.” With them, you can compile any number of virtual pin boards, which are shared with others.

To get started, install the “Pin It” bookmarklet (which you can find in the “Goodies” section of the Pinterest site), to your computer. When other Pinterest users like your “pins,” they’ll “repin” them; this is the foundation to building traffic to your site with Pinterest. You can also create “pins” from web images that aren’t necessarily original to your hobby or brand, but that enhance what you stand for, as well as “repinning” others’ “pins.”

Create original pins

Images that invoke emotion, whether by humor, beauty, sadness, cuteness, or creativity, grab attention on Pinterest. To best way to drive traffic to your site (and possibly, capture some sales), is to create as many compelling, original pins as possible, for two reasons. For starters, new pins are shown on the home page of Pinterest, providing endless possibility for exposure. Because source data for pins is mined, those that you create from original content will link back to your site.

Linda Boyer of flirtydivatees.com found success on Pinterest, by simply sharing images of her women’s message tees, (think, “I run so I can eat cupcakes,”) on occasion. After about two months, she started to notice an uptick in “repin” activity for tee “pins;” the more she pinned, the more the buzz increased. She estimates that her sales have increased by at least 50 percent, thanks to simply “pinning” images from her product website onto Pinterest.

Turn your passion into imagery

If you’re a chef, stylist, or crafter, showcasing your work with “pins” is easy to accomplish, but if your hobby isn’t as visually driven, you’ll need to get creative to transform what you “do” into imagery. For example, writers might promote a new article by selecting a powerful but brief passage from the work, and transforming it into an image using Photoshop or a similar design tool to create an original “pin.” Those interested in it will then be taken to the site where the writers’ work appears. What you “pin” is up to you but the more interest it capture, the greater the exposure.  You don’t have to be a top-notch designer to create “pins” that people are interested in, but because the sight is visually-driven, it’s worth your time to think about truly interesting ways to turn your passion into imagery.

Make your site “pin” friendly

Making your site “pin-friendly” starts with having images on your site. You can simplify the process further by adding a red “Pin It” button to your site pages and posts. (Visit the “goodies” section on Pinterest for instructions). Once you’ve taken those steps, developing a Pinterest presence for your hobby may not require much intervention at all.

Take for example, Holly Xerri, creator of the Camiband, a small online business that she began as a hobby. She realized the power of Pinterest when an inordinate amount of orders began coming through her website. The trail led back to an image of her Camiband that a Pinterest user had “pinned” to the site, which went viral.  In four days, Xerri had generated 40,000 hits! (As a point of reference, her previous all-time high was 3,500, after her product was worn by a “Today” show correspondent).

Be active

Generating your own pins and repinning images that represent your interests is just one piece of Pinterest. The other is based on social sharing. The larger your “network,” the more attention you’ll potentially grab. Follow the boards of others who are in similar and complementary hobbies, to build a strategic and symbiotic network. Be vigilant about building your own pin boards that complement and encompass what you do and care for. (For example, if you blog about running, create boards that address all aspects of the sport, like gear, nutrition, mental inspiration, and workouts—and integrate as many original “pins” as you can).  The more you pin, the more people will see your activity, and share it.

Know your audience

Pinterest users skew heavily female, and are using the site to be inspired by new ideas, images, styles and products. If you’re blatantly marketing on Pinterest, or taking a half-hearted approach, users will see right through it, so be genuine. Hobbies are based on passion; communicate that interest through your pins and board. You may just stumble into an opportunity to transform your professional and financial life.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.