Jessica is a watercolor artist, custom wedding stationer, and brush calligrapher specializing in creative designs for a lovely life. She lives in Knoxville, TN and is a valuable collaborator with The School of Styling.We are excited to have her as one of our speakers at our upcoming workshop in Nashville. To connect with Jessica and learn more about her services, visit her website and social media.
Becoming full-time has become a very desired, and popular topic in the creative industry lately, and for understandable reasons! The ability to pursue your dream instead of working hard to make another creative’s dream come to life (or instead of working a desk job that you despise!), the mental capacity to focus on one job instead of balancing multiple jobs, the chance to choose your own hours, creative freedom in your products or services offered, are all indeed some of my favorite aspects of being full-time with Simply Jessica Marie!
While it is exciting, and can be easy to desire jumping in head first right away, I do want to urge you to be smart and wait until you are fully prepared to leave your day job before taking the leap to become full-time. In all honesty, I was about 80% prepared for what was to come and leapt sooner than I should have because of the timing of other life circumstances, including moving to a new city to be with my darling fiancé! Looking back on my journey as a small business owner, I have determined three crucial tips I would love to share with you, and that I hope will help you to prepare for this wonderfully exhilarating time in your life and career!
Find a group of like-minded creatives and love on them hard. This might seem like strange advice on how to take your business full-time, but it was so important for me. Reach out to the creatives in your area, or virtually if you don’t feel a strong connection to those in your local area, and ask if they would like to get together on a monthly basis to chat about life and business. I would recommend that this group include people both in your exact same industry, as well as, those with different creative careers. Get to know one another on a real level, and become each other’s support system! These ladies (and possibly gents!) will be the ones you turn to for advice on how to handle tricky client situations; advice on which printing companies, film-developing labs, or design sources are the most trustworthy and valuable; advice about which creative conferences are best to attend; and they will become the people who you will talk to when you feel like you are failing and everyone else around you is soaring sky high. Because trust me, love, that point will come, and it is so reassuring to have others to tell you that you aren’t alone, and you’re doing great things! I have a group of creatives – a wedding planner, a stylist, a blogger, and a photographer – who I met at a creative conference when SJM was still just a dream, and we still text each other with questions, advice, and support three years later. It’s so key!
Have a business game plan. Before you are able to go full-time, I would recommend sitting down in front of your calendar and planning out a strategic game plan for your first year in business full-time. Take a look at your current workload. How many custom clients are you taking on each month? How many product sales do you have each month? Is this number at the current rate going to be enough to sustain your life and business once you don’t have the financial support from your day job? If the answer is no, do you think you need to raise your prices, increase your number of clients or sales, or a combination of both? I urge you to think about how much you need and want to be earning, after yearly expenses (rent, utility bills, car payments, monthly gym payments, yearly advertising payments, cost of supplies, etc.), at the end of the year? $30k, $50k, $100k, more? Here is a fairly simple formula that should hopefully help you to determine if you are able to reach it:
Desired annual income + yearly costs / number of creative projects you can take on each year or items you expect to realistically sell = what you should charge per service/item
So for instance, if you are a wedding planner and your desired annual income is $100k, your yearly costs are $30k, and the amount of weddings you would like to work per year is 20, you will need to charge at least $6,500 per wedding. Is that number too high for you? You might need to increase the number of weddings you take on, but how are you going to do that? By investing in more styled shoots or traditional advertising? By beginning a referral program for your brides? By partnering with another vendor in your area to offer specials to each other’s clients if they choose to book both of you? It’s all a balancing act, and it takes careful planning to stay afloat!
Make sure your brand and website are an accurate reflection of your talents and skill level. There is nothing that crushes me more than to see someone who has gorgeous shop products or photographs of their work represented with a brand that doesn’t elevate their business to a point that truly reflects their talents and the pricing they are requesting for their products or services. We live in a very visual world and being able to accurately communicate your talents to a first-time visitor on your website or social media platform in ten seconds or less is challenging, yet crucial! While it is hard, this is the part of planning for full-time that should be fun for you!
Are you second-guessing if your brand and website are a beautiful representation of your work and skills? If so, you likely need to talk to a brand designer to get their honest opinion! And by brand designer, I mean a professional brand designer. While it is more affordable and tempting to purchase a pre-designed logo for your business, that will not be the true reflection of you and your core that you are desiring, darling! Investing in a custom brand designer will not only provide you with unique, tailored designs, but will likely also help you to gain clarity on important aspects of your brand, like how to tell your personal story, how to define your ideal client, and how to reach them with a strong message.
Do you feel you have the perfect branding elements and website design for your business now? Great! I would still recommend that you take a look at your story, your ideal client, and your message, and focus and refine each element of that so you feel as confident as possible in the story you are conveying and how you are going to reach those amazing ideal clients of yours once you do become full-time!
While there are other things I would recommend doing before coming full-time, like making sure you have your Sole Proprietorship or LLC filed, hiring a CPA who specializes in small business owners, setting office hours to provide balance in your life, etc., these are the three that I have found most crucial for me personally! And with all of that said, I also want to let you know that when you do become full-time, count each day as a blessing that you are able to do what you love for a living! Find ways to make your day fun, so that you never dread waking up and starting work, because you worked so hard to get to where you are!
Photography by: Zipporah Photography