I’ve been asked by quite a number of people exactly how I have made the transition from part-time “pin money” business to full-time business that is able to support me. Here’s the thing: I haven’t done it yet! I’ve just gone full time, and I’m pretty sure it will work … but the fact that I am pretty sure that it will work, and that I have back-up information and statistics that make this clear to me, is enough for me to think it might be useful to set it out. So, a mixture of practical and exact things I did to make it happen:

I’ve kept records – right from the start (and thanks in large part to the HMRC course I attended just after I set myself up) I’ve kept records of my invoices and outgoings on a spreadsheet. I have always grouped my income information monthly and my full incomings and outgoings yearly (based on the UK April-March financial year, which is Libro’s financial year too). This means that at any one point in time I can see:

  • Which invoices are still outstanding
  • My income for this month (and previous months)
  • My income, outgoings and profit for the current financial year, as of today

It was quite easy to do this, using fairly simple Excel skills, with the main invoices sheet feeding information into the other sheets as I go along (no retyping: no room for error)

I’ve had goals – I’ll admit: when I started Libro I had no idea that I was ever going to take it full-time. I thought I might end up working at the day job part-time, but not that I might give it up altogether. But as I realised I was working more hours on the two jobs than I really wanted to, I set goals for myself, so I could see when I would be able to drop a day at the day job in favour of Libro. This is how I did it:

  • I worked out how much money I would lose per month if I dropped a day at the library. To do this, I divided my monthly gross salary by 5. So to move to 4 days a week and replace the lost income, Libro would have to earn 1/5 of my monthly library salary per month.
  • I added a column to my monthly income spreadsheet called “Against 1/5 target”. The amount in that cell for each month was my 1/5 salary minus my Libro earnings for that month. So if the amount needed to replace my salary was £400 and I earned £350, then I had brought in -£50 against target. Or was £50 under target.
  • I made this into a graph – a great way to see immediately where I was against target
  • I added a cumulative target too – this meant that if I made £350 one month and £450 the next, my records would iron out the ups and downs to show if I was covering targets on average.
  • Once the 1/5 target was being achieved every month for 6 months, I knew it was time to negotiate dropping a day at the library and did so, starting the new regime in January 2011.
  • Then I repeated, using a 2/5 target. In fact, I started these columns off at the same time, and used them to show me that I could drop a second day in May 2011. Which I did.
  • 5/5 i.e. total salary replacement was my next target. But targets should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) and that was a bit scary at that point, and seemed too far away. So I sorted out some interstitial targets of 3/5 and 4/5 salary replacement. In fact, I cheated slightly – because I was managing to live on 3/5 of my salary at that point, I adjusted these last 3 to be a bit lower, giving me a lower target to replace, knowing I could live on that lower amount.

I saved up – Once I realised that I was likely to want to move to a more part-time basis with my job, I saved and saved and saved. It helps that interest rates are so low, oddly enough: I am happier to sacrifice my savings to living expenses, knowing that they wouldn’t do much in a savings account. But I made sure that I had a whole year of living expenses saved up before I left my job, so 2012 is covered.

I cut costs – By hoarding Amazon vouchers for when I had to have new books, using BookCrossing and charity shops as other sources of books, not buying new clothes, etc., etc. – all very boring stuff – I managed to live off my reduced wages from the Library through my part-time year. This meant that all my earnings from 2011 and 2012 can go to paying my way in 2013.

I worked hard Because I always needed to be working enough to replace my salary for a good few months before I dropped the day in question, there have been three periods in my Libro life (Oct-Nov 2010, Mar-Apr 2011 and Sep-Nov 2011) when I’ve been working rather too many hours in the 2 combined jobs to be entirely comfortable. But I’d rather have it this way than leave myself vulnerable. But it has been hard to do 7.5 hours at the library, come home and do 3-4 more some evenings, and maybe 5 each day at the weekend.  And no one got anywhere without working hard, really.

I made sacrifices (and so did other people – sorry!) – I had to prioritise Libro. So I have had to postpone or cancel meeting up with friends; accept that I can’t keep up with my Twitter and Facebook timelines; not spent as much time with my Other Half as I would have wished and certainly not gone on trips out with him; practically given up reading for pleasure; not spent out on anything unneccessary … but you don’t get anywhere without some sacrifies, and I knew by a certain point that this would be temporary.

I was pretty darned blatant – I told everyone what I was doing. I cajoled and begged people into giving out my business cards, into retweeting my Tweets and sharing my Facebook posts. I started going to networking events – everything I could to do raise awareness of the business. I asked for references and testimonials, I asked for recommendations; I carried on marketing myself even when I was busy with work already.

I did all the other stuff I have blogged about on the Libro blog regarding how to run your small business. I won’t repeat that here. Pop over there if you want to see.

I said it out loud – at one point this year I started announcing to all and sundry that I was aiming to leave the day job. I took advice, I asked for support, but I claimed it for myself. Powerful stuff, if a bit scary.

So there  you go: that’s how I did it. It’s one way, it might not be the best way, but it’s (hopefully) worked for me.

I hope this has been helpful – do tell me (and share it) if it has!