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caleyhilde

Leaving Teaching

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After teaching for 6 years in both Elementary and High School Art, I’ve learned that the profession is not for me. Fortunately, however, teaching has introduced me to my love of ceramics, and for that I am appreciative.

I’m ready for the next chapter in my life, hopefully a life surrounding clay. Does anyone have have a similar story or advice on how to move away from the comfort of insurance packages, a steady paycheck, etc.? The dream would be to work full time making and selling my own functional pieces. I have work space in my basement in which I’m beginning my in-home studio, a brand name and logo, but not much else.

I would love to hear any words of wisdom. Thanks.

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My advice is that no matter how much you dislike teaching, don’t quit a salary/benefits job cold turkey in order to launch a pottery business. It will take years before a new pottery business will generate an income, let alone an income that will support you financially. The best way to get there is to keep the full-time job, and start the pottery business as a side business. When the pottery business has grown big enough, then you can quit the teaching. Yes, that means you have a full-time job plus a part-time job for several years. If you can’t handle this workload than you might not be able to handle the workload of full-pottery, so it’s good training on work ethic anyways. 

I kept my desk job for 8 years while building the pottery business, until I was able to quit the desk job. I am much happier now as a potter even though I work a lot harder now. Those 8 years were a sacrifice but I would do it again.

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Dito on GEP's advice. Besides there is no need to quit. You said you are forming your pottery business, perfect. Just finish setting up and establish your production time and start selling on weekends/holidays and next summer full time. Sounds like you have the perfect job for transitioning to pottery. I would recommend treating it like a business and having set part time hours, production schedules and  when you have a full show inventory (at least a hundred quality pots) start doing shows where ever you find them and work to get your inventory to 300-400 good pots. That's no small feat.

None of this early process requires you quit your job and you may find that you like it as a side business/hobby and if you do decide to grow your business to a full time job a transition will give it the very best chance to survive. As a full time job this business is a lifestyle/lifetime business so a slow steady runway is really the best approach. take it slow, build both your business and pottery skills and just shed the full time job when the timing is right. As a teacher you not only have a great schedule for your business but you have another secret weapon, as the pottery revenue increases you could switch to being a substitute and and then just taper off one as the other grows.

Good luck! Be smart. It takes a lot of careful planning to do this and at the end of the day you need to be comfortably paying your expenses or the whole effort will be for naught. I speak from experience. I jumped to quickly, flamed out and now back at my day job. Life is good but a full time potter I am not.   

Edited by Stephen

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2 hours ago, GEP said:

My advice is that no matter how much you dislike teaching, don’t quit a salary/benefits job cold turkey in order to launch a pottery business. It will take years before a new pottery business will generate an income, let alone an income that will support you financially. The best way to get there is to keep the full-time job, and start the pottery business as a side business. When the pottery business has grown big enough, then you can quit the teaching. Yes, that means you have a full-time job plus a part-time job for several years. If you can’t handle this workload than you might not be able to handle the workload of full-pottery, so it’s good training on work ethic anyways. 

I kept my desk job for 8 years while building the pottery business, until I was able to quit the desk job. I am much happier now as a potter even though I work a lot harder now. Those 8 years were a sacrifice but I would do it again.

I agree 110%-keep the job and transition into clay

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My point of view is slightly different. If you really don't like teaching, I think you should leave that profession for a different job.  It is better for you and even more so better for students. There are many people with appropriate training who would love the opportunity to be art teachers and would be excited every day as they interact with students.  That is, I think, how art class should feel on both sides.

You could find a job with a reliable paycheck and benefits and the understanding that you will simultaneously be working at growing  a pottery business.

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If you can afford to leave your job, and potentially have zero income for some months, then go for it. If not, then stick with it while your pottery business grows, or find another job. Selling pottery is a tough gig, and there can be very lean months. A typically good show can be ruined by bad weather, and suddenly your income is down 30% for that month. If you haven't been selling at a decent level already, then you're not ready to go full time.

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If you haven't been self-employed before there's a lot more to consider as well.  I have started and closed a few businesses now and will say that there were points where I had no personal time anymore.  I was always answering questions, packing and shipping, maintaining the websites, doing inventory, ordering supplies, etc.  It is a lot more work than punching a time card.  The upside is, you are working directly for your customers and it changes the way you feel about work, so instead of feeling like it's work... You feel like it's just part of you.  I haven't run a pottery business yet,  but plan on doing it next year on the side.  Good luck!

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Selling pottery is a tough gig, and there can be very lean for years

If you do not like teaching get out and get another job while you are breaking slowly into clay.

Read up on all the past posts here on past persons starting out-you will find its tough road.

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all of this seems to be opinions that you don't want to hear, but I will repeat what the others have said. Hold a job and work your way to being able to sustain a career in Ceramics. Teaching provides a lot, benefits, steady income, regular hours, and vacation time to pursue other venues like ceramics. lots to think about.

 

best,

Pres

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On 11/8/2018 at 7:48 AM, caleyhilde said:

After teaching for 6 years in both Elementary and High School Art, I’ve learned that the profession is not for me. Fortunately, however, teaching has introduced me to my love of ceramics, and for that I am appreciative.

I’m ready for the next chapter in my life, hopefully a life surrounding clay. Does anyone have have a similar story or advice on how to move away from the comfort of insurance packages, a steady paycheck, etc.? The dream would be to work full time making and selling my own functional pieces. I have work space in my basement in which I’m beginning my in-home studio, a brand name and logo, but not much else.

I would love to hear any words of wisdom. Thanks.

Welcome to the forum!

I am in the same position, ready for the next chapter and hope to make a go of it in pottery. I set up a small but functional studio in my home a couple of months ago and I am still struggling with firing the glazes. I set a reasonable goal of selling 10k next year and my end goal is to keep my job for 3 years and sell 50k the last year. I figure if I can do that I can throw myself at this full time with a chance of making it. My wife and I plan to travel to some shows, and do some local ones, and do farmer's markets most Saturdays, also try to find local businesses to sell my wares. We joke that it will be "back to Ramen" for a while but I am hopeful it will not come to that. 

The advice to keep your day job is the most common given for anyone that wants to start their own business of any kind, for a reason, it is a lifeline back to the "real world" and funds your dream while you grow it, without that backup the dream might die, because in the beginning, it's like a fragile little seedling, unable to weather the storms, you have to protect it while it grows, and that may require the "other" job. My newb 2 cents anyway.

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 I am a former elementary school classroom teacher and now I am trying to concentrate on making and selling ceramics. I literally had to quit teaching because I was so burned out the stress of it was going to kill me! My husband supported me in that decision, knowing that I would be unemployed in the transition to whatever career path I took next. I've had some part time work since but his insurance covers the both of us or I would still have my own full time job. I have a small income from selling, and we live pretty frugally, but I'm happier with what I'm doing with my life than I ever have been before. 

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I made the insane decision to quit my day job and pursue selling ceramics 12 years ago.   I do not regret it at all, BUT, it is not easy.  Any ideas you have of a romantic, leisurely lifestyle, forget it.  It is a grind.  

I agree you should not be in the classroom if you have no love of teaching.  Get out of there ASAP.  But unless you have a high tolerance for poverty, stress, etc, I would ease into it as others have suggested, and find another safety net day job. 

Here are some things that I wish I had known starting out:

Once it’s your livelihood, you need to consider things other than your own esthetics and artistic vision.   When you are considering things like how quickly a piece can be made, which materials are most cost effective,  what customer’s are more likely to buy,  it can effect the quality of your work, and how much you enjoy making it.  For your own artistic integrity, it’s best to keep money out it it as long as you can. 

 

Look for multiple income sources.  Unfortunately for you, a great way to keep a steady income is teaching!  My own income was about 1/2 teaching and 1/2 wholesaling my pots  and then a small amount of selling on Etsy.  Recently I replaced teaching with a studio tech job at the local junior college.  Don’t expect to live on craft fairs and studio tours alone.  

Keep exenses down.  I know so many potters who set up beautiful studios, just to close them down because they couldn’t keep up with the rent.  Start small, buy used and improve as you can afford it.  

You don’t have to do it all yourself.  I am really, really bad at sales.  Selling wholesale and letting someone else take care of the marketing has been a game changer for me.  In the beginning you’ll probably have to wear all the hats, but don’t hold on to them forever.  As soon as your making money hire someone to do the shipping, take the photos, whatever it is that you are bad at, or takes you away from the making. 

Sorry for the long winded response!!  Best of luck!  Let me know how it goes.  It’s not an easy life, but some of us have no choice but to pursue  it... it’s just in our blood.

 

Edited by Lbegley

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