Should I Take My Art Full Time?
You have been creating art for a while and even been selling a few artworks here and there. They seem to be popular so you are thinking of living out your dream of giving your boss the boot to work for yourself as a full time artist.
In this article I will share some of my experiences of working as a full time artist for over 20 years and why I recommend you go part time first.
When you first have the thought of starting a business, you imagine working your normal 9 to 5 hours but without the boss hovering over your shoulder. You also imagine the fat monthly take home income of at least double your current salary. Although some businesses do start like that, the reality is that most businesses will run at a loss for a few years before they break even.
The question you need to ask yourself is: Do you have enough reserve capital to carry yourself and your business until you are able to reach break even?
To really burst that initial bubble, you also need to ask yourself: What guarantee do you have the business will succeed?
Let's assume you do have enough capital to carry yourself for an extended period. Let's be generous and assume you can carry yourself for three years - this is generally the make or break point for new businesses.
Are you willing to take the risk that after 3 years - when you have no capital left - that the business may not have reached break even yet? I know it sounds crazy and terribly negative to ask these questions, but unfortunately you have to. Some business simply take longer than others to break even / turn a profit.
Let's take a look at some of the reasons why this is the case.
Why Some Businesses Take Longer Than Others To Break Even
There are many reasons for this:
1) Lots of competition - if you are entering a very competitive market then you can expect it to take longer for your business to break even as it will be tougher for you to carve out a space for yourself in that niche.
2) Low product demand - the quality of your product may not be up to standard yet or people may not like your current product offerings. This will initially hurt your sales until you have improved your product enough to increase the demand.
3) Bad management - new businesses are especially prone to this because the new owner has probably come from a job based background so is still learning how to run a business.
4) Weak marketing - Marketing in the wrong places or insufficient marketing is the biggest culprits here.
5) Cash flow problems - this is usually due to not enough sales to cover the overhead. This then leaves the business with little to no money to market their products.
Learn As You Go
As somebody still in the planning phase of starting your business you have the opportunity to learn from mistakes made by others and to learn as you go.
My advice to people in this situation is to start the business as a side hustle and then work yourself out of your job.
There are various reasons for this but the main one has to do with risk. Making the transition from salary to business is a huge change in mindset. The way you do things in business is extremely different when compared to earning a salary - especially if you are going to become a one or two person micro business.
In a micro business you basically handle every single part of the business. Most of these will be unfamiliar to you. By starting the business as a side hustle you are giving yourself the opportunity to grow into the business.
A new business owner WILL make mistakes. It comes with the territory. These mistakes could easily sink the business financially. If you still have your salary coming in then these mistakes don't hurt as much.
Prove Your Business Model
Starting part time also allows you to prove your business model. Your friends and family may tell you how fantastic your artworks are. Your market research may also show there is a market for your artworks.
Until your product is on the table however and the public actually have to take their wallet out of their pocket and handover their hard earned cash, you can't be sure.
By starting the business as a side hustle will allow you to spend weekends, or after hours selling your artworks. If they sell well then you know you have a viable product with which to build a full-time business on.
Hone Your Selling Skills
Starting part time gives you the opportunity to hone your selling skills. This is hands down the biggest problem most businesses suffer from.
You can have the best products but if you are terrible at selling them, you are not going to make much money.
If on the other hand you have great selling skills, you will be able to sell up a storm even if your product is not the best on the market.
You only need to look at what is selling at some of the top art auctions to see that good marketing skills are more important than brush skills.
Streamline the Processes
Starting part time will give you the opportunity to streamline your accounting systems and allow you to put routines in place that you can use later when you go full time.
This will also force you to create your art works as efficiently as possible because you will not have the whole day every day to work on them.
Are you starting to see the huge advantages of starting part time? You can think of starting part-time as practice for going full time.
When To Go Full Time?
You will naturally know when the correct time will be to take the plunge because you will now have the sales data and history at hand to make an informed decision.
My recommendation is always too build the business to a point where it replaces, or almost replaces your salary. If you can get to that point part time, then the dream you imagined at the beginning will become a reality because you will then be able to ramp up the business above and beyond what you were used to earning when you go full time.
In order to run a profitable business you need to make MORE money than just covering your current salary. You need money for marketing, expenses and a profit on top which can be used to grow the business / build wealth.
Yes I know running a part-time business is difficult. It feels like all you are doing is working and there is no free time for yourself.
This will force you to work more efficiently and also outsource jobs that are not essential in order to free up your time. This will serve you well when you go full time.
Once that initial learning curve has been overcome and you have the business streamlined and running like a well oiled machine however, it will stop feeling like you are running yourself silly.
From then on you will WANT to spend the whole night working on the business to grow it.
In fact you will then actually have to force yourself to take breaks, which is the subject of another article entirely.
So in conclusion, unless you have the capital to carry yourself for an extended period and are willing to risk losing that capital, then always start your business as a side hustle.
Once the side hustle has proved itself as being able to support you on a consistent basis, then you know you will have a good full-time business.
You will then also have removed most of your risk of failure from the business. The business will be running efficiently already so the extra time you have from going full time can all be spent on growing the business.
Important : Your job as a full time business owner is to spend most of your time working ON your business and NOT IN it!
Are you planning to, or did you start a side hustle business first and then work yourself out of work? If so let me know your experiences in the comments below.