Ten Things We Wish We Had Done Before Making the Full-Time Leap
By: Britt Hyatt and Kelsey Christine of Launch Your Daydream
Before we became the dynamic duo that we are today, the two of us each had our own journey to creative entrepreneurship. Despite how different those two journeys may have been, we realized a lot of similarities in our lives after the leap. Looking back, there are a few things we each realize we could have done differently to make our lives a bit easier in the beginning of becoming full-time biz owners. And in the spirit of community over competition, we want to share these anecdotes with all of you badass side hustlers who may be considering taking that leap sometime soon.
So first, let us start this off with this classic sentiment: NO REGRETS!
Really, though. These are things we wish we had done in retrospect, but in that moment, we were both just so ready to make the leap and we’re happy that we did. So, take these tips with a grain of salt. If you haven’t done all 10, but you’re ready to go for it, by all means—go for it! You know you best. We just hope that we can shed some light and maybe bring up something that you haven’t thought of yet. Let’s get down to business!
1. Build a portfolio.
When a client is debating whether or not to book you, they will want to see examples of your work first. Not only will building a portfolio help with getting more jobs, but it gives you a chance to gain experience and confirm that this is definitely what you want to be doing full-time. If your work is something that you can’t really show a visual representation of (coaching, strategy, etc.), this is still a good way to gather testimonials!
Kelsey here! I want to share a little story about this specific piece of my experience. When I first made the leap, I offered a plethora or services; pretty much anything remotely I knew how to do. I ended up rebranding less than 6 months later to focus on what I truly wanted to be doing -- design. At this point I had NEVER created a logo for a client before. So, I picked up a few "anchor clients." These are clients that you make a deal with: you do the work for them at a discounted price (or for a service swap!), and they agree to provide feedback and refer you to other clients in the future. I was transparent with my anchor clients and let them know that they were doing me a favor just as much as I was doing them a favor. After I had a few real-life examples up in my portfolio, I felt 10x more official. (AND, this is how I met Britt! Who knew we’d end up here.)
2. Get organized internally.
One thing we REALLY wish we had figured out beforehand was a client management system. We didn’t even start using one until months after launching our businesses, only to find out that it wasn’t the right fit for us. So we went from system to system to system, often needing to fill our clients in on why our internal structure was changing. It just doesn’t look professional. Now, we are (of course) Team Dubsado and we love everything about it, but we wish we had figured that out beforehand to make everything easier on us and our clients.
Your life will be so much easier if you have all of your internal processes established before getting started. It's totally fine to adjust those processes once you start and get a feel for things, and you will as you learn what your clients need (and what you need!) - but it makes a world of difference to have something in place.
3. Learn about taxes.
We highly recommend hiring or even just talking to a CPA before making the leap. Kelsey had previously worked as an independent contractor, so she knew how to pay her own quarterly taxes, but being a business owner is a whole new world of info (cue Aladdin music). You now have to consider how you’re going to structure your business (sole-proprietorship, LLC, S-corp?! WTF??), expenses and write-offs, organizing your income, and making sure you pay the right amount each quarter. Getting this sh*t figured out ahead of time will save you a boat load of headaches and you will feel so much more prepared!
Britt here! -- Taxes were actually one of the top reasons I was afraid to launch my first business. I was scared. I didn’t want to mess something up and have it financially impact my family. Luckily, I felt much more confident after talking to CPAs and other business owners to learn about expenses, best practices, quarterly taxes, and even some things that they’ve done to save money during tax season.
4. Establish a financial plan.
While we're on the topic of money, figure out how much you want to make! #milliondollars. ;) This is gonna sound crazy, but we weren’t setting actual financial goals for ourselves until nearly a year after launching our businesses. It helps SO MUCH to see a number that you're working toward. Here's how to do that: figure out what a comfortable income would be for you. Consider all your required monthly expenses, and then add in some buffer + expendable income + savings (and don't forget to subtract what you'll owe for taxes!). Then, based on your pricing, figure out how many projects you'd need to book each month in order to meet that goal. (This exercise may leave you wanting to raise your prices, which is completely normal and probably necessary.) Ahh, if only we had done this from day 1!
5. Build a social media following.
Our merge was a different story, but when we each initially made the leap, this is something we wish we had spent more time on beforehand. Get yourself established as a business on social media first. You don't have to have a website yet! Engage with ideal clients and build a following that is relevant to your work. Make sure that you have created a business account on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest (or wherever you determine your ideal clients spend the most time). Use your business name and OWN that you are a BOSS! Once you start to build a following, you can post teasers for your site/upcoming launch. When people are ready and waiting, your biz will be sure go off with a bang!
6. Plan client gifts.
This one isn't a necessity, but we love it! We didn't decide to create client gifts until much later in the game. These gifts can be absolutely anything your heart desires. Some of our photographers like to send surprise prints or a personalized USB drive. We've also seen mugs with coffee/tea, anything that matches the client's brand colors, and more. In the beginning, before we had much income, we would send cards + e-Starbucks cards. We even had a client that said she cried happy tears getting a Starbucks e-card because it just made her bad day at her 9-5 so much better. Remember, it can be small, but it's the thought that counts!
7. Save up.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you are SO ready to quit your 9-5, you might not even care to think about your savings (like us). Though we both did have quite a bit saved, it still hurts to take out of your savings so much while getting started. We like to think of our savings account as an emergency account, and would have much rather saved up specifically for our business startup costs before making the leap. This also would have allowed us to invest in some of those things we wish we had purchased earlier (like a client management system, a CPA, a new desk, cloud software, etc.).
Read anything and everything associated with your industry and with running a business. We are so fortunate to live in a time where ALL THE INFORMATION is at our fingertips. Take advantage of that. Scope out some industry leaders you look up to and read their blog posts. Research aspects of owning a business that you're not too familiar with. Whether it's taxes, legal stuff, client management, blogging, SEO—there's helpful information out there! Go find it. (It's a good sign that you're reading this right now!)
Connect with others in your specific industry and learn from them. We are members of multiple Facebook groups for creative entrepreneurs and even a few specific to designers. It has been a game-changer! When you're able to connect with others in your industry, you can ask each other questions, receive/give advice, and lift each other up when the going gets tough. It's so nice to connect with people that understand our business and what we do on a day-to-day basis. Whether you find local friends in your industry, or just connect with others online, it will feel so comforting to have that place to go when you feel lost or confused. And who knows..it may even lead to a business partnership someday! ;)
10. Get yourself a biz BFF.
Whether in the same industry or not, it helps to find a friend that understands what you're going through (as mentioned in #9). Additionally, you will probably need some help with accountability! It’s so crazy going from a 9-5 where someone was always expecting you to do things, to being your own boss and creating your own tasks. On most days, the need for income and the love for what you do will motivate you. But, there will definitely be days where you feel like you just literally can't even. That's when your Biz BFF swoops in and helps get your mind straight! We were (obvi) each other’s biz BFFs before merging our businesses and we love having that person to hold each other accountable, to share our goals, and to help each other achieve those goals. As much fun as it is to be a solo-boss, sometimes it's nice to still feel like you've got people right by your side.
So there you have it! We wish you the best of luck in making that brave leap to freedom! For those of you who have done it, what are we missing? What do you wish you had done before becoming a full-time boss?
Kelsey + Britt are biz BFFs that recently combined their branding + website design businesses to form a new design studio called Launch Your Daydream. Kelsey, Britt, and their Dream Team of experts provide custom designs + educational resources for female creative business owners who are looking for a source of encouragement, excitement, and confidence within their biz.