Signing The Lease

Today’s topic is one which has probably crossed your mind: how do you know when it’s time to quit your full time day job for your full time cake business? Last week we talked about the end design for your cake business. Today we’re going to talk about when you know it’s time to bring that design to life and sign the lease (so to speak.)

As people who have been reading this blog for a while know, I am qualified as a chef and I worked in that capacity for many years. The bit I haven’t told you is that I worked as a chef even when I had rented a commercial kitchen for my cake business. Yup. I was cheffing Sunday-Tuesday, and working on cake Wednesday-Saturday (hmm. No spare days in there, are there?). I answered the phone when I could and replied to emails after hours. The fact of the matter is, I was terrified of letting go of my ‘real’ job. We needed the money. My husband’s work situation was a little unstable, we had three small kids, we had a mortgage. I wasn’t making much money from cake and certainly not enough to replace the income I was making. 

The very idea of leaving my stable cheffing job to go into a very fickle niche business on a full time basis was TERRIFYING. It shouldn’t have been that scary – I did the same thing several years earlier when I left my stable, well paying administrative job to go to culinary school. I’d already taken the plunge once. Why was doing it this time so scary? What was different?

The difference was this: leaving one industry to go to another is scary but ultimately I’d be relying on other people to help me pay the bills. Someone else was in charge, as long as I showed up and did what they asked of me. This time, leaving my steady job to go into business meant I’d be relying on ME. Just ME. Nobody else. 

If the orders did not come? My problem.
Bills didn’t get paid? My problem.
Orders got mixed up? My problem.
Money ran out? My problem.
I got sick and could not decorate? My problem.

I’m sure you can see where I am going with this. Making the clean break from working for someone else to working entirely for yourself is scary because it feels as though there is no safety net. My world was black and white – either I would succeed,or I’d fail-  but either way it was me who had that responsibility on her shoulders. To me, failure was almost worse than not trying because it was somehow safer. I kept thinking,”If I don’t try, I can’t fail.” 

What an utter load of bullshit that was.

The entire time I’m thinking that I shouldn’t try too hard because failure will be too devastating, I’m taking orders. I’m designing cakes. I’m writing website content, ordering business cards, reading cake blogs, and taking out ads. You really want to tell me that’s not trying?

Well, it IS trying. In a half-baked sort of way (I couldn’t resist the pun. Sorry.)

So that crap about “might as well not try, if I’m going to fail,”….? Yeah. A nice little lie I was telling myself. Still, I was too scared to take the plunge in a full time sort of way.

Eventually I decided to ease my way out of working as a chef and into being a full time cake maker. I cut my hours down at the other job, slowly but surely – until I was working as a chef only two days a week, and working on cake 5 days a week. I still didn’t make nearly enough money. I still wasn’t sure how this was all going to work. I still did not commit fully to the business.

Why? Nothing had changed, not really anyway.

I still had a family, a mortgage, financial responsibilities, I still loved cake but was not brave enough to commit to it, and I still didn’t have the money I felt I needed in order to feel secure. Not earning enough in either job, feeling like I wasn’t giving 100% to either job, feeling pulled in too many directions. I was just…stuck in limbo. As it happens, right around then the Universe conspired to make things happen. I lost my lease on my tiny commercial kitchen, and I had two weeks to get out. I had reached the biggest of all business crossroads: GROW… or STOP. The option of continuing to tread water was gone. Even if I’d not lost my lease, I would have come to that crossroads. Many businesses (cake or otherwise) are faced with the “grow or stop” conundrum.  The lease just pushed me down the path a little quicker. A friend of mine then said to me, “Why are you dithering about this? The decision has already been made.” I argued with him, “No it isn’t! I don’t know what I’m going to do, I’ve got endless pros and cons lists, I’m just not sure if it’ll work, what if I fail, I don’t know what to do! Do I give up? Find a shop? Quit cheffing? I’m just not sure.” I went back and forth on this issue for many sleepless nights. But…when I took his words to heart and looked into my deepest thoughts, I had to admit: the decision to work at this full time had already been made.

In truth, the decision to commit myself full time to this business had already been made several times. When I bought business cards. When I got a dedicated business phone number. When I rented that first kitchen. When I registered my business name. When I started to reduce my cheffing hours. When I talked about the business as though it was bigger than it already was. The EMOTIONAL decision had been made a very long time before I reached that crossroads. Allowing that decision to see the light of day was the scary part.

This brings me back to the original question – exactly how DO you know when it’s time to quit your stable, full time, paying job and take the plunge into owning a cake business full time?

You don’t.
There is no “right” time.

The sign you are waiting for may never come. The ‘right time’ might never happen exactly as you want it to. The planets may never align. If you spend your time waiting for things to happen (waiting for your kids to grow up, your finances to settle, the magical signs to appear) you may find yourself not moving forward from where you are this very minute. If you spend your time worrying about details like the size of the oven you want to buy, what you will do if you get an order for 10,000 macarons and can’t make that many, and what will you do if the sky falls…you’ll just get paralysed by worry and find excuses not to move forward.

Today, I want you to think about this post, and your business. Soul search a little bit (or maybe a lot) about what stage you are at in your business in terms of commitment and decisions you’ve made so far. By the way, it’s TOTALLY okay to admit to yourself that you are not fully commited and that you may never be – that for you, it’s a great sideline but that’s the limit of it. I also want you to remember last week’s homework: the decision I had you make about the over-arching purpose of being in business in the first place.

When should you quit your day job?
When you realise that if it’s important enough to you, you’ll make it happen
If it isn’t, you’ll make excuses.
Let’s be honest here.

The decision has ALREADY been made, hasn’t it?
(Spoiler Alert: you made it last week when you decided to think about where you were headed.)

10 comments on “Signing The Lease

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been making cakes part time going on 4 years now and every year I say this will be the year I go full time. But you are right – so many excuses – however they are not mine, they are my husband’s and it’s his fear of not paying the bills that worries him most. You see, I am the breadwinner of the family and to quit my full-time day job means we lose 2/3 of our income. I say I’ll work 24/7 on cakes if I have to but he is just too fearful. I am currently starting to take a tally of how many orders I turn away on a daily basis so that I can really calculate the average potential of earnings I can make and hopefully this will be the proof I need to get my husband’s “approval”. I vowed I wanted to quit my day job by next birthday and that is in September!!! I’ll keep positive. Thanks again.

  2. Yes Michelle. The decision was made in that glorious moment when I started believing that I CAN do this. And I haven't even 'sold' one cake yet – though made tons of them for my friends and family.

    I don't have a business yet, Michelle, but have quit my day job to join a culinary course and eventually set up a business. Most people will call me crazy.

    For me, this has been one of the most terrifying decisions of my life. I have changed jobs several times, but this time round, I am changing not just an industry, but I was beginning as a 'beginner'. It was the result of months of dilemma, sleepless nights, soul searching reflections and even SWOT analyses (lol).

    Till a long time, there was this voice (loud enough) coming from my mind that said I could not give up my financial independence. But then there was also this quieter voice which continued to remind me of my passion for baking.

    I finally made a choice when I quit my nine year career as a social worker this month. Now I just cant wait to get started. Actually I already have – in that single moment when I started believing I can do this, I can build a legacy of my own, take responsibility of my life decisions, work for my own self and give a part of 'me' in every cake (or any thing else) that I sell.

    Thank you Michelle for this wonderful blog – you don't know how inspiring it is for me.



    haha how funny just checked back here to see if you had said anything to my little posts awww thank you love your blog and wow I hope I do a great job of this Dragon squeeellll he's got lots of support and im going to try to make him like a fantasy dragon 🙂

  4. I love how you post everything lol your right … we have made our decisions.. imagine if we only thought of the positives rather then the negatives or the plus rather than what if I fail, the excitement rather than the fear….. what if I dont do this or that … replace those with imagine if I do make it big.. if I do get lots of orders if I do make the most amazing sculpted dragon cake!!!!! how awesome would that be!!!

    Love love love !!!

  5. Hi Grace,

    I've got a post (in my head)about fear of success as well – because I think that,too,is a fear that a lot of us are dealing with. It's scary as anything to be the one holding all the cards…but if you never try, you'll never know, right? Or – can't win the lottery unless you buy a ticket! 🙂

    Thanks for your comment!


  6. Michelle – it's really brave of you to want to even broach this topic because I do believe many others out there (even me) have this problem with fear of this as well. Honestly, it's never going to be easy and it's never going to be without any risk but ultimately, it's whether you DARE to do it despite all odds and burdens (financially and emotionally). Thanks for giving me the 'wake-up call' 😉


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