Art Business

From Day Job to Creative Biz Owner: Tips for the Transition

July 5, 2020


I'm a full-time artist and online educator. You can find my watercolor designs on products all around the globe. This blog is where I share all of my latest art business tips for you!


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Here’s the thing: running a full-time creative or art business is not easy. It can take years to build up enough profit to make the business worth your time. I don’t know many people who didn’t need another source of income or support while building up their business. But if you’re reading this, you likely understand that and still want to pursue this dream!

(If you’re curious about my personal story of transitioning to a full-time artist, you can read that here.)

So, how can you ditch your 9-5 and become a freelancer or creative business owner with as little risk as possible? 

Of course everyone’s situation is unique. But here are my tips for making that coveted switch: 

Make sure this is what you want. 

Do you like having benefits? Health insurance, vacation days, sick leave, holidays and any paid time off? Do you like the consistency of a paycheck that a salary brings? Do you like to not think about work when you get home, and clock off completely outside of the regular 9-5 work hours? Do you like having a defined role, and not having to take responsibility for every single part of a business?

I don’t say these things to scare you: they are simply realistic. I do *want* all of those things above (mainly those dang benefits!), but for me, the best parts of having my own business make up for what I lose. That doesn’t mean I don’t very occasionally fantasize about having a day job, though 😉 

Side hustle first. 

While working at your day job, try your hand at actually starting the business you want to turn into your full-time gig. I side hustled for 2 years before leaving my previous job. It may take you longer or shorter than that, but what’s important is that you:

  1. Get a real taste for what it’s like to run your own business
  2. Make sure that business is viable by actually starting to earn a consistent income from it, I would say ideally for at least one year. 
  3. Build up your experience and reputation in the industry. 
  4. Start to picture your earning potential with your side business if you were to take it full time. Figure out your monthly and yearly expenses while also looking at income projections and growth potential. 

The healthier a side hustle you can build, the more you can rely on that business when you take it full-time. For example, if all or most of your side business income relies on work from a single client, what happens if that client drops you as soon as you go full-time? This *actually* happened to me!

Save as much as you can. 

This is pretty simple, but while you’re working at your day job save as much as you can for when you quit so you have something to fall back on. You will likely need it, depending on how quickly you jump into going full-time with your biz.

There are other options as well, like having a loan or line of credit ready for your future expenses. I personally prefer to work with as little debt as possible, but just a reminder that some people go for that option. It’s riskier, but they likely have a huge amount of faith in their business and hopefully data to back that up.

How much should you save? Totally up to what you are comfortable with and your personal situation, whether that’s 6 months or 2 years of savings for your expenses. But whatever you do, don’t forget to figure out what your personal AND business expenses combined could be.   

Have a support system. 

I know that extra financial support is absolutely not something everyone has the luxury of having. If you don’t have family or a spouse who can support you in the beginning in case cash runs low, you may need to side hustle longer, save more, or look into other options so you don’t run out of resources. 

But, even if your support system isn’t financial, hopefully you do have emotional support. Starting and running a business is exhausting and takes relentless determination. Ideally your family supports your decision, but if not, find support with fellow creatives either in your community or online. In any case, having encouragement from your peers who are in a similar situation to you is invaluable! I don’t think I could do what I am doing today without all of the incredible artists and business women I have met and formed friendships with along the way. 

Let’s discuss!

Are you looking to take your creative biz full-time? Already have? Plan to always keep it a side hustle with the support of a day job? Whatever your situation is, it’s important that it works for YOU. Just because it seems like everyone’s goal is to work for themselves full-time, doesn’t mean it has to be your goal. 

Let us know in the comments where you’re at and how you feel about it! 

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  1. Christine Martin says:

    I’m currently selling art and doing the odd commission s as a side hussle but not making enough or getting enough regular customers. So I’m working full time, I’m grateful for the pay but not for filling me.

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