Recently, I saw this article over at where the author highlighted several people who turned their hobbies into successful mega businesses, and it got me thinking. Aside from these superstars, plenty of people try and fail to make a buck off their favorite pastimes. What’s the secret sauce?

Though not every hobby will net you many millions of dollars it is certainly possible to make a profit off those activities and interests you enjoy and even to build a sustainable business model around them. What separates those who make it from those who don’t? Here are five factors to consider:

1. Determining if you truly want to start a full fledged business or just earn money on the side. Are you prepared to start up a company? Can you make the necessary commitment of time and money? Do you have any experience running a business, and if not, do you know where to go to get it? Starting a business doesn’t just happen on its own. It typically takes a tremendous amount of time, money, skill, and expertise to get it off the ground and keep it running over the long haul.

2. Developing a viable business plan. Though it may be better to start a business based on a hobby than something else due to the fact that you’re already connected with it, you understand the vernacular, the concepts, the community, and the demographics of the market, not everyone is business owner material, and not every hobby can be translated into a sustainable business. You need a plan- one that’s based on more than just hopes and hunches.

3. Figuring out how to monetize your hobby. Even if there a captive market looking for the information or services you can provide, can you turn that demand into an income? Knowing how to properly monetize your hobby-based business can be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face. If you are really intent on finding something then make sure you are connected to your target market and be prepared to think outside of the box. For example, an avid stamp collector could make a business of creating an online community where particular stamp buyers and sellers can come together, or he or she could develop some kind of stamp collecting guide, or for-pay webinar series.

4. Understanding the growth potential. As more and more people are exposed to your products or services, you may find that your operations need to expand to accommodate an increase in demand. This expansion may take the form of increased space or productive capacity, an increase in the number of hired employees, or an expanded product or service line. Either way, while you may not be able to predict how popular your business idea may become at the beginning, you will need to recognize the growth potential as it comes and be able to make the strategic decisions that will take your business to the next level.

5. Don’t leave your enjoyment at the door. As your hobby-turned-business grows and develops, pay special attention to your levels of enjoyment and passion. You don’t want your the new-found work and responsibility to ruin the pleasure your hobby once gave you. The fun doesn’t have to get lost, and if it does, then stop to re-evaluate the situation.

In short, your hobby could be a potential goldmine of income, but to bring these earnings out, you need to act smartly. And that means you need to start treating your hobby not just as a pastime, but also as a business.