March 9, 2017
I’m almost too paralyzed to click “Publish” on this blog entry. I’m about to break up with my side hustle/day job. My full-time, corporate day job. This post should really be titled ‘Fumbling Your Side Hustle and When to Let it Go!’ Juggling is a skilled act; fumbling is more like my true life!!
Let me also say that the job I’m leaving had a fairly pleasant environment, and I was blessed with a very sweet boss. I’m thankful for her kindness as well as the experience I’ve gained during my brief time in the corporate world.
After shooting our first wedding back in 2014, mere months after Sam and I were married (and kinda broke), we knew that our Photography business was where we were meant to water our roots. We got in the car after shooting our first wedding finally feeling like we had direction. It was euphoria! The two hour drive home was spent inhaling Chick-fil-A and scribbling notes about our first steps towards building a foundation for a business which depended on a skill we were just developing. Since we both studied Business at Virginia Tech, we had at least a basic idea of how to launch this small business into action.
Photo of us by Anna Kardos Photography
It seems easy enough right? You have an idea, build a website, and let yourself get excited about the lifestyle of ‘working to live’ versus ‘living to work’. At minimum, you can expect to funnel thousands of dollars into the first years of your business in order to give it a proper jumpstart. Unless you have an investor, don’t work a regular day job or have loads of expendable cash, this is easier said than done. It’s definitely not practical for many people and, sadly can often result in debt… or even giving up. To beat the odds, you have to be smart about money.
When we told our dream to friends and family it sounded crazy, even to us. Some were supportive, others were skeptical. We knew it would take years to build a solid foundation for our skills and credibility. We also knew that booking one wedding as an amateur team wasn’t enough to be considered a profitable business endeavor. So we chose the side hustle route and continued with our stable, corporate day jobs while we worked towards becoming debt free in with our own personal finances. I also needed the stability of my side hustle job in case we failed. The plan was always for me to run the business full-time, once we had built a business foundation we were proud of.
But then, life happens. The radiator explodes, flooding your apartment with black water while you’re away for the weekend… your Subaru BURSTS into flames for no apparent reason…and then you realize you somehow didn’t put enough aside for taxes due to naïve planning for your first year of business… Needless to say, these past couple months have been a doozy.
These past several years, my side hustle resume has been packed with all kinds of day jobs. I worked whatever corporate admin type job I could and even worked in the cutest ice cream stand alongside Sam for a season. Sometimes even 2 side hustles at a time on top of a full time job and on top of building our business. Many of those jobs I committed to working 40 hours a week, but I still would classify them as my “Side hustles” in comparison to how many hours were spent building and running a small business.
image of Carousel Frozen Treats from http://l7.alamy.com
But we did it! I’m scared to jump, but we’re going for it and praying like crazy. But for those of you out there who are still stretching yourselves thin with your side hustle, and even those who have no clue where their career path will take them, I’m writing this post for you.
We are cheering for you to make your dreams a reality. *Quick shoutout to all of you one-manned go-getters out there building a business. Without Sam as my business partner, I would have given up years ago – there is just too much to do and think about. Props to you all for lifting double the weight and STILL making it happen.
Even though the responsibilities were split between Sam and I in regards to building this business, we really started to struggle with balancing friends, family, photography, day jobs and marriage. Choosing one meant losing balance on another. “Compromises” looked like spending time with family or friends, but computers on our laps working. Side hustle jobs started noticing that I was wearing a dry-shampoo pony tail 5/5 workdays and not really “pushing myself.” The more momentum we got with Wedding Photography, the more business hours were needed to operate.
The juggling this past year has become fumbling. Although truly blessed to be gaining momentum quicker than we anticipated, we know we really have to kick it into gear so we don’t fall behind. People ask us how we still manage to have free time while working day jobs and running a business. Our answer is simple: we have no idea. Grace, prayer, and a sense of humor have become utter necessities for us to roll with the punches.
Here are the best 7 tips I can give anyone who is currently juggling/fumbling while they work towards their dream job:
Juggle Tip 1:
Know that you’re going to have to do a whole lot of hard work after you come home from your day job.
This is my least fun tip, so I’ll pull the Band-Aid off first, I’m sorry! You’re mentally drained from your day job when you come home at 5:30pm, but that’s when your real job starts. Sam and I spent so many hours into the late nights and early mornings making our business just function. This is a huge zone for burnout potential and we had to make a lot of compromises to be able to put in the time needed. This isn’t meant to be discouraging, but knowing what you’re getting into ahead of time could save a lot of stress.
Juggle Tip 2:
Find your people who build you up and surround yourself with them.
I recommend the Rising Tide Society to all my entrepreneur friends. Imagine a free network of 50k people who are like-minded and believe in community over competition. Yes, that actually exists! Groups meet up monthly all over the United States in all major cities!
Sam is my husband and my teammate. He encourages and leads by example that our business stay driven with a Jesus-loving heart. He packs the camera bags while I pack the car snacks. He’s my ride or die. (Actually, he drives and I ride!) 🙂
Juggle Tip 3:
Have a sense of compassion.
It’s a reality that time and resources will have to be put into your business. This affects other aspects of your life including friends, families, pets, coworkers, etc. *Ask people how their lives are going – if you only talk about yourself and your business, you are going to annoy the heck out of your friends and family!
Be in the business of people. Relationships > Revenue. Falling in love with our clients and not our business has reaped more joy and success than you could ever put a dollar amount on.
Juggle Tip 4:
Learn to say “No thank you.”
My lunch hours were spent either at the gym or editing in a hidden room during my time at corporate, and I chose to eat at my desk while I worked. I deleted candy crush off my phone (RIP). I said no thank you to work functions after 5pm. I said no thank you to photography opportunities that I knew wouldn’t be a smart use of my time.
I hate telling people no, but it gave me some peace of mind and a definite balance in my schedule. A girl’s gotta shave her legs every once in a while, too ya know!
God and family come first – then comes your business. Always. If you can do your best to stick to that, then you’re doing just fine balancing priorities.
Be careful as to not take your top priorities for granted. I call my parents often and I tell Sam he’s the best thing that ever happened to me on a daily basis.
Juggle Tip 5:
Organize the stuff you say “yes” to and obsessively plug them into your iPhone’s calendar!
Sam and I are calendar addicts and we’ve set ours to be shared with each other. Color coding family events, friend gatherings, appointments, weddings and engagements, we stay on track and can easily browse when we are available and when we are not. Here is how we currently categorized ours just to give you an idea:
Juggle Tip 6:
Have a humble, yet strong end game.
Among the MANY other questions you should ask yourself, here’s a few!
Ask: Is my paycheck fueling my longterm goals or my spontaneous spending?
Ask: Never stop saving! What expenses in my budget can I cut out?
Ask: What do I need to make each month to run my business?
Ask: How much do I need each month to pay personal bills?
Ask: How long will it take you to save X amount so that you can have at least 6 months backup savings before youplan to make the leap to full time self-employment?
Ask: How much do I need to save each month to cover retirement/health insurance/dental/etc?
Ask: Who do I know that can help guide me in the right direction towards my end game?
The Office, a meme from Image from https://i.ytimg.com
Your end game should be a responsible one. I am not encouraging anyone to quit their stable job, but I am encouraging you to see where you can save some cash to put towards your dreams.We nixed the extra spending and stuck to a budget until it became second nature. Smart business decisions derive from smart spending and saving.
**You don’t have to make a lot of money to save a lot of money.
*Read this book : Quitter by Jon Acuff on closing the gap between your day job and your dream job.
*Read anything Dave Ramsey . We recommend Total Money Makeover. Personal finances can either suffocate or breathe life into your dreams.
*Read The Truth About Money by Rick Edelman. This tells you how to save for retirement!
*Get these 2 apps: Wave (free invoicing and income tracking) and Mint (Personal Finance and easy to use).
Know when to quit.
I’ll be 100% honest with you. Although I know we reached our financial goals, I’ve been freaking out and have nervous sweaty palms just writing this post. I think I’ve asked Sam 100 times this month to re-run our financials over with me again in layman’s terms for me to feel confident enough to quit my full-time job….. Quit my stable, full-time corporate job for one that could fluctuate financially each year. Holy moly it’s hot in here!
Each day-job has taught me the same lesson: you either work to live or you live to work. Neither is wrong, as everyone wants different things out of life. Sam and I want to live more than we work and we want to control our own time off so that we can travel/work from wherever we please. We are creating a business where that can be our reality.
Sam and I both agreed that I could not quit my day job as long as we had any debt. We started photography with basic used gear and then any money we earned went to upgrades and education. These past 2 years our professional equipment was paid off within a month if it wasn’t paid for in cash. The last thing you want to do is to take out a loan for you business when you don’t need it! Not only do you want to take care of your business debt, but you need to keep in mind your personal debt. Sam went back to school last year for UX/UI designing and it was essential to pay that off before I went full time, as well.
Leap to full-time when it’s financially smart. Rule of thumb:You don’t want to quit until you know that your business can provide an equal to or greater income than your current job. Business taxes, business expenses and equipment add up every year, plus you want to give yourself a paycheck to pay your own personal bills. It is very important to save for retirement, even if it’s as small as $25. Why didn’t they teach us these gold nuggets of wisdom in high school?!
Here’s what we do: We evaluate where we are in our business and where we are in our financials monthly. We set goals, even they seem unreachable just to push ourselves.
Save. Spend wisely. Save. And save again. Repeat.
Sam and I are cheering for you!
What about Sam? Wait, who is Sam?
Sam is my cutie-pie husband and the other half of this big heart behind our Wedding Photography business. He’s honestly the best guy God’s ever designed and he’s way too good for me. Man he’s good looking, even with scary long boutonniere pins in his mouth.
Sam already works from home/remotely as a savvy UX/UI designer, aka he designs apps for phones and computers and then sends them to a developer to create. He loves his job and has no plans of quitting! He will still photograph all weddings with me and his role in our business will stay relatively the same. He’s been telling me over and over that he can’t wait for me to work at home with him, and I know he means it. We can now work both of our jobs from anywhere we please!!
AHHH! Thank you so much to everyone who has encouraged us to follow our crazy dream! We are so happy and excited to take this leap of faith and give an even stronger, more united 100% back to our amazing wedding clients, friends, family, and each other. This would not be possible without the love and support you all have given us!
We hope this post has been helpful and encouraging for you! 🙂