Quitting anything, should be a job, career or school, to become a full-time artist is a ballsy move. It’s a scary feeling and the precursor of such an idea usually comes in the form of a little voice in your head. I used to walk to my corporate job every day and sometimes, out of nowhere I’d have this thought popping up in my head “What the hell am I doing here? I shouldn’t be working here – I should be writing, drawing or making art. I should just … quit.”
But I couldn’t just quit out of the blue. I had a student loan to pay and I needed to save money. I needed a plan. We all need a financial plan when we decide to quit our full-time anything to become a creative professional.
Maybe you’re in a similar spot as I was. You have a full-time job or study full-time and you’re wondering about taking the leap to work for yourself full-time as an artist. I believe there are many solutions to make your decision to quit as sustainable for you as possible, and we’ll go through them in 4 steps:
Step 1 – Going part time instead of cold-turkey.
If you don’t have any emergency fund saved up… Instead of quitting, is there a possibility for you to work part-time at this job? Unless this job is literally sucking the life out of you then, by all means. But if you like this job, are you in a good spot to speak to your manager and discuss an arrangement where you might work part time hours and by doing so, dedicating a larger chunk of your time in a week to your art business? The same if you are a student studying full-time in a specific program – there is always the possibility of taking fewer classes per week so you can work on your creative business.
Step 2 – Getting your finances & responsibilities in a good spot
Maybe you do have an emergency fund. Then, quitting cold turkey could be an option. In my opinion, you need to have saved at least 4 months of salary in order to be considered a sustainable emergency fund. If you are in that position, then you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have anyone depending on you like children or aging or sick parents?
- Also ask yourself about your healthcare – If something went wrong with your health in the next few months will you be able to deal with it financially if you don’t have a personal health insurance coverage?
- Do you have a plan B if you run out of money after you’ve used up your emergency fund? Consider part time jobs options and other gigs.
If you meet all of these questions positively then you are ready for Step 3.
Step 3 – Taking advantage of your benefits
Before and after you give your notice, take advantage of everything and double-check the ramifications of your decision. You’ve got free dental health insurance? Take an appointment with your dentist. Does your employer contribute to your pension plan? Inform yourself about the company’s policy on vesting. Vesting refers to when you are entitled to keep the amounts that your employer has contributed to your pension. Depending on the company, country or state you’re in, rules on vesting might differ so it’s always good to be informed beforehand and avoid bad surprises.
Step 4 – Schedule a full routine for your creative job after leaving your full-time job.
You might be looking forward to simply waking up every day and do what you love best – creating music, writing novels or taking pictures. But you need to remember that you’re leaving this job to work for another job – a self-employed one. In order to stay on track of your goal, you need to implement a weekly schedule for all of the different sides of your business. That way, the first Monday you’ll wake up as a full-time artist, you’ll know exactly what to do as you have a to-do list and a routine already set up in place. The same way you had a routine at your full-time job. It might be tempting to not have a routine and just go with the flow, but this flow will quickly become a wave then a tsunami, taking you to a path of self-doubt and self-destruction. If you are not accountable to yourself, then you won’t be accountable to your creative business.
So here you go: my recommended 4 steps before quitting your full-time job to pursue your creative business. Of course, this is just my personal recommendation and it might not take in consideration every cultural and personal aspects of the decision of quitting a full time job. Also I am not a financial advisor, so you need to do your own due diligence before taking such a drastic decision, especially if you have people depending on you such as children.
Your mental is also very important – Make sure that you’ve embraced the idea of working full-time as an artist psychologically. Working in the arts is not easy – you need to produce art but also advertise it on social media, sell your products and services and basically twice as hard as you used to in your day job. Quitting my job was a big and scary decision for me. I lost sleep over making that decision because I was scared of getting backlash from others including my coworkers. But everyone was so supportive of my decision and I realized that it was only my ego of the part of myself who tries to please others, that was not believing in my decision. In the end, quitting was a good decision because I was ready both mentally and financially.
What about you? Have you made the decision to quit your job to pursue a career in art? I’m curious to hear your stories – don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section.