Many makers dream of turning their handmade hobby into a thriving, full-time business.
This is a wonderful goal... but should you quit your day job right now and take a leap into running your business full-time? Or should you keep your day job and work on your business on the side?
I worked a day job for the first year and a half that my business existed! Epheriell started as a hobby business for me, and I honestly didn't intend to turn it into my full-time gig... life just sorta took me that way.
I'm so glad that I didn't dive in headfirst and quit my job to focus on the business straight-up, because the truth is, a business is not built overnight.
It takes a long time to develop a business – especially if you're a maker, and you have no experience with business – sales, marketing, customer service, etc – not to mention the technical side of things!
Businesses – especially small, crafty businesses – take time to grow – they are an organic process, and this growth cannot be rushed. Growth will happen with dedication and hard work, but you can't 'game' the system – unless you happen to have oodles of money to throw at advertising, and hiring other people do to the 'business' side of your business. I'm guessing for most of you, that's not a reality, right?
I also know that many makers really want to get rid of the energy-draining day job and just 'make all day'. Let's get that myth out of the way right now!
Even if/when you take your biz full-time, you won't spend more than 50% of your time making (so long as you remain a one-person show). That other 50% (or more!) will be spent answering emails, keeping your online shop up to date, packing, shipping, marketing, learning, reading, instagramming... the list of admin and other business tasks is endless.
Let's look at some of the ways you can build your business with your eyes wide open, consider some of the benefits of keeping a day job, and I'll also give you some tips that will help you plan for the moment where you say 'I quit!' (if you still want to after reading this...).
Feel the Fire
If you are at the stage where you really dislike your day job... allow that feeling motivate you to work harder and put more energy into your business.
When you're tired, and the day has been long, remind yourself why you're on the computer at 9pm answering customer emails.
Let the passion for your work motivate you – but also allow the feeling of being 'done' with the day job keep you going when the going gets tough, because it will.
Get Real with your Finances
We all have essential costs in life that must be covered. Things like the rent/mortgage, food, medical expenses, kids, etc. So, if you are the sole breadwinner, or your family depend on your income, keeping a day job might be absolutely necessary for now.
However – you don't need to go the 'all or nothing' route.
Have you considered dropping a day or two a week? Can you job-share? Can you move from full-time to part-time work (either in the same job, or another?).
Not only that – I want you to realise that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having multiple sources of income!
Some very successful makers have other 'jobs' or businesses that supplement the income they make from their craft businesses (I do!) or that allow them to do other work they love. One of my maker friends has a super-successful business, but she also works a few days a week as a social worker, because she is passionate about helping people.
Also, you absolutely must build a safety net in the form of a savings account before you quit your day job. Aim to have at least 3-6 months of expenses saved and stored in an account you can’t be tempted to touch while you're growing it.
Some of you might have a partner or spouse whose income you can rely on... but always be cautious. What would happen if they were to lose their job? Making sure you have a savings safety net is essential common sense if you are planning on starting a business, because businesses in the beginning stages almost inevitably spend more money than they earn!
Always think – 'what is my safety net'?
Try Before You... Quit!
The truth is that not all small businesses will be successful. And, even the ones that are take time to grow and build momentum. No matter how awesome you think your business idea is, you have no way to know if it's going to work or not until you put it out into the world!
Keeping a day job in these early stages (months or years!) of your business gives you support and a safety net if things just don't go the way you're planning. (Yes, there's that safety net again!)
It will also allow you to get a feel for what turning your creative hobby into a business will really be like. You might discover that you don't actually want to run your business full-time, or at all!
Turning your hobby into a business fundamentally changes your relationship to your craft, and some people discover, to their horror, that it turns what they loved into something they loathe.
Having a day job also allows you the opportunity for your business to gain momentum. It gives you time to grow a customer base, to gain a social media following, to grow a mailing list... basically, to build a reputation.
Reputation is everything to a small business. Your business will grow on the back of good reviews and testimonials from happy customers.
Consider Parkinson’s Law
Do you want to quit your job so you have 'more time' to work on your biz?
Think carefully about this in the context of Parkinson’s Law, which states:
Work expands so as to fill the time available.
If you currently run your business for two hours a day in the evening, after your day job, you will be ultra focused to get your work done. If you quit your day job and have all the time in the world, you may lose productivity. You may find that the work you used to get done in 2 hours takes all day!
Consider exactly what you'd do with 8 hours (or more) a day to work on your business, and have a really clear idea of the work you'd do before you clear time to do it.
Always remember, in the end, that success is whatever it means to you.
There is no right or wrong here. Just because other people run their business full-time doesn't mean you have to, or even have to want to! Keeping a day job doesn't make your business any less 'successful' or 'real' than that of someone who works in theirs full-time.
Work out what YOU want to do – what makes you happy, and go with it. If that means keeping the day job for now – or always! – then that is a-okay.
Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, where she helps makers turn their hobby into a thriving business via her blog, podcast, courses and membership site – The Thriver Circle. She and her husband make eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, which she began on a whim in 2008. She accidentally went full-time as a creative entrepreneur in 2010, and has been thankful every day since.
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