One way or another, it’s gonna hurt

From the forum:

I just wish there was an obvious path… How do you know when you can make the break [from the day job]? Or is the smart thing just to burn the candle at both ends, doing the apparel thing on the side and after hours, until you can generate enough income to warrant walking away from the 8-5 job? Has anyone on this forum followed that path successfully?

Yes people have quit their jobs to do this full-time so now you want to know the secret to how how they’ve gone off to live their dream. Ha ha. The reality is that they’ve traded one set of problems for another. What you need to ask yourself is, what set of problems do you prefer? As glorious as the option looks, it’s gonna hurt one way or another. As long as you know that and welcome the burn, you should be okay.

Let’s say you think it’s a matter of getting over a hump or meeting some kind of benchmark that leads to steady cash flow or whatever and then everything will be great because you can relax. That doesn’t happen either because you end up with new sets of problems -and they all cost money. And that is what this really boils down to -can you handle problems and get less in return than you probably deserve?

The truth of running a business is that you get crumbs. Compared to what is coming in -oh my, doesn’t that look grand?- you have almost as much going out so you get whatever crumbs are left over. And you know what? Comparatively speaking, it never gets any better. As long as you know that you’re okay. The trick to making a better living is for your business to get a little bigger and a little better so that the crumbs you’re left with are also a little larger. Which reminds me, as an employer, you should drive a ratty car. People are afraid to ask for raises if yours is the worst car on the lot.

If you weather the phase of seemingly endless struggle, there are still more problems looming ahead -like success. Success has killed more companies than anything else so it’s not a situation where you can “arrive” somewhere and rest easy. So the question becomes, are you the kind of person who welcomes challenges all day, every day? For years? Upgrading from one set of problems to another? Some people aren’t cut out for that and thank goodness or we’d never find anyone to hire.

This is something that few people understand about this business because it looks so easy. Mom sat at the kitchen table and sewed up a dress -how hard could it be? But the apparel industry is like peeling an onion, there are layers upon layers of complexity the deeper you get into it. The learning never stops, there is no end to it. Again, is this something you welcome or will you tire of the constant cognitive demands? By comparison, your day job may not be so bad because you already know it or at least know what you don’t know and what course is in front of you. With apparel, you really don’t. A lot of it is uncharted territory. Does this dismay or excite you?

And insult to injury, in spite of the formidable learning challenges that never end, many people will think you’re stupid. The worst part of it is that by then you may secretly agree because you’ve started to get an inkling of what you don’t know. But this is a minor thing, feeling like an idiot should be the least of your problems as long as you realize you’re trading one set of problems for another. You have the choice of being the star performer at your day job versus being everyone else’s moron, the latter will spare no effort in telling you how wrong you are or why they know better than you do. And heaven forbid one actually might know more than you; after having kept your deflection shields up for so long, can you lower them long enough to listen?

Another thing is the money…no matter what you put in, you’re not going to be able to pull that back out again -not in the short term. It’s not as though you can put $50,000 into it your first season and turn right around to get it back even if everything sells because you need more money to do it again. It’s only over the long haul but there are no short term returns on your investment. I remember one rather famous designer sighing over lunch one day. She said that all she wanted was to own her house again, that the business owned it as collateral. These days she’s got a 600 acre horse ranch and it all looks so good, no? Not really, the business owns that too. Like I’m saying, you only trade one set of problems for another so if you’re willing to take it on, go for it.

The last thing is, I agree it can be stifling to a creative and entrepreneurial spirit to be underutilized at the day job. But again, you’re trading one set of problems for another because this business guarantees ongoing and constant change. There’s no such thing as coasting, it’s always something. Constant change can be tiring on its own because you can never relax. If you do get comfy, trouble is usually not far behind.

Knowing when to quit the day job is more than an issue of sacrificing and maybe going to one income so you can finally start something for yourself. As insurmountable as it seems, starting isn’t the problem. It’s staying the course on all those things I listed above. You know what I see that really pulls people along? It’s passion. In one way, shape or form it’s always passion. Which is why you can’t just do something you think has the greatest possible return versus something that you’re really excited about that might not be as profitable. You won’t be passionate about the former so where will the energy come from to keep going? It is one thing to be stuck in a job where you have no passion; it’s worse to be stuck in a passionless pit of your own making.

My point is, one way or another, it’s gonna hurt and quitting your day job could be the most painless part of it. It can also be the most joyful part of a new beginning…

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