QUITTING YOUR DAY JOB
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20: MY TOP 5 TIPS
The day I quit Corporate America was one of the happiest and one of the scariest days of my life.
Happiest for obvious reasons: I was stepping into my dream of being my own boss and owning my own business.
Scariest also for obvious reasons: I was leaving the security of a 6-figure salary and a full benefit package.
When I started my professional photography business, we had a 5 year business plan for me to transition into quitting my job before going full time. That was accelerated by 4 years due to my struggle of working the horrific hours of a full time job + building a business to the tune of 85 - 90 hours a week.
My photography business was growing and it was clear that we could make it work. But we weren’t financially ready for me to quit that soon!
I was forced to make a do-or-die decision: either quit my dream or quit my job. It was a huge, HUGE leap of faith but I gave my notice.
Long story short, I replaced that income very quickly.
But to be real, it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was harder than I ever could have imagined because I was forced to start out sprinting with the stress of building a business super fast.
We went on to build a successful, luxury portrait studio and also my online education business (Voice Your Brand) 10 years later.
Building my business was not without some major sacrifices. At the time, I truly had no idea exactly what that meant. I was just very elated to have left the job I hated.
Despite the success, if I could do it over again would I do anything differently? That answer to that question is: absolutely.
To jump right to it, here are my top 5 lessons and takeaways from the experience of quitting my day-job to pursue Entrepreneurship:
01/ I WOULD HAVE WAITED TO QUIT I know this sounds crazy but it’s not an off-the-cuff comment. I’ve had years to reflect on this. As much as I love my business, I realized a major lesson: careers can be put on hold. Raising children can’t.
The biggest sacrifice in building my business back then was giving up precious time with my kids that I can never get back. Oh, I was a good mom. I’m very confident to say that. But I missed valuable time with Tori and Jordan that I can never, ever, ever get back. I regret that. Deeply.
So hind sight, I would have changed my mindset from thinking it was a “do-or-die” choice to making adjustments and scaling back my business growth. I would have slowed down and turned down business to grow it at a slower pace in order to have more time with them when they were little.
Part of the sacrifice was the fact that I had to roll up my sleeves and replace 6 figures really fast. Plus insurance became 100% our financial obligation.
And this is coming from someone who truly, honestly hated her day-job. No matter, it wouldn’t have killed me to stay on for another 4 years in order to have less stress and burden in building a business when my kids were young.
Hindsight. It’s truly 20/20.
02/ I WOULD HAVE DONE ONLINE SALES I was determined to have a “legitimate business” and the photography industry (as is true with many industries) labels that as having in-person sales + a brick and mortar. Maybe not a brick and mortar so much anymore, but 15 years ago, that was the case.
I’ve done in-person sales from day one of opening my business (meaning face to face with the client in their home and later, in my studio).
But also, I had to learn how to offer a way for my clients to place portrait orders online back then because we had quite a few out of town clients that would come into Sacramento from surrounding, outlying areas in Northern California.
In an industry that is visual, the emphasis has always been on “getting in front of the customer for higher sales” because the sale comes from emotion and emotion is best evoked with in-person sales. I don’t disagree with that.
But looking back, I would absolutely set up my business model as an “online sales portrait studio” to free up more time for my family while building my business.
I’ve always had a high sale average and I developed an amazing high-average sale with my online system as well, even though they were very few and far between.
The key to a higher online sale is consulting with them in person during the photo session and putting systems and requirements in place for the online order.
Today, anything a business owner can do well online is a bonus because time is valuable. In an industry that is heavily educating its people to do “in-person sales”, I step out and rebel against that to say “online sales” can still yield $3,000+ sales when done correctly. I know. I did them. I just wish I would have built my business model around that back then to allow for a more balanced family life.
(A note of clarification to photographers: when I refer to “online sales”, I’m referring to offering portrait products such as large canvas, framed and other prints together with albums, etc. via an online system. This is not referring to “digital versus prints”. And to further clarify, I suggest this as to a way to have more time with a young family when building a business, not as a preferred method for portrait sales).
03/ I WOULD HAVE OUTSOURCED MY WORK This would have, again, allowed for a more balanced life with my young kids. But I was stubborn and believed I was the only one who could retouch my images to get “the look” I thought only I could create in post.
The truth is, back then, and even more so today, there are retouching services that can create the look that is uniquely yours. It takes finding the right one, but there are many to choose from. This is widely available and a great option for managing the workflow of a photography business.
I also would have outsourced many other processes in my business much sooner. Hiring a team can give you back your life when building or growing a business.
04/ I WOULD HAVE ESTABLISHED MY BOUNDARIES SOONER See a theme here? I keep saying the word “sooner” throughout this article. Again, time is limited in life. When our families are young, every moment counts.
I remember staying up until 2am, 3am, 4am even after quitting my day job. One thing is for sure, you can (and will) work harder and longer in your own business than you do for someone else. This is why establishing boundaries for business hours is so critical to keeping balance in your life.
It’s takes intention and discipline to establish work boundaries especially for those working from home. Going back, my wiser self would know to say “no” to overly extended hours in building the business.
05/ I WOULD HAVE INVESTED IN EDUCATION SOONER Now, just to clarify, I did invest in education and always have. I just would have done it sooner with what I know now. I felt like I had to be frugal given the circumstances of quitting my job so soon, but in reality, having invested in a mentor or program (I can think of one I wanted back then and held off) would have made monumental differences in my business.
The entrepreneurs I’ve always looked up to have mentors and invest in programs, conventions and conferences and it sets the bar for excellence. I just wish I would have done it sooner.
OVER-ALL: Looking back over my 15 year career, I’ve learned that Work-Life-Balance, and thus true success, comes from learning to value time and realizing that it has more value than the money we exchange for it.
We all have the same amount of hours in a day. Determining our priorities while pursuing our dreams is imperative in also pursuing peace, joy and true happiness while raising a family and doing life.