Quitting your day job to pursue your creative career is something that many of us dream of, but not all of us know how to attain. The prospect is so amazing and exciting, yet it can also be scary and sometimes a little daunting. This article will provide you with the essentials needed to make that leap and share some honest advice on what it's really like once you do.
I'm going to be super up-front right here at the start because there's no use sugar-coating anything: quitting your day job to pursue your hobby is not a cake walk. It's not going to be easy; it will definitely be a challenge. You are going to have to work hard and make sacrifices and maybe even shed some blood, sweat, and tears. OK, well maybe not blood. This is just the reality of the situation.
But now that we've got that out the way, I can safely say that if you do decide to make this leap, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Nothing feels better than watching something you have created entirely by yourself grow and blossom. And it is the best feeling EVER waking up every day and thinking, “I get to do what I love today, and get paid for it!” or, “I made this happen for myself, by myself”.
The feeling of pride and the rush of self-confidence you will get from realising this is unparalleled! After seven years of working towards it myself, I still get a huge, silly grin on my face when I think about it.
There is nothing stopping you from turning your hobby into a career. You just have to take the right steps and prepare yourself carefully and thoroughly for the path ahead. We're going to help you get started here, so let's go!
Make The Decision
The first thing you're going to need to do is actually make that all-important decision to quit your day job, and focus your efforts on building up a creative career for yourself. Maybe if you're reading this, you've already made that decision, in which case, I'm so excited for you!
If you're just toying with the idea at the moment, that's pretty exciting too. It's a big decision, and you need to make sure it's the right one for you so take your time to decide - there's no hurry.
When I was exploring the idea of making the leap myself, I made a big list of considerations, and some pros and cons. Getting it all down on paper helped make the decision-making process easier.
Some things I considered were: What are my aims and goals for doing this? Can I realistically handle the workload and effort required to do this? How much time can I devote to my business? Will I have family support (financial or otherwise) to help me along the way if I need it? Will I need an office or studio space to work in, and if so, where will I get one?
By asking myself these questions and attempting to provide myself with answers to them, I was able to make a well-informed and solid decision, which ended up being YES! Bring it on!
So you've made the big decision, which is awesome! Now, what are you actually going to do? You may have a hobby that you'd like to turn into a more solid career, or have a vague idea of a business venture that you'd like to try out. This is a great start.
Now it's time to develop these things into something solid that you can create a living from. Every business should have a business plan. A business plan gives you a structure to work with as your business grows - think of it as your road map to success. It will also come in handy if you're trying to get financial backing.
The idea of writing a business plan might be a little daunting but it's really not. Here's a really great resource for writing a business plan, courtesy of the extremely helpful Biz Ladies column on the Design Sponge blog.
As well as a business plan, I consider it really important to write up a little 'Life Plan' for your business. How is operating your own business going to fit in with your daily schedule? Do you have kids? Other commitments? You will need to treat your business seriously, so consider setting specific work hours and give yourself weekends and time out.
Write all of this down and even make up a mock weekly schedule if that helps you. This will ensure that there is time for both life stuff and work stuff. Also, the people in your life will need to be aware that just because you don't have a day job anymore, doesn't mean you aren't following a regular work schedule.
Mapping it all out will help them understand when you're working and when you can spend time with them.
I wish that someone had given me the advice that I'm about to give you. Or, I wish I had thought to think this through beforehand, but I was so excited about the prospect of working for myself that I just jumped in without thinking.
The advice is this: before you quit your day job, save money first, and do as much pre-preparation as you possibly can while you're on someone else's payroll. Not your own. This is crucial!
Starting up a new business costs money. For the majority of us, our businesses won't explode into massive money makers over night, they'll take time. If you're planning on quitting your day job, you want to make sure that you can still cover things like rent, bills, life stuff, and business expenses, even if your venture is slow to grow.
Set out a savings plan well in advance of the big leap, and estimate what your costs might be for your business and how much money you will need. Then save, save, save until you have a little nest egg as financial back-up before you branch out on your own.
In the lead-up to leaving your day job, use your wages to set up your business. Set up your website, get branding designed, register your business name, hire an accountant, rent a studio (or create one in your home), purchase supplies, produce marketing collateral, and develop product samples.
All these things can be done while you're still getting paid a regular income. That way, when you go for it, the preparation will already be done and paid for, leaving your financial resources free to use solely on developing your business.
Share Your Story
Now that you're working for yourself, it also means you're going to be responsible for promoting yourself too. Just like writing a business plan, having a marketing strategy is essential in the creation of your own business. Your marketing strategy can even form part of your business plan, and you can refer to your business plan when creating the marketing strategy.
Think about the aims and goals you have for your business, and then consider how you are going to promote your business to achieve these goals. Do you have strong visual branding? Are you going to use social media to connect with your customers and fans? Would your brand benefit from a flyer campaign or ad space? Would magazine or other media features boost your sales? If so, who would you love to be featured by and how will you approach them?
A press release is a really good tool for promoting your business. It's like a little package that tells the story of your brand and gives all the possible info anyone might need in a straightforward and concise way. You can send it out to anyone you think might be able to give you some promotion. Once you've got it written you'll be able to use it again and again. Here's a great Huffington Post article on writing a press release that I have found very helpful.
Now that you're the founder of an exciting new creative venture (how awesome does that sound?!), it's important that you make the running of your business as easy as you can for yourself. Being organised is going to take the hassle and chaos out of running a small business, leaving you more time for the creative stuff.
Set up a great organisational system that works for you: diaries, calendars, filing, contact lists – whatever method suits you the best. Also, create a little finance system so you can keep track of your income and expenses. Spreadsheets are good for this (and also make tax time a breeze). And keep all of your receipts! You can claim these later on tax!
Make sure you have a designated work space that's just for your business, whether that be your very own studio, or a special nook in your living room. Being organised from the get-go will make life so much easier in the long run.
Just One Last Thing
I hope that these tips have given you a base that you can work from when you make that exciting and life-changing move into a full-time creative career of your very own. I do just want to say one last thing, though: there is nothing wrong with having a day job.
In fact, having a day job can give you that financial freedom to pursue your creative venture without worrying about how you're going to pay your bills, especially in those early days. It can give you the resources to do the things you love.
When I first started out, I didn't realise this. I thought that needing to have a day job meant that I wasn't successful enough. I would even feel slightly ashamed when I had to tell people that I worked as a policy analyst at a university (true story) and did my craft stuff on the side.
In hindsight, this is of course ridiculous. Some of the most successful and inspiring creative people I know still have day jobs. It's more about what works for you, what stage of your career you're at, and what your needs are. If you need to have a day job right now, even if it's part-time so you can do both things at once - that's totally OK! You just need to do what's right for you.
Any/all books by Meg Mateo Ilasco
Written specifically for people like us, her books are essential for anyone wishing to break out on their own.
Design Sponge Biz Ladies
This regular column features creative professionals who really know their stuff sharing their knowledge about how to run your own creative business.
National Association For The Visual Arts
This Australian government funded organisation has a great online business resources section for creatives