By Martha Lucius, Strategist
Want to quit your day job? Know you shouldn’t quit your day job? My experience, as a former cafe owner, is that the tortoise and hare fable is a big part of your business success. Take the steps to be prepared, and you will be better for it! I’ve worked with several makers—toffee maker, baker, and jerky maker. Building a strong foundation is important. So let’s jump in, and get you ready!
Can you afford to quit your day job?
This is the biggest question I will tackle in this article, and the answer lies in knowing if you can financially and emotionally afford to quit your day job.
Financially: exactly how much money NEEDS to come in each month to make ends meet? I mean, what’s the baseline to run your life and your business?
+ food money
+200$ minimum of mad money/surprise ______
monthly financial need
Okay, now you know how much you need. So, how much is coming in to cover those expenses? How much is your new business bringing in? If nothing, then definitely wait. If something, chart out how much it is, and if that is part of your monthly personal life. Don’t count on investors unless the money is in the bank, that is, if you want investors. Keep in mind that being on a tight budget is probably sustainable for a three-month plan. How do you expect your income to improve after that?
Next, it’s important to consider the emotional investment of being solely focused on your business. Emotionally, you may assume that with more free time, everything will fall into place, and you’ll finally be satisfied. You might think it’s easy to get your priorities met. In my experience as an owner of a cafe and in helping many businesses, holding onto even a part-time gig outside of your personal business is good, mentally, to give you a break. Turns out you are probably not as efficient when you have all the time in the world- you have less reason to set priorities and get ‘em done!
MORAL TO THIS STORY: know your finances. Consider going part-time with your day job, or take a side job, so at least you will get out of your head for a portion of your week.
Can you actually balance both your job and your makers business?
Yes, is the answer. You just need help staying centered, and progressing! Take some time to think, plan and think some more about HOW. If there is one question I ask an owner, it’s, “what’s your strategy? What’s your plan?”
If you have never been a business owner before there’s definitely a learning curve involved. It’s not like school, with its built in routines and structure…it’s not like your day job, where you come to learn how to do your duties and get things done. Being a maker is unique. That’s one great reason to be part of a makers community, like Made in Baltimore, to receive help and inspiration from someone who’s done what you’re setting out to do in another area. Since you have never done this before there could be an inkling of a doubt that drags you down, and maybe that fear could be diminished if you asked yourself to create short term and long term plans.
MORAL TO THIS STORY: Set goals. Put them into concrete terms in evernote or a write a letter to yourself that shows what an average week looks like.
Are you sure you have customers?
This might seem like a cruel question to ask, but it’s a tough surprise when you get past your loving friends and family and determine if you do/don’t have a growing following. Don’t assume customers will just find you and your awesome widget, and want to buy 10, bear in mind there are a lot of products vying for your potential customers’ attention.
You have to build a relationship with your present customers and, one that you can duplicate in the future. It’s valuable to ask yourself, “who is my ideal customer?”. And dig into that so you recognize them when they step up to your table/counter/website. Once you recognize them, then you have a plan of how to nurture them.
MORAL TO THIS STORY: if you are busy creating your product, void of knowing your customer, you will not know if they like what you are doing!
If you quit, what’s your strategy for the next year, and can you envision what your day to day will look like in Year 5?
Do you actually know “I need to sell 40 handmade items per month, to make this business successful”? And by that I mean do you have a precise sales target in mind and an actionable plan put in place to meet it? That’s the break even point question. Trish Salatin is an accountant who supports small business. Her life-force is helping owner get their financial house in order. Do you know how to determine when is a good time to start renting a space to bake your cakes?
MORAL TO THIS STORY: You need goals, realistic goals, to guide your decisions. You will have an easier day to day and week “at large”, if you have a plan, a strategy in place. Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, has a great article on setting your vision. Here is the link.
WHAT I HOPE YOU’VE LEARNED BY READING THIS PIECE: Once you grapple with, and answer each of the four questions, you will know, very realistically, if you should quit your day job. Like the tortoise and hare story, you need to plod along, work intentionally. It will pay off. Give up your day job, only when you are ready. Keep finding balance with work and your business. It will pay off.
Who is Martha Lucius?
I’ve been helping makers, cafes and restaurants for the past 4 years, since closing my fiercely independent cafe in downtown Baltimore. If anything in this article resonates with you, please feel free to reach out to me, or my mentee, Abbie Garcia. We are eager to help our community of businesses in Baltimore. Our first consultation is free. firstname.lastname@example.org, 410.963.6431. Abbie’s email is email@example.com.