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5 mistakes I made when I quit my day job

5 mistakes I made when I quit my day job to be a full-time boudoir photographerPINBack in early 2012, my life looked like this: Full-time job, part-time boudoir business, kid, husband, no sleep, always sick, hating my life. I wrote about process of changing my life here.

On Feb., 29, 2012, I quit my career and jumped into my photography business full time … about 14 months earlier than I planned. Doing so was the third bravest thing I’ve ever done, behind having a baby and divorcing baby’s daddy. I’m a girl who loves—OK, needs—security, and I’m a perfectionist who hates the idea of failing so much that I often do not try. Leaping out of a career in which I’d made a name for myself without much of a plan changed me, especially in that I made big mistakes and lived to tell about it. Mistakes such as:

1. I underestimated what I was leaving behind … and what it would take to replace it.

I had money in liquid savings, and I had retirement funds, “just in case.” But, what I didn’t think about was:

  • The actual cost of health insurance, post-COBRA. I have two medical conditions that disqualified me from all but the most expensive coverage, pre-Obamacare. The best premium I found was $1,500/month with a $15,000 annual deductible. I was used to having rich-but-inexpensive HMO-like health insurance. This policy would cover me if I got cancer or needed major surgery, but not much less. So, I decided to be uninsured.
  • The cost of life insurance for me, my husband, and our kids, plus short- and long-term disability insurance for me. What cost me about $35/month through work would cost me about $200/month on my own. I replaced my disability insurance and have a small life insurance policy for me, which costs about $100/month.
  • The fact that I love working on a team toward a common goal. In the communications field, it’s uncommon to work alone. In photography, it’s rare not to work alone for 80% of your time. I began to miss this aspect of my previous career quickly and have yet to find a consistent outlet.
  • How hard it would be to cut my spending, especially not saving for retirement or my daughter’s college fund. I left behind an employer 401k contribution of 10% of my salary. I have just restarted putting money into the college fund, and it’s 20% of what I was saving before. She’ll feel the impact of my decision.

2. I underestimated the amount of time it would take to make my business support me.

I knew I would need time to detoxify after five years of being unhappy and generally ill. I figured I’d take a month to unwind, do the shoots I had booked and experiment with personal projects. I needed almost three months. And while three to four sessions a month, sustained my photography habit, they were not enough to cover my half of our house bills. Couple that with the stuff in #1, and within six months, I’d gone through what I’d budgeted for nine.

3. I didn’t re-evaluate my pricing.

My part-time business income paid for fun stuff, like gear, and classes, and pretty things for my studio. My prices were a little under the middle of my market. It wasn’t until September 2012 that I realized my price structure would require me to shoot double the sessions I wanted to in order to meet my monthly nut. It took time to figure out what would work for me, and for my market.

4. I didn’t hire an accountant.

I suck at keeping track of my money, especially when it’s complicated. I thought I could track and manage my business income, cost of goods and services, sales tax, income taxes, etc. on my own. But I never did. And I got into trouble, especially with sales tax because I didn’t understand (or take time to figure out) how to file the returns or when. And as a result I had a hefty bill with penalties. Yes, managing money is the main business part of the business. And I fell down on it hard. Had I just sprung for the monthly assistance of an accountant from the start, I’d have avoided a lot of pain.

5. I had a vision but not a plan.

I made a long-time-coming, yet rash decision to quit. And since my original plan was to quit nearly a year later than I did, I hadn’t begun the process to set goals and make plans for achieving them. It took me about six months to come to something that felt right, and real, and achievable.

The good news: The net did appear. And the things I did right have dwarfed the things I did wrong. More on that later.

Are you still working full time in a day job? What are you doing to prepare to succeed in business when you make the leap?

Lynn Clark

Lynn Clark is co-founder of The Business of Boudoir. She's a boudoir and portrait photographer in Denver, Colo. with a mission to help every woman bare her beauty ... and leave with an amazing photo of her own ass (because let's be honest, we ALL want an amazing photo of our own asses.) She brings 25 years of communications background in writing, websites, public relations and strategy to The Business of Boudoir. She's also available for 1 on 1 website evaluation, content creation and editing.

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