If you're just starting out in the calligraphy & lettering world, chances are you have to do it all on the side- while you support yourself with the income of a full-time job. And it can be really, really, really, really hard to manage- there's no sugar coating that. The reality is that you will have to sacrifice some things in order to achieve your calligraphy & lettering goals.
But, 1 year in, I've now (finally) narrowed down a couple of things that are crucial to my success in running a small business on the side of a full-time job.
1. Make a schedule.
Step 1: Get yourself an agenda. If it helps, get a suuuuper pretty one. It also helps to get one that has each day broken down into hours, or a to-do list like mine. Click on the photo to check out the one I use!
Step 2: Put absolutely EVERYTHING in it. Have a project due on a certain day? Write it down. Going for a coffee with an old friend? Write it down. My schedule is so specific, that I even slot in an hour for doing my hair (yeah, it takes me that long).
Step 3: Bring it everywhere with you. Check it before you make ANY commitments. Do not agree to something if the days surrounding it look busy- *see item 4!*
Yes, carrying around an agenda makes your bag a little heavier. And yes, your friends will make fun of you. But making commitments and being able to stick to them is so, so important. My agenda saves my forgetful @$$ at least once a week from missing an appointment.
2. Wake up early.
Some people are morning people, and some are night owls. But I am a firm, firm believer that getting work done in the morning is better. No questions asked.
You know as well as I do that when you walk in the door from an 8-hour day at work you just want to park it and watch some Netflix. Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but you will feel crappy about yourself unless you were productive in the morning. So do it- wake up a couple hours before you need to leave for work, and get some stuff done.
This may mean:
a) waking up at the crack of dawn, or earlier (yep, I get up at 5, and its dark, and it sucks).
b) doing everything you usually do in the mornings the night before (pack your lunch, lay out your outfit, do your hair) so you can wake up and do work instead.
c) reviewing your AGENDA the night before and figuring out exactly what to do when you wake up.
d) setting the coffee machine the night before, and putting out your most favourite mug, so its ready for you when you wake up. (This may or may not be the most important step. Personal experience).
Everyone would rather sleep in. But are you serious about your business? Just get up early. Do it for a week and see the benefits.
3. Pick one day a week for food prep/laundry/cleaning/misc.
I know… this one has nothing to do with actual lettering or calligraphy work. But I am not at all lying when I tell you that since I started my business, my eating habits, the cleanliness of my home and the state of my closet have all taken a hit. Just ask my boyfriend.
Set aside one day a week to get your grocery shopping, food prep, laundry, house cleaning, and all related tasks done. For me, its usually Sunday. And yeah, usually by Sunday all I want to do is stay in bed and watch TV. But I know for a fact that the rest of my week falls apart if I don't do these things- so wake up early, get it done, and you'll feel like a million bucks on Monday morning…. ready to wake up at 5 am, right?
4. Be realistic about how much to take on.
It can be really tempting to take on all the jobs that come at you in the beginning when you're trying to build a portfolio. More jobs=more exposure=more jobs=more money. I get it. Unfortunately, taking too many jobs when you're balancing a full time job (and an actual life) is going to burn you out faster than you can say calligraphy.
Before you take on jobs, consider some practical questions:
- First and foremost, do you have time in your schedule? Is the client giving you a realistic deadline? Can you do this job without sacrificing other commitments? If the answer to any of those questions is no, don't take the job.
- Does the client value your time and effort, or will they be pushy and hard to work for? (it is really quite easy to tell, right from the get go!)
- Is this a job you feel comfortable doing? In the beginning, it can be scary to take on jobs that you've never tried before. This doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't- trying new things will push you to be better. But if the job makes you uncomfortable, or will stress you out beyond belief, be honest that you don't think you have the right skill set to complete the task, and DON'T TAKE IT. There is no shame in that.
- Will doing this job get you any industry connections? By this I am referring to networking opportunities if you do work for a styled shoot, for example, or for any other local creatives you are working with. This is almost always a great opportunity- more info on that in a blog post for another day!
It can be really hard to hand things off when it comes to your business. But the more things you can hand off, the more time you have to focus on the actual projects. This in turn does two things:
a) Makes you happy and productive- you're doing the art that you love, rather than the tasks that stress you out.
b) Brings in more money. More projects=more money.
Now take that extra money, and invest it right back into outsourcing. This is useful for business items, like an accountant/bookkeeper, but also for personal items, like a house cleaner. Yeah, it may make you feel a bit useless to need to hire a cleaner, but that 2 hours you spent cleaning your house could have been spent on a client job. You are not failing by paying for help. Value your time.
It's that thing they say- you need to spend money to make money. I agree with that. I recently hired someone to give me some general help for my entire business (things like social media, website updating, brainstorming with me, planning workshops, etc.) and having that second set of hands is invaluable. I also hired an accountant- which is awesome. I hate managing money.
So that's it for now on time management. I hope that helps- I know it can be rough navigating what is essentially two full time jobs. I know. But it's totally doable. Just do your best to manage your time.
*Side note: I'm writing this on a 1-hour flight from Toronto to Ottawa. Time management at it's finest!*