Originally a guest post on Planner's Lounge.
For those of you still working a full or part-time job while running your wedding planning business, I know firsthand how frustrating it is punching the clock when you would much rather be focusing on your dream. Patience grasshopper, your time will come. Until then, be grateful for that reliable paycheck and make sure you’re not phoning it in. Whether your heart’s in it or not, you’ve still got a job to do.
My own leap to full-time self-employment as a wedding planner was somewhat unexpected. In the fall of 2012 I attempted to “quit my day job” (with plans to freelance for an event décor company while working on KJ and Co.) but my boss and manager hated to see me go, and offered a simpler schedule to accommodate me. This “part-time” schedule worked out for a few months – crazy months that had me working shorter hours to complete my usual workload, freelancing through the busy holiday season and running KJ and Co. in what little spare time I had left.
By January 2013, I was burned out and my work suddenly needed me full-time at a location that required a longer commute. It was all or nothing.
I remember vividly, sitting on the stairs at home, frantically calling my fiancé (now husband) only 5 months before our wedding, to get his blessing to quit. I promised that if things didn’t work out fast enough, I would take a part-time job at one of my favorite stores, or continue freelancing. Minutes later, I was calling my manager back to resign once and for all and in a matter of days, I was completely self-employed. Luckily, things worked out, KJ and Co. had a full season ahead. However, I wish the transition had been less stressful and sudden.
Not everyone will have an ultimatum moment like I did. More often than not, it’s difficult to recognize when the time has come to take the plunge. Dive in too soon and the stress can cause you to fall out of love with your business pretty quickly.
Maybe you’re scared of losing your income, or your business isn’t thriving and earning what you need it to just yet. Or the signs might be obvious… Going full-time after a baby in order to work from home, a lay-off at work, or your business is doing gangbusters and you can’t possibly keep up with both and service your clients to the best of your ability.
Whatever your situation, here are a few tips and things to consider in preparation for going full-time with your wedding planning biz:
Figure Out Your Business and Personal Expenses
Anticipating the monthly cost of running a business (memberships, bookkeeping, insurance, advertising, materials, etc), even from home, as well as the bills you need to cover personally (rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc) is key in order to consider what your business is earning in comparison to your other income. Don’t forget your spending habits on non-essential items like manicures and trips to Target. Be realistic. You definitely need to be aware of these figures in advance. If it turns out foregoing your monthly gym membership or weekly retail therapy sessions and a few less dinners out with friends is the difference in being able to afford self-employment, I bet you’re ready and willing to make that sacrifice.
Save Up & Trim
While we’re on the subject of trimming your spending, you’ll want to take a good look at how you can cut both business and personal expenses in order to save up funds to build a little cushion. Due to the seasonality of the wedding industry and workloads, the likelihood of a smooth transition from your day job to full-time self-employment isn’t likely to wholly replace your income immediately. It would be pretty stressful to work at both until the point that one can completely replace the other. Building up your savings is essential.
Know Your Business Cash Flow
With so many of our clients booking well in advance of their weddings, it’s relatively simple to forecast your annual earnings and consider them against your expenses. Keep a spreadsheet to track scheduled payments and check on it regularly. This will be a good indicator of when your business income will replace your other paycheck. And if the numbers are a lot less than they need to be, use that as motivation.
Consider Switching Jobs
I hear again and again from aspiring planners – and other wedding pros – they’re absolutely miserable marching off to their day job. If it’s really sucking the life out of you, maybe you could switch to something a little less misery-inducing, which allows you to be less stressed or emotionally and mentally drained, while still earning steady income. Or as your business continues to grow gradually, consider switching from full-time to part-time.
Get Your Ducks In A Row Early
Treat your business as such – rather than a hobby or a side hustle – from the get go. Keeping funds separate in an inexpensive small business account at your bank or credit union is incredibly important. Use proper contracts with clients and communicate professionally, by phone and email, rather than text. Whenever possible, schedule blocks of time when you can work on your business, and follow this routine with dedication. Choose a workspace (big or small) and keep everything there. Try to avoid working in bed, or in front of the television. Being disciplined and getting your processes in place while you have fewer clients and dedicated hours will make for better habits in the long run.
Just keep your eye on the prize, and be intentional and realistic while working towards your goal. Your time will come.