Today's Obsession: Planning

When you’re going out on your own, there is a lot of prep work you’ll need to have in place—another reason to not go flying out of employment, guns a-blazing. You need backup, you need a plan, and you need a formal structure.
[In case you've missed previous posts in this series, we're talking about how to quit your job and go it alone. Part one is here; part two is here.]

In terms of backup: I hear often that a business owner should always have six months’ cost of living funds stashed in an account somewhere, in case of a rainy day (or, hello: recession) comes along. I personally would advise keeping ten to twelve months of costs in reserve; because you never know how long it’ll be before things pick up.

In the current recession, our smaller clients can’t get credit. That means invoices suddenly go from being paid net-30 to net-90. Last year, some clients couldn’t pay us for up to four months after the work was done.

Before you quit, you need to know essentially what you’re going to do. It’s not going to serve your future well if you quit in a huff, then go straight from that emotional turmoil to a place where you should be calmly looking into your talent set. Know what field of design you’re going to want to focus on. Don’t use this as an opportunity to try something entirely new, unless you’re completely okay with failing and working with that failure. It’s entirely possible.

Protect yourself by creating the simplest of formal separations between your work and life. Start a checking account as a sole proprietorship so you can keep your business expenses separate from your personal ones. Once you’re a little more stable, I would advise incorporating to solidify your formal structure and further separate your personal expenses. Incorporation, if you do it by yourself, is a huge pain, and byzantine. Find a local accountant or lawyer who who’ll do it for you. The cost is usually about a $1000, and well worth it.

Invest in your initial advertising and branding with a very simple structure. You need to make an impression, clearly and quickly. Thus, focus on things you can do easily and quickly. If you’re good at identities, make a Facebook ad focused on small business owners. If you want to do day-to-day typesetting on a retainer basis, focus your efforts on people who have lots of paperwork to send to viewers. Spend the money to get a decent set of business cards and a basic identity system. Consistency is a key message, and conceptually matching communication items will emphasize that you can be trusted to make decisions which make sense in concert.

For those who have already done all this, what’s your best planning advice? Tell me in the comments.

In case you’ve missed previous posts in this series, we’re talking about how to quit your job and go it alone. Part one is here; part two is here.

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  1. Pingback: Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers | Today’s Obsession: Quitting

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  3. What a wonderful article to find!
    I left my company not out of frustration. Which I did have tons of.
    I worked there for 9 years. 8 of which I did mundane repetitive tedious work. Nothing that challenged my graphic design background. I begged them to give something more, but they never budged. Then one year, the year everyone was getting fired, it happened. After our group was cut I had the mist amazing opportunities to be creative and that year, I loved my job.

    Then I got pregnant. Which is a blessing, and I was certain I was going back. Not a chance.
    I had to resign to be a stay at home mom. Which is cool, but my hard schooling and passion was shot. It lasted a grand beautiful year.

    Anyway, I decided to make jewellery. My outlet to be creative was reborn.
    It was full swing the first year and lately it picks up now and then.
    It was a lot of work to get my little business to pick up. I relied a lot on word of mouth. Then I had to get a website up to showcase my creations. That took a few months too. To make the pieces, photograph them, load them up, price them and hope to sell them.

    Then making the business cards was essential, since lots of people were asking for more pictures or info.
    I had to get boxes to pack the far away orders to mail out.
    Get as many emails to later send email blasts to. This required a lot of foot work, I was a door to door salesperson doing jewellery parties.

    Now most of my orders are received through email. It’s been hard to get to where I am, but it was worth it. A lot of people know what I do and I respect all of them.
    Now that my mat leave is almost up, I’m revving up to get my brand out there again. With new things to photograph and a website to update.

    Being your own boss is nice.