Congratulations! So you are ready to transition your newborn photography or creative business from side-hustle to full-time career. It can be exciting/scary taking that plunge into the unknown! Here are a few personal-experience tips for people starting their full-time creative careers.
1. Have 3-6 months of personal and business expenses saved.
In rough business times, the first three months of savings will float your business until recovery. And the four to six months of savings will give you time float your business and start to selectively find another job in a worst case scenario. In a best-case scenario, it helps prevent making less-than-ideal business decisions like running an unplanned deep discount sale damaging your brand, selling off equipment, laying an employee off, etc.
Business ebbs and flows and it is wise to expect an occasional slow cycle. If you don't have this in place and have already made the plunge, this needs to be priority number one even if just $100-$200 at a time. You will never regret having this emergency fund in place.
2. Start your day with movement.
Invest in a personal trainer or gym group fitness class to start your day. It will be good for your stress levels and puts you as a priority when business can easily consume every waking moment. I suggest spending enough money so that you are motivated to show up.
You'll have to take your comfy jammies off, the blood will be flowing, you'll likely start thinking about business ideas while working out to jumpstart your day, and you'll be ready to rock-and-roll when you return to the home/studio.
It feels great to feel dedication and achievement towards goals outside of the consuming business world. And bottom line: if you aren't healthy, your creative business will be out of business. You can only bypass your health for short periods of time without long-term consequences.
3. To get a six-figure paycheck, you have to work a six-figure job.
Thriving artist IS a real profession. Show up and treat your creative job like the real job that it is. One of the biggest challenges of self-employment is discipline. That means showing up for full days and performing on 99% of the days that you don't feel like it. There are a lot of other things that go into a six-figure paycheck, but this is the most essential.
4. Know your weekly/daily benchmarks.
"Inch by inch, it is a cinch. Yard by yard, it gets hard."
Breaking big picture goals into smaller, daily actionable goals is the key to success. Follow me on this one. It is SO worth understanding if you aren't a big numbers person.
Start with your desired annual salary and divide it by 10 months. That will give you your average monthly profit needed with 2 months off to split between vacation, holiday, sick days, personal development, crisis management, etc built in your numbers.
From there, I'd break it down to a per day or weekly average. In the example above, $4,500 profit / 20 business days in a month = $225 average needed profit/day.
I know money doesn't flow in everyday like that for all businesses. But for me, it gives me a benchmark of how much product I need to make in daily productivity effort which will then sell throughout the month to hit my goal numbers. When I reach that, I know I've done my "job" for the day and can focus on other areas of the business or take the rest of the day off.
For example, in the photography business, your weekly average will give you the benchmark of three middle package sessions per week. And you can break that down further to 60 images edited per day if you really like the benchmark system. If you were working a traditional job, the employer will review your daily efforts/performance as well as the big picture. Benchmarks help make sure you are putting in the efforts to achieve your desired results. And it will help you make disciplined efforts to complete editing galleries in a timely manner. When the monthly and quarterly numbers come in, they will be at or beyond your target if achieve your benchmarks on an average daily basis.
If you need help brainstorming these numbers, figuring out your costs of doing business, breaking down big goals into weekly or daily benchmarks, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for hourly-fee one-on-one business consulting from a fellow artist who understands our unique business flow. We can do this via FaceTime, Skype, or in person if you are local-ish. I LOVE this side of business and would love to help you define your realistic benchmarks for success!
4. Define your "enough."
Once you've defined and hit your big monthly goals, chill out a little bit. That doesn't mean a full step away, but redirect some of your energy into destressing, self-care, extra quality time with your loved ones, or indirect income producing activities for your business like networking, branding, studio organization, etc.
Being able to "turn off" your business mind is important to prevent burnout. I still struggle with this one.
5. Outsource in your personal and business life.
There's only one you! And you have the same 24 hours as every other person in this world. Find out where you can free up more hours in your life: housekeeper, laundry service, shipping/post office runs, nanny, lawn care, social media manager, SEO/webisite specialist, CPA, etc. Take a look at areas that aren't your strengths, that cause arguments in your family, or that you really loathe doing. If you can make $50 profit/hour in your business, it makes sense to hire someone who can do the $25 or less jobs unless there is deep intrinsic hobby/relaxation satisfaction in doing them yourself. But that means you need to focus on direct income-producing activities your business during the majority of that outsourced trade off time.
6. Create an office/creative space that you LOVE.
You are probably going to spend A LOT of time in your business area. Create a defined workspace and make it a feel good space. No matter if your business area is a card table in the dining room or a full studio/office space- make it yours. Becoming a full time artist/creative is your dream career! Create a space that feeds your creative soul.
This doesn't have to be expensive. Gradually purchase organizational units to keep your space tidy, hang your art on your walls, look for interesting baskets/decor, buy some plants or fresh cut flowers, have a comfortable sitting place, have a specific workspace that isn't "too comfortable" that encourages alertness and focus. Make primary workspaces ergonomic. Love this money-making space in which you'll be spending most of your day-to-day time. You are worth it!
7. Pay yourself benefits.
This can be as simple as a M/W/F run to Starbucks or treating yourself to a premium espresso/latte machine for your home. Contribute to a ROTH or SIMPLE IRA (if you don't know what these are, seek a financial advisor). Don't get caught up on big amounts. It can be a small $10, 25, or 100 contribution.
Invest in your professional development. Enroll yourself in workshop or mentoring. If you are on a budget, invest in Masterclass or Skillshare (love, love, love Masterclass). Treat yourself to a monthly or weekly audio book. Check your local library for an app that will allow you to listen to these for free.
Meet your weekly sales goal? Treat your best employee (you!) to a pedicure or massage. Meet your huge quarterly goal? Buy yourself 3 months of personal trainer time. Meet your yearly goal? Buy yourself a Louis or Chanel bag. Fund your life insurance policy. Think of big AND small ways to implement benefits and bonuses to yourself along the way. It is all about the journey, not the destination, right?
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What tip resonated the most with you? Do you have advice for someone making the side-hustle to full-time jump? Comment below and share your expertise or questions.
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