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#047. How to Decide if You Should Take Your Business Full Time

February 17, 2021

 

RESOURCES FROM TODAY:

Episode #40: Casting A Vision

FREE WORKBOOK: How to Cast a Vision

Episode #18: Measuring Metrics

FREE TEMPLATE: Measure Your Metrics Easily

FREE TEMPLATE: Lead Tracking Formula

 

Hello and welcome back to the Everyone Wins podcast! On this week’s episode we’re talking about something that I see and hear creative entrepreneurs talk about all the time: going “full-time.”

This is a topic that I have a lot to say about because I see a lot of people getting it wrong. And even more importantly, I see a lot of people thinking about it wrong. The mindset that revolves around this idea of going full-time has a lot of widely-circulated misconceptions and false impressions. So today, I want to set the record straight.

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the following:

  1. What exactly does it even mean to go “full time?”
  2. How does mindset play a crucial role in your work status?
  3. What are the pro’s and con’s of going full time?
  4. What important factors should you consider before going full time?

Plus, I’m going to share my personal story about my employment journey that led me to where I am today, what I would do differently and what I wouldn’t change! Let’s get started!

So, I know that some of you listening would consider yourselves “full time” creative entrepreneurs, and others would say that it’s not full time. However, your work status is rarely as simple as “full time” or “not full time.” Not only that, but the reason – the why – behind how you classify yourself and how that actually plays out in your life are incredibly important.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s define the term “full time.”

A “full time” creative entrepreneur can honestly be defined in a lot of ways to a lot of people. And I think that is totally OK – honestly, you can define it however you like because it’s literally just a name and doesn’t actually carry much weight until you put meaning to it.

However, for the sake of clarity in this episode, I am going to define “full time” as a job that provides your primary income and takes up the majority of your 40+ hour work week.

So when I say “full time,” this is what I’m talking about!

Now, here’s a few relevant ways that I see it used that we should address.

When someone says they are “going full time,” this typically refers more to the fact that a person is leaving another employment situation and now making their business their primary job – the job that takes up most of their time and also makes them most, if not all, of their money.

Usually, “going full time” with your business will not immediately result in a dramatic change in income. While it might allow you to grow and scale your business more quickly than when your attention was divided, it typically takes some time regardless.

Also, some business owners “go full time” when they have successfully reached their annual income goal and no longer need an additional source of income.

We’ll talk about both of these scenarios and go into more depth shortly.

The next question I want to answer is: How does mindset play a crucial role in your work status?

I know I talk about mindset a lot on this podcast. And sometimes, the term mindset can cause rolling of eyes and skipping of entire episodes, right? Here’s the deal – within your business, mindset is everything. I really believe this. Here’s why – it is very easy to base our value and success entirely off of what we see other people doing or what we think we “should” be doing, rather than examining what actually makes the most sense for your individual life situation.

I say all of this because I ran my business with the wrong mindset for several years. Did I make good money? Yes. Did I gain recognition and book clients? Yes. But was I living my best life?

Far from it.

In mid-2018, I was overworked, stressed out, anxious, and found myself scrolling on Instagram and comparing myself to others on a daily basis. I set goals based on what I thought was the “right” next step. I felt desperate to get published in certain magazines and blogs and would be so depressed if my submission was rejected. I felt like I constantly needed to reevaluate my pricing and charge more and thought I was a worse photographer if I heard a peer was charging more than me. I had zero work/life boundaries and was way too emotionally invested in many elements of my business. I blended my value and identity with my business and made decisions based on what I thought would make me feel good. I put my emotional energy into things that ultimately didn’t matter and I was very, very burnt out. Have you been here before?

Rather than strategizing how my business could help power the vision I had for my life, I let my business run me. And it ran me into the ground!

You want to live your best and most fulfilled life, right? In order to do this, you have to have the right mindset.

So how does mindset specifically play a role in your work status – meaning, how does mindset help inform your decision to be a “full time” creative business owner, or not full time.

Your mindset should start with examining your core values and vision for your ideal life. What are the elements of this ideal life, and how can you use your career to power that life? Only by asking yourself these types of questions can you really identify what is going to be the best choice for you personally.

I think that there’s this misconception in the creative entrepreneurship world that everyone’s highest goal is to get from part time to full time – in other words, to leave their employment situation in order to be “free” from corporate life and focus solely on the business. I see so much encouragement to just “take the leap” and “just do it” and “you will never regret it” – and while all of this might be generally true for a specific type of person, it leaves out so many important details and definitely cannot be said as a blanket statement of truth.

This is really misleading, confusing and not helpful at all!

So let’s take a step back and talk about understanding your own vision for your life so that you can have the correct mindset to pursue the best path for your business.

Some questions to consider are:

-What does my ideal work/life balance situation look like? Do I work on weekends? Do I only work 9-5? Do I work 30, or 40, or 60 hours a week? What are my ideal boundaries.

-How does relationship status or family situation impact my work? In an ideal world, how much time is time spent with these people and when?

-How is my free time spent? What would I love to do with my free time in an ideal situation?

-What is my ideal role in my business? On a weekly basis, what work would I love to be doing?

-What constraints are on my life right now, and do I have any control over changing these constraints? What would that look like in an ideal world?

-How much money do I need to bring in annually to live this ideal life?

So these are just a few things to think about and consider when thinking about your business mindset. I believe that having a LIFE VISION and a BUSINESS VISION are absolutely crucial to running a successful business and living your best life. If you’ve listened to my podcast before, you’ve heard me say this! And if you’re new around here (welcome!), I do have a free workbook that will walk you through creating a life vision and a business vision, and this vision is going to literally be your North Star for decision making. It’s going to be the guiding principles in your life that help you know whether or not any decision is a step in the right or wrong direction. Every business owner needs to have a vision like this in order to truly be successful. So if you’re listening in and you don’t have a vision crafted for your life and your business, go to HannahBjorndal.com/vision2020 to download my workbook! You should also definitely listen to episode #40 which is all about vision-casting and goes along with the workbook.

For all of my 1:1 coaching clients, this is the very first step we take and it is AMAZING how this simple yet important step can dramatically change the way you see your business and the decisions you make!

In summary – you need to have the right mindset for your business (and your life!) before you make any employment status decisions. This allows you to make a decision based in what’s best for you – not what seems best because of what you see others doing or what you think you should do as a next step in your business!

So, the logical next step – what are some of the practical pro’s and con’s of being a fulltime small business owner or creative entrepreneur? 

Pro’s:

1. You can put your full energy and effort behind making your business successful. You do not have to split your time between a 40 hour+ job and your business. This can potentially allow you to be more available to clients and to have more time to grow and scale your business.

2. You can pursue a career you are passionate about. Particularly if you hate your current full-time job, the option to go full-time allows you to be more fulfilled and happy within your career.

3. You have the potential to have a very flexible schedule. Depending on your unique life situation, this may be more ideal than your current work setup.

So those are honestly just a few of my top “pro’s” for being a full-time creative entrepreneur.

Now let’s talk about the con’s:

1. There is potentially more pressure to bring in certain amount of money each month, making it harder to take risks and be picky about which clients you work with. It also may give you less flexibility to scale quickly if you don’t have the extra money to invest back into your business.

2. You may be leaving behind a career and opportunities that you would enjoy. Depending on that career track, you may not be able to step back into that field or industry in the future.

3. Work/life balance may become more difficult if you are not good at setting boundaries for yourself.

In a lot of ways, the pro’s and con’s on this list are dependent on your life situation. For instance, if you are married and a mother of three, you might have the luxury of being on your partner’s healthcare plan and you also may not need to bring in as much money as someone who is single. On the other hand, someone who is single has no dependents, is not dividing their energy between caring for others and working on their business, and will not have as many hurdles in setting up work/life boundaries. The important thing that I want you to hear is this: there is no shame in taking advantage of your unique life situation.

In starting my own business, I took advantage of the life situation that was in front of me. Here’s what was going on: first of all, I was burnt out from my 9-5 sales job and planned on finding a new job, and this had nothing to do with my business. I knew I needed a career change. Second, I was getting married and knew that I’d be able to be on my new husband’s healthcare plan. I also had been making good money at my 9-5 and anticipated a potential lapse in income, so I had saved to be able to be out of work for about 4 months. I also planned with my husband on this. We agreed that while it wasn’t ideal to be living on one income in Washington, DC, we could manage this for a specific amount of time. I could work on growing my business for about 3 months, and then reevaluate if I needed to get another full time job, a part time job, or go all-in on my business.

But I will be honest with you – I felt a lot of shame in my story for a long time. I did not like the fact that I used my life situation to help me get where I wanted to go faster. I felt like it wasn’t fair – what about single business owners? What about business owners who had children dependent on them? I felt like my success was a sham all because I strategically used my life situation to get ahead with my business.

So maybe you hear that and you think that I was crazy! Or, maybe you hear this and you can relate. Perhaps you’re facing a similar life situation but don’t want to take advantage because you feel like it’s “cheating.” Or maybe you want to be able to say that you did it all on your own, without help from anyone else. I just want to give you a little reassurance that it doesn’t matter how other people started their business. What matters is your own vision for your life and what works best for you. If you can get ahead faster by strategizing your life situation, then do it! That absolutely does NOT mean taking advantage of other people, but it does mean feeling the freedom to make the decision that is best for you. Whatever gets you closer to that life vision so that you can live your best and most fulfilled life.

So let’s say that going full time sounds really good to you, OR maybe you already are full time but you’re struggling. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty and talk about whether or not it’s right for you to go full-time and what to do about.

If it’s not already clear, there is no one-size-fits-all, right or wrong answer to the question of “should you go full time?” However, as you’re figuring out your own vision for your business and what exactly is right for you, there are some things to consider which will help with this decision-making! I broke these down into a few categories:

  1. Setting Up the Basics
  2. Planning Your Business Strategy
  3. Knowing Your Numbers
  4. Planning Your Finances

First, let’s talk about the basics.

There are some basic elements that every service-based business should have. These are elements that I would argue are important for any business that wants to book clients regularly and make a profit, regardless of whether or not that business is considered a “full time” job. However, they are (what I would consider) essential if you want to make your business your only job and source of income.

The first thing that you really need is an effective website. What I mean by “effective” is that the website functions in a way that allows you to turn visitors of the site into prospective clients. So, at a bare minimum, your website should explain the general services you offer and provide a way for a client to get in touch with you. That’s it. That’s the bare minimum.

Websites can be a huge time suck – they are overwhelming, they inevitability will have tech hurdles and frustrations, and as artists, we also want it to look beautiful and be a great reflection of our work.

I have spent literal months of my life working on my website. If you are a newer business, you don’t need to do this. You simply need a place were potential clients can find you, learn what you do and then contact you. Start there, and you’ll have plenty of time to refine as time goes on.

The second thing you need is a sample of your work that you can show to potential clients. So if you’re a photographer, you should have a sample gallery of a wedding or whatever time of work you shoot prepared. If you’re a planner, you should have an example of your services laid out with images, if possible. If you are a consultant of any kind, including virtual assistants, business coaches or other strategist, you should have a past client’s results laid out in a clear and easy-to-communicate way to show a potential client. While you really only need ONE sample of your work, it is important to do this well and have it prepared at a moment’s notice when clients inquire. Most potential clients want to see what you are capable of before agreeing to pay you. And while there are plenty of businesses that kind of fly by the seat of their pants and throw different samples out as clients inquire, having one strong sample that you’ve spent time preparing is ideal and will make you look much more professional. At a bare minimum, you need something that you can show clients when they inquire.

Finally, you need a basic way to keep track of all of your clients in an organized way. This could be as simple as a Google doc or excel spreadsheet or it could be a CRM system or application. And, if you don’t already know, “CRM” stands for client relationship management – so these are systems or applications that automate your relationship with your client so that no one slips through the cracks. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of CRM systems that you could use! A few popular options for wedding vendors are Honeybook and Dubsado. For most service-based entrepreneurs, I think that investing in a CRM early is one of the best things you can do – before you even go full-time. But at a bare minimum, make sure you are are keeping track of all your clients in one place so that no one slips through the cracks!

Next, let’s talk about your business strategy.

If you are considering making your business your “full time” job – meaning your main or only job and source of income, you really need to consider a basic business strategy.

When I say this, I don’t mean that you need to have a full-fledged business plan with everything perfectly planned to the last detail. What I’m talking about are a few basic strategic elements that will allow you to know where you’re headed, how you’re going to get there and why.

So let’s talk about those strategic elements!

First and foremost, think about those vision statements that you’ve made for yourself. Any strategic decision you make within your business should align with your larger vision for your life.

So with that vision in mind, consider your BIG THREE. What are the three most critical things that your business needs to achieve right now? Is it booking a certain number of clients within a certain amount of time? Is it moving from an in-home office to an out-of-home work space? Is it adding a team member? Start here – think about the three things that are most crucial to the success of your business (within the lens of your vision). These BIG THREE are what you need to focus the majority of your attention on in the next 6-12 months.

Once you’ve established your big three, consider what 2-3 main goals need to be accomplished in order to achieve each of your big three. When it’s all said and done, this will mean that you have 6-9 critical goals for your next 6-12 months. And this is the start of a basic strategic business plan.

If you’re anything like me, you might find that the term “business plan” is intimidating. I remember when I first started my business and went “full time,” I had about 3 weddings on my calendar and someone outside of the wedding photography world asked me, “so what’s your business plan?” I felt SO dumb. I was like “. . . uh, well, I guess book some weddings?” I had NO idea how to make a business plan and honestly felt like it was something that I’d have to go to business school to do. This made me stagnate in formulating a strategy for WAY TOO LONG. The truth is that you don’t need business school or a background in business planning to create a really great business plan. You honestly just need the basics – a big picture vision, an understanding of the main things that will make your business successful, and some goals to achieve those things.

Now, I won’t lie to you – there are very effective ways of doing this and less effective ways. It’s difficult to get it right the first time – you may not realize just how important certain elements of your business are and inadvertently neglect them, only to find you lose clients as a result. You may also overemphasize the importance of something that doesn’t actually contribute very much to the overall success of your business. The important thing is to just get in the practice of being strategic – to think about the big picture often and then slowly refine your methods and strategy. However, what we’re going to talk about next is going to help you fast-track this learning curve so that you can really set yourself up for success.

The next thing I want to share with you is the importance of Knowing Your Numbers.

Ugh, numbers! Most of us hate, them right? Well, lucky for you, I don’t . . . which means I’m going to help you know your numbers in an easy-to-follow, no-math-needed way. Sound good?

So first, let me explain a little bit more about what “knowing your numbers” means. I’m actually not talking about your finances here (we’ll save that for the next part of this episode!). What I’m talking about is measuring and understanding your metrics.

“Metrics” are objective measurements that you can use within your business to track and understand the health of your business. The categories of metrics measured usually tie back to a financial goal for the business, but this is not always true. In general, they are a helpful and objective way to stay on track and make sure you’re accomplishing your most important goals.

It is important to know your numbers – to measure your metrics – because within a creative business, you can easily lose sight of how you’re actually doing. So much of what we do is subjective – based on a feeling that we have for ourselves, our work and our success. Subjective measurements of how you are doing are almost always going to lead to either a failed business or a major burnout. If you can’t objectively measure when you’ve achieved a goal, you’re never going to know when it’s OK to say, “I’m finished. I did it.”

Objective measurements give you something concrete to work towards, and they honestly are very simple to measure if you have the right tools.

Within my own business, I measure the following categories:

-Monthly gross income

-Monthly new leads (by lead source)

-Monthly new bookings (by lead source)

-Average hourly rate for weddings

-12 month rolling conversion rate

These categories might sound intimidating – like, you have no idea how to keep track of them or even what the mean. It is OK! First of all, you don’t necessarily need the same measurements that I do. Second of all, I have a few free resources for you that will you to plug in your own information and get started without the hassle of figuring out the technical stuff or the numbers. I’ll get to those resources in a second.

These metrics that I measure primarily tell me if we are on track to hit our goals for clients and income. They also help me identify what is currently working marketing-wise based on our lead sources (and, if you didn’t already know, a “lead source” is how a client finds us – like a referral from another client, from Instagram, etc.). If I see that over time, a number looks off, I can immediately give attention to that element of my business.

So like I said, I do have some free resources for both tracking leads and measuring metrics and I would definitely recommend checking both of those out if you haven’t already. They can be found at hannahbjorndal.com/leadtracker and hannahbjorndal.com/kpi. I also have full episodes that explain each of these topics – Episodes #37 for lead tracking and Episode #18 for measuring metrics – I promise these topics are NOT as intimidating as they sound, I break everything down for you and give you the tools you need in these episodes. Definitely check them out!

Regardless of how you decide to measure the health of your business, you need to find some way to objectively measure major significant metrics. And again, you can start at a super-basic level. The important thing is to have a practice of this, from the start, when your business is your primary job.

Finally, let’s talk about planning your finances. This topic, more than any other I’ve covered in the podcast so far, seems to be this black hole of confusion that small business owners fear when thinking of making their business a full-time job.

A strong understanding of your finances is, in my opinion, one of the best things you can do not only for your business, but for your life. But I get it: it’s confusing and hard to know where to start. So let’s break it down into a few smaller, easy-to-digest bites.

First, let’s talk about the two main categories of finances within your business: income and expenses, or profit and loss (you might even hear people throw around the phrase “P&L” when they’re trying to sound fancy and business-y). In other words, you’re going to make a lump sum of money this year. From that lump sum, you will have expenses – for gear, for software or apps, for travel – whatever. You’re going to spend money on your business. At the end of the year, whatever is left over from that lump sum that you did not spend is your profit. That is very basic and there are some other factors to consider like savings and taxes, but that’s really what you need to know right now – you have money coming in and money going out.

You need to know these numbers and, at a basic level, understand how they impact your business and your life.

First of all, you need to know how much money that you personally need on a monthly basis. This is literally different for everyone. Your life circumstances and vision for your life  will determine how much money you need to be taking out of your business to pay yourself on a monthly basis. Spend time thinking about this. Look at your monthly personal bills and expenses. If you don’t already have one, create a basic budget for your personal finances (I could create an entire other podcast on this topic!). Understand your financial situation, even if it’s a very basic understanding. It starts here and this is SO much more important for small business owners than anyone else!

Make a plan of how much money you are going to pay yourself – both annually and monthly. Every single small business owner needs to have a plan to pay themselves regularly. This might sound obvious, but honestly, so many business owners don’t pay themselves regularly! Can you relate to this at all?

Now, when you are brand new and still figuring out your business, and it’s not your primary source of income, this is totally OK! You have all kinds of flexibility (like we talked about before). However, if you want your business to be your full time job, you need to have a plan for paying yourself.

Side note – I highly recommend the book Profit First by Mike Mick-ALL-oh-witz if you aren’t already in the habit of regularly paying yourself. It will literally change your life!

Bottom line – you need a plan for how you’re going to pay yourself regularly. It is totally OK if you have a big bonus payout for yourself at the end of the year (in fact, I think it’s smart to underestimate how much you’re making and paying yourself, and then take a bonus for yourself at the end of the year!). But be planful – be strategic. This is one category that you absolutely cannot be ignorant to when becoming a full time small business owner!

The next thing to consider is what non-essential expenses do you want to save and plan for – in other words, how much money do you want to put back into your business and why? Again, the amount and the reasoning is different for everyone. There is no one right answer. However, every business, at some point, is going to need to make some investments to grow. Think about what those investments might be in the next 12-18 months and potentially start planning for them now!

There is a lot more to be said about planning your finances in your business – I really could make so many episodes all about this one specific topic – but to get started, you just need those basics. Over time, you will grow and expand your ability to plan financially for your business (and your life!).

And that leads me to a few last things I want to say before the end of this episode

First of all, running a business looks different for everyone, as it should. Each of us is totally unique. We have differing life situations, we live in different places, and we all have a unique vision for our life. So, there really is no one right answer to the question of “should I go full time?” It is different for everyone. What is important is doing the work in advance to make sure you make the decision that is right for you! Don’t let what other people are doing distract you from your own vision for your life.

And finally, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I threw out a lot of ideas and concepts in this podcast, and that might feel a bit overwhelming. It’s ok. You will not get each of those things perfectly right. You don’t need to. Ultimately, you’re going to figure everything out little by little. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. More than anything, I encourage you to examine the big picture for your life. Make intentional decisions and only go “full time” if it’s right for you personally!

Something I get really excited about is the big picture. I am passionate about helping you live your best and most fulfilled life, and using your business to power that life. If you listened to this episode and want to get intentional about how you’re running your business, I’d love to talk with you! I offer a hybrid 1:1 business coaching and mentoring program to a select number of small business owners each month, and I’d love to see if we’re a good fit. If you’re interested in learning more, send me a message at info@hannahbjorndal.com to learn more. We’ll start with a quick discovery call to determine if you’re a good fit.

I’m so glad to have you hear – I hope today’s episode was really helpful to you and that you learned something new. I love talking with you and answering any follow-up questions you have, so please don’t hesitate to send me a DM on Instagram (@hannahBjorndal) or shoot me an email at info@hannahbjorndal.com

I post new episodes every single week, so I hope to see you back here next Wednesday!

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