by Dana Garczewski of The Patterned Peacock
I started The Patterned Peacock in 2011 and from the beginning I knew I wanted to make a full time living from it. But what should you achieve before quitting your day job and devoting all your efforts to your business? I spent the past two years wondering exactly how one makes that transition. Do you have 100 Etsy sales a month? Do you make thousands of dollars at every craft show you do? Do you have 50 wholesale accounts? Does Real Simple stumble across your web site and include you in their holiday gift guide?
All of these things have yet to happen for me but I am happy to say that as of September 25 The Patterned Peacock is my full time job. Why did I decide the time was finally right? Well, to paraphrase Megan Auman of Designing an MBA: it’s hard to build a full time business on a part time schedule. At some point, if you believe in what you do and are willing to work hard at it, then you simply need to take the plunge. But here are a few things that I did to help ease the transition.
Got a handle on my product line: I needed the first two years to experiment and make a lot of mistakes. There are so many products that I’ve tried and then discontinued for one reason or another. I’ve learned what I can produce profitably and with consistent quality. And what items–as much as I love them–are just too time consuming to make them worth my while. I’ve also received a lot of feedback by doing craft shows and gotten a better understanding of which pieces people gravitate towards and which are ignored. All of this information has helped me refine my product line. And while there is always room for improvement, I now feel confident about what I offer.
Got my finances in order: I paid off my debt (which would not have been possible if I had a mortgage.) I also determined a monthly budget that included both my living and business expenses. Then I made sure I had enough money in my savings to cover a year’s worth of expenses before I quit my day job. This is the biggest reason why it took me so long to leave the corporate world.
Surrounded my self with supportive people: It can be hard for those who love you to understand why you’d want to leave a steady paycheck for to pursue a dream that has such a high failure rate. They may question your decision or try to talk you out of it. That’s okay; not everyone is going to get it but it’s crucial to have people who believe in you as well. I had many conversations with my boyfriend about leaving my job. It was important that he was on board with my decision not only as a boyfriend but also because we live together and share household expenses. Luckily he is incredibly supportive of my dreams and even gave up his office in our home so I could have a studio.
I don’t have many friends who are entrepreneurs or in the creative field. So joining Boston Handmade has made all the difference to me. Not only am I surrounded by people who understand and support what I’m trying to do, but they are more than willing to share their time, expertise, and hard-earned knowledge to help another person achieve their dream.
Identified multiple revenue streams: I am a big believer in diversification. I figured I could reduce my risk of failure by determining multiple ways to make money with my business. If one revenue stream goes south or takes longer than I thought to pan out, the whole business doesn’t suffer. But it’s a bit of balancing act to identify enough avenues to make your business well-rounded but not so many that you’re over extended. For 2014, I’ve chosen to focus on e-commerce, wholesale, and licensing as my top priorities with craft shows and teaching as secondary objectives.
Established long-term goals: If I only focused on the next tweet, shipment, or product listing my business would stay exactly as it is today and not grow into the bigger venture I want it to be. So I established some long-term goals to help me focus on the bigger picture. I will be exhibiting at Surtex (which is a tradeshow in NYC for surface pattern designers) in 2014. This is a huge commitment in terms of both time and money and the thought of doing this show scares me a little. But I know it will motivate me to raise the bar on the work that I create. And because I have to make so much new work for the show it will force me to stay disciplined by sticking to the strict preparation schedule I’ve set.
Got supplemental work: In the end, I decided I couldn’t go cold turkey. I thought the best way to make the jump from the corporate world would be to get a part time job. It took me awhile to find the right position but I was able to land a job close to my house, in a creative field, and working for a small independent company.
I also asked my fellow Boston Handmaders for their advice on this topic. “Make yourself a routine or a schedule and stick to it. There is no time clock anymore,” said Lynn of Prunella’s Workshop. She also added, “You are the boss and the employee. Give yourself a day off and don’t be such a slave driver. It can be easy to be a bad boss.” Bev of Linkouture suggested, “Find a space where you are comfortable doing your work so that there is some separation between home and work life. Change up your routine and get out of the house once in awhile to do some work in a coffee shop or with some other people.”