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Getting Started in Children's Book Illustration: Should I Quit My Day Job?

Getting Started in Children's Book Illustration: Should I Quit My Day Job?

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In Getting Started in Children’s Book Illustration, I’m answering your questions about getting started in this field.  Submit your questions via email or check here to read answers to previous questions. 

In this installment of Getting Started in Children’s Book Illustration, we’re tackling the question: Should I quit my day job?

You’re Unique

Not only are you a unique individual, but you have a unique life experience and living situation, so naturally only you can decide when or if it’s truly ‘right’ for you to quit your day job. 

There are a few things to consider before you make the leap. 

What’s Your Financial Situation?

If you’re the main or sole bread winner in your household, leaving a day job to pursue a freelance career should not be taken lightly.  That’s the case with freelancing anyway, but it’s especially important to make sure your finances are in order if you’re the person paying the mortgage and feeding a family. 

Knowing what financial obligations you have is the first step in determining if you’re ready to leave your day job or not. 

I didn’t start freelancing full time until I was matching my earnings from my day job.  Even then, I had the luxury of a then-boyfriend/now-husband who had a great job with great benefits.  That took some of the pressure off me as I flubbed around at first and didn’t consistently hit my financial goals for a couple of years. 

Budget Budget Budget

Now’s a good time to work out a budget, to figure out the bottom line of what you need to make to do things like have a roof over your head and not starve.  If you’re easily hitting that number with your freelance work already, then yeah, it might be time to quit your day job. 

You’ll also want to consider other expenses like the costs of running your business and the cost of healthcare.

Do You Have a Stable Client Base?

Before you ditch your day job, it’s helpful to have a stable base of repeat clients. Of course you’ll be working to bring in new clients too, but having a roster of repeat clients makes for a more consistent freelance income and thus makes for an easier transition into full time freelance work. 

If you don’t already have stable a client base, it’s time to check your bank account to see if you. . .

Have Six to Twelve Months Savings

Whether you have a stable client base or not, you’ll need 6 to 12 months’ worth of living expenses saved up.  It seems like a lot, right?  And it is.  It’s also necessary for a lot of reasons but here’s the big one:

It’s incredibly tough to feel creative and to create your best work when you’re constantly concerned about money.  You’ll be stuck in a cycle of taking whatever work comes along even if it doesn’t further your career or pay all that well because you’ll need every single penny just to survive.  That’s not a healthy way to start your freelance career. 

Take the time to save up and your future self with thank you.  

Make the Switch to Part Time

Plenty of children’s book illustrators keep their day jobs or work part time jobs for a variety of reasons from enjoying the consistent paycheck to getting to socialize a few hours a day. 

There is no shame in the day job game, be it full time or part time.  You love making art and having a day job doesn’t make you less of an artist and it certainly doesn’t diminish your accomplishments.  You have to do what will make you a happy, healthy artist so you can create all that amazing work dancing around inside your head. 

Make the Leap

If you feel like you’re ready, and only you will truly know if you’re ready, then make that leap to illustrating full time! Make a plan and make those dreams come true. 

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