When do you take the jump? From hobby to full time call maker
It is truly amazing what you can find on the internet and social media. Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it isn't. For now, it’s a good thing. There's a video floating around on all the social media sites and Youtube of Steve Harvey the comedian and Family Feud host talking with his audience after a taping of the show. If you haven't seen it, you need to. In it, he talks about everyone coming to a point in their life where they are faced with the opportunity to jump, or sit on the ledge and play it safe as they always have. Never have I felt more afraid of heights than right now, and I'm terrified of heights.
What he is referring to can be taken as a spiritual leap, letting God take control of a situation, or as simply stepping away from your comfort zone and putting your faith in yourself to make a change and make something happen in your life. I've never been shy about saying I believe firmly in the power of God. His hands are the reason anything I do on a lathe sounds or looks anywhere remotely close to what I'm wanting. For me, this is more about me stepping out of my comfort zone on a professional level.
I'm sitting at my desk at work today writing this. And there are places I'd rather be on a Saturday in May. Today, most importantly, I'd rather be attending the wedding of my niece to MiG Custom Calls Staffer Drew Holt. But life has other plans for that. On any given Saturday, I'd rather be anywhere besides work. I'd love to get back into playing more golf tournaments. Would love to load my two boys up and take them to the creek for a day, or take them fishing when the bream are spawning like they are now. But life has other plans. Or does it?
I'm not complaining about my job, or my boss. He has been as much of a supporter of my side business as anyone has, and since day one. The job itself requires a lot of time. And now, I'm at a crossroads with this job and my custom call business. I've built somewhat of a name for myself, and would love the opportunity to maybe make it a career. Wasn't that way when I first started out. I had aspirations of maybe buying myself a case of shells a year before duck season with the money I made selling a call or two. Now, however many years into this I am, I see the possibility of more. That's where the fear of heights starts creeping in.
Now I am terrified of heights in real life. The only way I feel safe more than about 5 feet off the ground is in a tree stand with the Mathews hanging off a limb beside me. The heights I'm talking to is the same jump off the cliff Mr. Harvey was speaking of. Will my parachute open, as he put it? I know right now that I've got a list of custom calls to finish this year that will put me relatively close in gross sales to what my salary is where I work now. That's a start in the right direction, and I'm beyond thankful for the folks that have been patient and understanding with me as I find the time to work in a call or two here and there during the week. And I feel pretty confident in saying I could fill up another list of custom calls next year when I open back up again. But that's as far as I'll go with it. So I'd have two good years of sales. Then what? Custom duck call makers are, in my opinion, always going to come and go. There are tons of us, and tons of them out there that are as good or better than me. I have always maintained that my name being one of the fads right now will pass. Then what will I be doing? I've tried to remain as humble about all of this as I could. But for this thought process, I've tried to be honest with myself. I know right now MiGs are a hot item amongst the collectors. What I don't know is how long that will last. Guys like Mike Stelzner, John Koepp, and Ron Laun are the exception rather than the rule. I've been talking sporadically with Mr. Stelzner about this off and on, and look to do a video interview with him discussing himself and what he has seen in shifts in the custom call aspect since he got into it years ago very soon.
Right now, the thought of being able to spend time with my wife and kids on weekends is weighing hard on me. And that has pushed me to think more and more about making my hobby a full time job. I know everyone says it wont be as fun when you wake up and know you’ve got to go to the shop and make calls. But it has to be better than what I'm doing now. And I would be able to take a vacation with my family a little easier than I can now. But when I look at it from a logistical standpoint, I'm not quite where I want to be. Maybe I'll never get there. Taxes have become more of a factor than I ever imagined. Income and sales tax, which may or may not be considered theft by a well known call maker here in Arkansas, eat up a good chunk of my sales. Being able to afford the materials needed to keep in the shop is a major deal. It's getting easier to acquire good wood stock from various folks I've come to know, but it still isn't cheap to keep a good selection of stabilized woods and good hedge, cocobola, and African Blackwood on hand. Not everybody can have the inventory like Alan Whitson!
So I sit here, on the edge of the cliff. Wondering if my parachute would open if I were to stumble off the edge. I may never be able to jump on my own. Sometimes I wish God would just tell me, "Hey, don't do that." Or open a door wide for me to step through instead of unlocking it and waiting for me to turn the handle to find out if it opens. I do know this, it's something I will be pondering over for quite some time. Maybe one day a gust of wind will blow me off that edge, maybe not. Maybe one day I'll have a memory of taking that jump and my parachute opening.