Many people don’t know this, but I made the leap to full-time entrepreneurship right after my husband, Jake, started grad school.
He’s a full-time student and has 1 year left, and Elle & Company has been able support us for the past 2 and a half years. It’s been a wild ride and a huge blessing.
So for those of you who are fearful of quitting your day job and pursuing your creative business full-time, I understand. I’ve been there.
I also know that there’s no magic formula for taking your business full-time. But there are some practical ways to make the transition smoother.
I shared 7 of the most helpful, effective practices that helped me make the transition in last week’s Ellechat, and I’m also sharing them with you in today’s post. You can either watch the replay below or keep scrolling to read an overview of what I shared.
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But first, a couple disclaimers.
Disclaimer #1: Everyone’s circumstances are different.
Your journey to full-time entrepreneurship is going to look different from others in your industry because your circumstances are different.
That’s why there’s no magic formula for going full-time; your current situation affects the amount of money you need to be bringing in, how many hours you can dedicate to your business, etc.
So evaluate your current season of life and keep it in mind as you work through the steps below. Don’t compare yourself with others in your industry or get frustrated if it takes you a little bit longer; time is part of the process and the wait makes going full-time so much more rewarding in the end.
Disclaimer #2: The process is going to require sacrifice, extra hours, hard work, and creativity.
There’s just no getting around it. Nothing worthwhile comes easily.
Going full-time may require late nights of working on projects or writing blog posts. It might require giving up cable for a season or eating Ramen a few times each week to cut back on expenses.
You’ll have to get creative with how you can double task and make the most out of the little time you have to pour into your business.
But I can tell you from experience that if you truly want to take your business full-time, those temporary sacrifices and challenges are well worth it.
Disclaimer #3: Going full-time doesn’t solve all of your problems.
It’s easy to think that going full-time will make life easier and solve many of the problems you’re facing at the moment.
And while there are several benefits to going full-time, the grass isn’t always greener. It isn’t “better;” it’s just different. It comes with it’s own set of problems and responsibilities.
So keep that in mind. Reaching full-time entrepreneurship isn’t the end-all, be-all; it’s just the starting point.
Alright, now that we have those out of the way, let’s move onto those action steps.
1 | Set financial goals
Finances are most often the largest concern for those who are trying to take their business full-time.
Taking the leap to full-time is taking a leap of faith; your income isn’t always stable and it depends solely on whether you’re booking clients and making sales. There’s a lot more pressure.
So the most important thing for you to do - before anything else - is to come up with your household budget.
Write out every necessary expense that has to be accounted for - rent, utilities, gas, groceries, insurance. Figure out how much money you have to bring in to make ends meet.
Don’t take any guesses or round figures; come up with an exact amount. You need to know exactly how much money you have to be bringing in each month.
Once you arrive at a number, go ahead and multiply it by 1.4 to account for the 40% you’ll be taking out of your earnings for taxes.
So if you need to be bringing in $3,500/month to meet your expenses, you need to be making $4,900 because $1,400 isn’t technically yours; it’s the government’s.
40% is a higher estimate for US taxes (some say 35%), but I would rather estimate high and have a little money left over after tax season than undershoot and be up the creek. I highly suggest consulting an accountant for a more accurate figure that’s based on your country/state.
You also need to factor in your business expenses. What materials, programs, and software do you use to keep your business running? Add them all up and tack them onto the number you just multiplied by 1.4. While you’ll be able to write off many of those business expenses during tax season, they need to be accounted for when you’re setting your budget.
Once you have that number, consider how many projects you’ll need to book or how many products you’ll need to sell in order to bring in enough income to meet your budget.
It may be a little bit overwhelming to sit down and crunch the numbers, but it will give you a practical number to shoot for when you’re creating a game plan for going full-time.
Extra tip: To lessen the risk and put yourself at ease during the first few months of full-time entrepreneurship, consider setting aside an emergency fund. Set aside money now as a safeguard, just in case you don’t reach your benchmarks during the first few months.
2 | Cut back on expenses
Like I mentioned a moment ago, financial stress is one of the greatest pressures of working for yourself full-time. So cut back on the stress by cutting back on expenses.
This might look like switching phone plans and downgrading from your smartphone.
This might look like eating more meals at home and getting rid of cable for a season.
Or (dare I say it), this might look like moving back in with your parents for a period of time in order to get your business off the ground.
While it might be difficult to give up some of these items at first, you’ll be able to save more money and put less pressure on yourself when you’re trying to make the transition. (It will also give you a little more motivation to work hard, bring in more money, and get those luxuries back.)
Extra tip: Some of you may find that even after cutting back on expenses, you still won’t be able to make ends meet. In that case, you may need to consider increasing your prices and charging more for your time than you’re charging right now. I understand the fear of driving away potential customers, but if you have the experience and the talent, you’ll end up attracting clients who take you seriously and value your work. It’s a win-win.
3 | Grow your audience first
Which makes more sense?
- Creating a product/service and then trying to find potential customers/clients who would purchase it?
- Building an audience, getting to know them, and then creating a product or service that would appeal to them?
It’s a thousand times easier to take the leap if you have hundreds (if not thousands) of potential customers following along with your business.
So focus on building your audience first.
Blogging is a fantastic way to demonstrate your expertise, encourage people to return to your site regularly, and drive traffic to your website through shares.
Mailing lists are an effective tool for building trust with your audience.
Social media outlets are free marketing tools to help you reach potential customers, engage with them, and funnel people back to your website.
Podcasts provide value and entertainment, and give your audience a reason to continue to follow along with you. Webinars and livestreams are also great tools for engagement.
Building your audience takes many shapes and forms, but it’s important to focus on VALUE; you have to give people a reason to follow along.
So either be really great at what you do, take a different approach that hasn’t been seen before, or educate and teach. Not only will all of the above help set you apart and cause you to be memorable, but they’ll make you enjoyable to follow along with.
However you go about growing your audience - whether it’s through social media, blogging, podcasts, webinars, mailing lists, or all of the above - always be asking yourself why your audience should follow along with you and consider what’s in it for them.
Once grow your audience, you’ll have more potential clients and customers following along with you. You’ll be able to listen to them, learn what they’re interested in, and create products and services that would appeal to them.
It’s almost like a security net; it’s a lot easier to make the leap when you have a crowd of supporters and interested customers.
4 | Create multiple streams of income
Say you don’t sell a certain number of products one month or don’t book enough clients - what do you do? Where is that extra money going to come from?
Relying on one source of income can be risky, especially if you’re transitioning to full-time entrepreneurship.
So instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, consider creating other streams of income to lessen the risk.
Think about services, subscriptions, digital products, courses, or products you could offer that would appeal to your audience and bring in more money, just in case you have an off month.
You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with work and spread yourself too thin, but get creative and consider some alternative streams of income that will help you stay on top of your budget and provide some cushion.
5 | Network
Never underestimate the power of community, especially in business.
Forming connections and building friendships in the industry is fantastic for collaborations, feedback, advice, encouragement, and reaching new audiences.
You can start the conversation in a number of ways:
- Trade services
- Give someone a product for free in return for a mention on social media or a review in a blog post
- Collaborate on a project or giveaway
- Interview someone in a blog post, podcast, or webinar
- Mention them in a blog post and email them with the link
However you go about it, make sure it’s a win-win for both of you, have a reason for reaching out, and ask the other person for something realistic.
Another organic way to build connections is to consistently comment on their social media posts, leave feedback on their blog posts, share their content, and reply to their newsletters. The more and more you get your name in front of someone, the more likely they’ll remember you and be more willing to work with you when you email them or reach out to them down the road.
You never know what can come out of a simple connection. The possibilities and opportunities are endless.
6 | Be strategic
Passion gets you started, but strategy keeps you going.
It’s the one phrase I repeat over and over in blog posts, Ellechats and newsletters because it’s the one thing I’ve found to be the most true in running this business.
And when your resources are low and you’re trying to go full-time, it’s even more important to be strategic and get creative with the time that you have.
Come up with ways to kill two birds with one stone and make the most of your time.
Host a podcast if it’s quicker than sitting down and writing out a long blog post.
Use dictation software and “write” your blog post in the car on your morning commute.
Schedule meetings during lunch breaks and phone calls during car trips.
Shorten your email responses; they don’t have to be long to be thoughtful and get the job done.
Set time limits on tasks and challenge yourself to beat the clock.
Cut out distractions by disabling notifications on your phone and on your laptop. Set your phone in the other room while you’re getting work done, if you have to.
Schedule social media with Buffer and knock out all of your posts in one sitting.
Batch tasks. Delegate tasks that don’t require your touch or creativity.
Streamline your processes and create workflows for the tasks you have to complete on a regular basis. Because the more and more you do something the same way, the quicker and more efficient you’ll become in completing it.
And continue to learn. Become a student of your field and consistently look for smarter, more efficient ways to do things. Listen to podcasts (or Ellechats!) in the car or while you’re on the treadmill at the gym.
Running a successful business doesn’t always mean working harder; it often means working smarter.
7 | Narrow your focus
When you think of Martha Stewart, you think of homemaking.
When you think of ESPN, you think of sports.
When you think of Ben & Jerry’s, you think of ice cream.
What should people think of when they think of your business?
When you try to do it all, you run the risk of confusing people and losing your memorability. But when you specialize, you make it easy to be known and remembered.
Narrowing your focus also allows you to hone in on your skills, become an expert in your field, and appeal to your ideal customers.
So consider paring down the scope of what you do and think about what you want to be known for. The increased income and memorability might help you take your business full-time sooner than you expect.
While there’s no magic formula for taking your business full-time, these 7 steps will help you take action and make the transition smoother.
Are you trying to take your business full-time? When do you hope to make the leap and what are you going to do to make it happen? Keep me posted - I would love to hear about your progress!