You’ve been working on a creative side gig alongside your main job for a while now. You’ve got a few regular clients, are making money and are in demand. Most of all, it’s so fun and rewarding that you spend all your lunch breaks and evenings working on your ‘hobby’. If this sounds like you, it might be time to take a leap and pursue your creative project full time.
The world is full of accountants-turned-writers, executives-turned-photographers and administrators-turned-artists. Kurt Vonnegut ran a car dealership, Emily Bronte worked as a nanny and artist Barbara Kruger worked as a commercial graphic designer. The road from salaried employee to creative entrepreneur is well worn, but like most major life changes, can be intimidating.
There are plenty of motivational posters out there about chasing dreams, being true to yourself and feeling #blessed, but blindly taking a leap isn’t always the most responsible move. The proven path to success – not just financial success, but personal satisfaction – is to back up your dream-chasing with a firm plan of attack, a healthy dose of courage and a touch of faith.
Make sure it’s financially viable
If you’ve been juggling a day job plus a side project, you will want to ensure that you have enough work to stay afloat without your regular salary. Everybody’s situation is different, but I would recommend that you aim to replace at least 50 per cent of your day-job income. This might take a bit longer than you had planned, but it will help eliminate the fear of total failure. That said, sometimes taking a leap with no safety net can be the kick in the pants you need to hustle and work harder than you thought possible.
Set a deadline
Like most things that are worthwhile, leaving your regular salary and venturing into the unknown is scary. And you might find yourself making excuses, delaying your resignation or holding off for way longer than you intended. The trick here is to give yourself a deadline – the end of the year, your birthday, some random date in November – and stick to it. Even better, tell people about it (not your boss!) so they keep you accountable.
It’s not life or death
Remember, you can always go back! Or at least find some other part-time employment more in line with your goals while you focus on building up a business. For example, an IT professional with a side gig as a wedding florist might quit her main job and find part time work in a florist shop while focusing on her own business, until she has enough work to go full time.
Be prepared – mentally and emotionally
Working for yourself is really, really hard. It’s also rewarding, satisfying and in some cases, can make you megabucks. The image of an entrepreneur beginning work at midday, working from a café for a few hours then invoicing for thousands is extremely rare. In my experience, it’s more likely to look like lots of weekend work, constant hustling and a steep learning curve. It’s easy to become accustomed to the lifestyle that is tied to a steady paycheck. Your 9-5 will become your 24/7, so be prepared that you will need a huge amount of self-discipline, motivation and courage to stay afloat.
Look for variety
That said, self-employment could give you flexibility and uncap your earning potential. As a salaried employee, your income is limited to what your boss or your award decides. As a self-employed person, your income is limited to how hard and smart you work. It’s not unusual for a sole trader to have multiple income streams or offer a variety of services (I’m a furniture maker, a writer and a podcaster, for example) so always be on the look out for new ways to make cash and broaden your circle.
Be a quitter!
Once you’ve got enough cash in the bank, some regular clients and your deadline is fast approaching, get ready to quit. Depending on where you work, you may need to offer formal resignation with two weeks notice, so use those couple of weeks to truly prepare for self-employed life. You might need to open bank accounts, formally register your business and inform your clients that you will be more available.
Leaving your day job is not for the faint-hearted, so take a deep breath and take a leap. The rewards will be worth it. Good luck!
Emma Clark Gratton is an interior designer, writer and podcaster who, alongside her husband Lee, runs GRATTON, a timber furniture and architectural joinery company. She blogs at Worst House Best Street and posts endless photos of her sons on Instagram at @emmaclarkgratton