People always tell me that I am living the dream. I am my own boss and doing something that I truly love and am passionate about. And you know what?? I couldn’t agree more! I am so blessed to not only do what I do, but also to be able to do it full time. But getting to that point where I could leave my steady day job behind to pursue my true passion was a long and sometimes treacherous road. But once I made the decision that going full-time was the right decision for me, I put my head down and worked my butt off to make it happen!
A question I get a lot from other photographers and small business owners is how was I able to take my business full time. How did I know when I was ready. What steps did I take to get there. I’m definitely not the type of person that takes leaps of faith blindly or lightly. When I’m embarking on a new journey, I like to have every step perfectly planned out so that the chance of failure is next to none. So there were definitely some boxes I needed to check and things I needed to plan for before I actually felt comfortable leaving my day job.
But in this business, nothing is ever a sure thing. That income is not always going to come in like you expect and having one good year does not guarantee that you’ll have another. So how in the world are you supposed to know when your business is ready to be your full time gig?? If you are in this position, I want to share with you all the steps I took and calculations I made that helped me to determine when I was ready to go full time!
1. Calculate your monthly budget. The first and obvious step is to figure out how much income you need for your lifestyle. Make a detailed monthly budget laying out all your monthly expenses. Mortgage, groceries, gas, credit card, student loan payments, car payments, bills, etc. This will allow you to determine what your income needs to be in order to make all these payments. So now you know how much you need to be able to pay yourself from your business once you no longer have your day job income.
2. Determine your minimum booking goal. Like I said, in this industry, there’s never a guarantee that those bookings are going to come like you expect them to. You could have a great year with plenty of bookings, then the next year the inquiries just don’t come. So what you’ll first want to do is figure out the minimum number of bookings (or clients, products sold, etc) that you’ll need a year in order to pay yourself the amount that you calculated in the first step. So for me, once I crunched the numbers and figured out how much I needed to pay myself, I determined that I needed to book at least X number of weddings a year to make ends meet.
3. Be patient. Once you know how many bookings you need to make ends meet, then comes the hard part. You wait. You’ll want to wait until your business is in a place where you feel confident that you can at least reach that booking goal every year. I would say that a good rule of thumb is to wait until you’ve had at least 2 years in a row where you had at least that booking amount. In the fall of 2015 I was wrapping up my second year of exceeding my minimum booking goal. So that is when I made the decision that I would go full time in the Spring of 2016.
4. Save your pennies. Then once you’ve set your sights on when it is that you’ll actually be taking your business full time, it’s time to start getting prepared! And the best way you can do that is to SAVE!!! It’s a pretty scary thing to leave that steady and safe income from your day job, so one way to make it a little less scary is to have a nice chunk of change saved up as a ‘just in case’ fund. So at this point, I would suggest that you try to live solely off your day job income and SAVE all that you make from your business. This way when it’s time for you to make that leap, you’ll have a safety net in case your calculations were off, you don’t quite reach that booking goal, etc. It’s certainly not the end of the world if your business takes a little dip at some point, but you’ll want to make sure you have that safety net to get through that period.
5. Be willing to make sacrifices. In 2015, I was basically working 2 full time jobs between my day job and my photography business. But in order to grow my business to the point where I could make it my only job, this was a necessary evil. Free time was not in my vocabulary. So when you are turning the corner for home and you feel like you just can’t keep up anymore, just remember that this is temporary. When I was working like a madwoman in the fall of 2015, knowing that this was just a temporary situation and that come spring I would finally reach that full time goal gave me a sense of peace. It made it easier to get through that last push of living that double life!
6. Brainstorm new business ideas. Once you leave that day job behind, you’re obviously going to have so much more time to dedicate towards your business. So before you get to that point, start brainstorming all the ways you’re going to build your business even further with that extra time! For me, I knew that I wanted to incorporate an education side to my business once I went full time. So that is how the workshop came to be! So if there are other business projects or ideas you have, start putting them together so that once you do have that extra time, you can hit the ground running!
7. CELEBRATE! Eventually all this planning, sacrificing and hard work will pay off and that day will come where you say ‘peace out!’ to that day job! And once that day comes, CELEBRATE! You deserve it! Never forget what a big achievement this is! And shout it from the rooftops! People will want to be able to join in the excitement with you!
So to all you weekend warriors out there working like crazy to make this dream a reality, keep at it! With some planning, patience and sacrifices you can definitely reach that goal of taking your business full time!!
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