5 things to consider before becoming a full-time creative

Hello creatives.

I frequently hear people say, "I would love to take my business full-time someday," or "I can't wait until I can do this full-time."  I bet you've said it, or at least thought it.  I said it myself many a times (and if you're one of my friends you heard it way more than once - sorry).  And all of that is well and good, because being a full-time creative is an incredible life.  However, I'm writing today to encourage to consider a few things before you sever the ties of job security and take your creative biz full-time.

First, ask yourself this question:

Do you REALLY want to be a full-time creative?

I mean REALLY want it.  

Because here's the thing.  At first glance, living life as a full-time creative looks fun, fulfilling, liberating, and exciting.  And it is all of those things.  But underneath the surface, it is a great deal more and it's not all rainbows, confetti, and high fives.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when making this hugely life-altering decision:

1)  There will be sacrifice.  Not the goat-slaughtering kind, but there is a very good chance that you will have to give up things you enjoy or want in order to lead this life.  At first, while your business is building up steam, your income will be like a wild roller-coaster ride.  One month your bank account will be stacked to the nines, the next you'll be thankful for overdraft protection.  While your friends are planning sexy trips down south, buying jet skis, or eating out at every hot new restaurant opening, you will likely be home clutching your business plan and praying to the prosperity gods that your next gig will turn up asap.  As a personal example, while many others are moving up the property ladder, buying bigger and nicer houses, we choose to stay put in our modest little 70's bungalow on the slightly sketchy side of town.  It's tempting to want to sell and move on to a house that's more spacious and much nicer, but we have made a decision to stay here with our little mortgage payments that are much more manageable for home owners with their own relatively young businesses.  

2)  Priorities.  Much like sacrifice, priorities need to be closely examined.  What do you want for your life?  What is important to you?  Here's a great example.  If children are a part of your life plan, and you want them in the foreseeable future, you may want to reconsider this full-time creative venture.  Kids are basically little dollar signs walking around.  Not to say you can't have both but once children enter your life, their needs come before your own, both financially and in terms of where you invest your time.  Kids need stuff and your attention.  And health insurance.  Full-time creative businesses need stuff and your attention, and tend to not come with overdraft protection.  If it's just you and your income is low one month, you can eat Kraft Dinner to squeak by until the money starts rolling again.  Whereas if you have a kid and you do that, you might find the authorities on your door step.  Kids are just one thing to consider.  If you're the kind of person who can't live without your Louis Vuitton, mani-pedis, and luxurious wardrobe, this life is probably not for you.  Unless you have a sugar daddy, but that's a totally different kind of situation.  So you get my point.  If you want your creative business to be a full-time venture, you have to want it more than you want all those other things.  Eventually, once you're well-established, you could very well have all these things.  But we're talking about taking plunge here.  
3)  You have to be willing and capable of following a budget.  Even when your bank account is full.  My husband is a realtor and I am a photographer, so there are times when we have lots of money coming in, and times when we have little.  During those times when our bank account is full, we can't book a trip to Europe, or withdraw thousands and make it rain (even if we really really want to).  We have to keep on following that budget because a few months down the road we might not have much coming in and we'll still have bills to pay.  Stupid budget.  I want to make it rain.

4)  You need to be good at, passionate about, and believe in, what you do.  If you're not solid in your craft, both in ability and confidence, this will not work.  First of all, if you're not good, the business won't be there.  Hopefully if you're at the point where you're seriously considering this full-time you've already perfected your craft, but I still feel as though it needs to be said (especially in the world of photography, I can't stress this enough).  Second, if you aren't confident in your ability or the value of your work, you will feel defeated very quickly.  You will stare at the mail icon on your computer and think "why isn't anyone inquiring? is it me? do I suck? does what I do mean nothing to anyone?"  Or alternatively, you'll stare at your shop door and wonder where the hell all the people are, why aren't they coming in your store and buying all this stuff you so carefully selected and spent your inventory budget on?  And wonder what the hell you'll do with it if no one ever comes in to buy it.  You have to BELIEVE.  <insert appropriate disney song here>  And thank god you did that budgeting thing I was just talking about.  If you're good, and your work as value, the business will come.  But it takes time, and sometimes business is just slow. 

5)  Do you have the support?  I don't necessarily mean financially (that's a whole other blog post), but I mean the support from those around you.  Your cheerleaders.  The people who bring clients/customers to you, shout your name from the rooftops, who will be there with a bucket of ice cream or a bottle wine when your business frustrates you and you kind of want to quit, and who will be excited and proud of you when you're doing well.  If you have a significant other with whom you share your life, are they supportive of you?  Do they have the same goals/priorities as you?  Are they willing sacrifice the same things you are?  If your answer is YES, than you're already halfway to "making it."

If you can carefully (and honestly) consider all of those points and are still hell-bent on making this creative thing a full-time business then you, my friend, have what it takes to make a go of it in this crazy creative life.  So come join me in crazy town, where you have no idea where your next pay check is coming from but you're cool with it because you're doing what you love.

Cheers to being a free creative.

-  Amy   xo

Amy is a full-time photographer based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  You can check out her work here and here.

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  1. Very well said. And one more thing, especially for those who make things... if the making is your hobby, are you willing to "have to" do it because you got an order? Or is it an outlet where you recharge your batteries from your day job? Because once it's your business, you may (or may not, hopefully) need another outlet.

  2. GREAT point. Thanks for sharing. :)