Ten years ago I walked away from my day job and I never planned or imagined the evolution and growth that my tiny creative business would have. At the time, all I wanted was to earn enough income with my creativity to be able to quit my desk job. I spent years practicing, trying, failing and searching for a creative and fulfilling career as an artist. And if I am being honest, I spent a lot of time hoping for my “big break”, drifting, jumping around and never fully committing to what it would really take to achieve my dream of being a working artist. But everything changed when I decided to get serious and disciplined about my dreams. I sat down and got really honest with myself and my goals and instead of waiting for something to happen, I decided to make a five year plan to quit my day job in order to work as a full time artist.
Now, five years is a long time but I was really conservative and careful about decisions at the time. Because I was working two jobs, I knew it was unrealistic to try and quit my job quickly. Instead I gave myself a lot of time to work within my life and schedule. Today I wanted to share a detailed look at what that plan looked like. My hope is that you will find a little inspiration and feel empowered to chase after your own big goals.
Identify the BIG Dream:
My giant dream was to quit my day job and work as a full time artist. At the time my husband was working his job but we also needed my income to survive. If I quit, I needed to make the same income as my day job which was $30K per year OR $2,500 per month OR about $83 per day. While this information TOTALLY overwhelmed me at the time, breaking it down into numbers is what helped me figure out a basic plan.
TIPS: Don’t be afraid to talk to the people in your life about your big goal or dream. Often it is the people that know us best that can help with support, ideas, inspiration or act as a sounding board!
Also, don’t be afraid or overwhelmed by putting a price on that dream. For a good part of my life, while I was always making and selling art, I never sat down and made a budget or put a number on my goals. The day, I looked at my bills, my financial responsibilities and the income that I needed in order to quit my job, was the day that my entire plan caught fire!
Identify the things you can do to make it happen:
My goal was to work as a full time artist and create a sustainable creative business that would produce the income that I needed to survive. I knew that this goal would likely have a lot of trial and error and involve a lot of searching for the “right way” to earn that income.When I began brainstorming and planning, I discovered that I was really flexible. All I cared about was having a job or business where I was creative. Once I was grounded in this realization, I was able to make a plan that included all kinds of different options I could try. I was able to make a plan that included all kinds of different steps. Here are the big ones that I started with:
Grow and build my online shop to make more predictable revenue.
Apply to craft/art shows during the holidays.Write a book.
Look for paid opportunities to write articles for magazines.
Apply to teach at art retreats.
Look for local (paid) teaching opportunities.
Teach my own classes and retreats.
Teach classes online.
TIPS: Keep an open mind about the steps it takes to reach your goal! While it is great to figure them out, you can also infuse flexibility into that plan. And when (or if) things in life change, give yourself permission to change those steps and smaller goals.
I’ve found that writing it all down or keeping a journal really helps in the planning process. I think that we all tend to plan differently. I am not here to tell you how to go about documenting your plan. Instead I just want to encourage you to get it on paper and use it for reference. Often it’s these brainstorms, outlines or written plans that can be the daily reminder that you need to stay focused on your plan.
Get realistic about the time frame it takes to reach that goal:
When I started planning, 30k per year felt like a lot of money that I needed to make as an artist in order to quit my day job! I was overwhelmed so it made sense to give myself lots of time to try different things, save money and develop my creative business into something that would be long term. This is why I settled on a five year plan for my big dream. I knew that more time meant more flexibility for trial and error and it meant having the ability to take risks. Here is what it looked like:
For my five year plan, I used year one and two as the time frame where I was experimenting, testing ideas, trying new things, creating new work, doing lots of research and “casting my net far and wide”.
I used year three and four for growing and building upon the things that were working and were generating income. These are the years within my five year plan that I had the most growth because I had put in the hard work of really testing what would work for my dream.
Year five was the time when I began the process of walking away from my day job. By this time, I had exceeded my goal of generating $30k per year from my creative business. In fact, by this time I had run into the “good problem” of needing more time to put into my business which made quitting my day job a decision that made sense.
TIPS: Figuring out a time frame for your goal/dream is one of the most important things you can do when developing a plan. Having a clear understanding of the time it could take to reach a goal is going to help you get more realistic about what the steps involved in your plan.
Keep in mind that different dreams are all going to have a timeline that looks different. A five year plan for my dream made sense for my life but someone else may have only needed one year! Go easy on yourself when it comes to time. I’ve found that staying realistic and honest about my schedule, the amount of time I have and how much I do, has helped me become a better planner.