1. Network Like Crazy
I started Pastry Shells back in 2010 making cakes and desserts for friends and family. Every time I was at a delivery (a.k.a. attending my friends’ events) I would pass out business cards and talk my business up. When I first started I would receive about 1 order a month… that’s it. I knew I wanted to make this my career and I knew the only way to do it was to build up my connections.
Every event I went to I kept passing out cards and talking about my yummy business and it grew my business, but SLOWLY. I was struggling to find enough clients. I knew my product was yummy and I knew I was creative, but I couldn’t get my name out there.
So, I did research, research, and more research. I listened to podcasts, followed blogs specifically about growing my reach, starting analyzing the top bloggers and instagramers, worked on my photography, and most of all networked.
I started attending the Rising Tide Society chapter here in Atlanta and met up with some amazing creatives (find your local Rising Tide Society). From there I started donating my time and work to styled shoots. These are what make up those extravagant and beautiful weddings you see in some magazines and on some blogs.
All this paid off! I would say the first turning point was after being published on about 5 different wedding blogs from those style shoots I was telling you about. Suddenly, my inbox would receive email every day! My connections with all the planners and photographers worker and I was getting REAL client referrals.
I continually reach out to people within my industry to make more and more connections which in turn builds my client network.
2. Save! Save! Save!
Everyone who has quit a day job to work for themselves will tell you to save as much money as possible. They will also tell you they wished they had saved more.
You might think “my business is doing so well, I don’t really need to save” but remember, your business will be REQUIRED to pay the bills. You will not be getting a check with the same amount every two weeks anymore.
My business income is like a roller coaster. I have months with ton of weddings and then I will have a month with 1. Imagine having to pay a mortgage, power, phone, gas, etc. off of the sale of ONE wedding cake… it’s just not possible. That’s where the savings comes in! It allows me to not stress out too much when I have a slow month because those are almost inevitable.
3. Can You Survive
I’m a stickler for balancing my checkbook but I know a lot of people don’t even know where to start! My advice, calculate what you spend in 1 month. Then make sure your business can pay you that amount or more. Otherwise, refer back to number 1.
Here is a helpful guide to help you determine how much you will need every month:
4. Ween Off
At one point during the last seven years I was ready to quit. I was over-worked. I would work 40 hours as an engineer and then 40 hours as a baker. I physically was sick and completely worn out. So, I went to my boss and asked if I could work part-time. Unfortunately, my company doesn’t prefer part-time employees therefore we compromised. Once a month, on my busiest week, I would work four 10 hour days and have Friday off. It was a lifesaver! I was able to stay at my day job for at least another eight months.
When I finally decided to quit, I was so scared about ending my salary completely and I just love the people I was working with. I offered to work on one activity a week, something NO ONE else knew how to do. They jumped on it! They knew it would have been difficult for them if I up and left and I agreed I would train the new employee on this task once he/she was hired. So, now I work a few hours a week to supplement my income just a tiny bit. It won’t last long, but it is such a great feeling knowing I’ll still get a small pay check every two weeks!
5. Take the plunge – you’ll never really be “ready”
Someone once told me “You will never be ready to quit” and boy were they right! Even though I know I made the right decision, I still wonder if it was the way to go. I still wonder if I have enough clients, if I saved enough, or if I’ll make enough. The truth is, I don’t really know and I am okay with that!
Owning a business does not just fall into your lap. It takes a lot of work and dedication. One day, you will feel steps 1-4 are complete and will need to trust yourself and all your hard work and JUMP!