This January marked seven years I’ve been a full-time artist…without going broke. It’s been nine years if you count the first year and a half that I nearly lost everything including my car, apartment, dignity and sanity.
To have made it seven years as a full-time artist with car, shelter, dignity, and most of my sanity in tact is a blessing I hope to never take for granted. To commemorate my seven-year anniversary as a poetpreneur, I will be doing a blog series of a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. Here’s the first one…
Lesson #1: Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Yet
The first time I went full-time I quit my job prematurely. I was sick of my cubicle, wearing suits and pantyhose, so when we got our Christmas bonuses I quit. I assumed that all of the gigs I couldn’t take because of my responsibilities at my job would magically resurface, that my calendar would fill up as soon as I emptied it of my 9-to-5. Instead, tumbleweed greeted me in my calendar and my bonus check was almost spent before I could deposit it. I hadn’t prepared and for the next year and a half, I paid for my lack of preparation.
It took my next job at a customer service call center, working from 4pm to 1am to teach me the lesson I should have learned the first time. The best way to leave your day job for your dream job is to work your way out of that day job. With what I had been making at my corporate gig, I could have spent the two years I worked there, spending less and saving more.
My customer service job taught me the importance of hustling. When a performance date came in, I would take off the minimal amount of time, do the performance, and go right back to work. Yes, I was exhausted sometimes. Yes, I couldn’t go hang out with my friends like I used to, but my dream of one day not having to work that job and being able to do what I loved gave me the energy to do it.
I answered those customer service calls until my performance date calendar filled up so much that it was impossible to continue to do both. I learned that’s how you leave a day job. It’s less dramatic, it’s less stroke for your ego than rocking a boombox on your shoulder blasting a Kanye West song and telling your boss you quit because you’re better than this, but it’s the best way to build your career as a full-time artist on something more solid than your thoughts about how awesome you are.
To Do List
1. Decrease/eliminate your debts and decrease living expenses where possible.
2. Learn Your “Number” – The amount of money you need to make each month to cover your personal living budget + at least $500 to cover unexpected business expenses = Your “Number”
3. If your day job income is more than your “number.” Awesome. Take the extra money you are making and save it until you have at least 6 months of your “number” saved up. (And see To Do List item #1)
4. If your day job income is less than your number. See To Do List Item #1 and do all you can to get your income to be more than your number. So you can complete To Do List Item #3.