What? Here I am, self professed “quit your day job, do what you love!” advocate, telling your not to quit your day job? Well, yeah.
The thing is, it’s not easy to quit your day job.
It’s really not easy.
And most of the time it’s not sensible, either. Quitting my day job with very few freelance clients, a mortgage, grown-up bills, and an already steady income was probably the most cavalier thing I’ve ever done (but your early-mid 20s are totally made for stuff like that). I was lucky, everything worked out.
But.. everyone’s on a different path & has a different set of circumstances, I’ve seen a lot of people touting the ‘quit your day job! live your dream! make loads of money!’ lifestyle and guys, it’s not always possible. You need to get to a sweet spot that’ll let you ditch your steady income. If I was going to do it again this is what I’d do…
Get your ducks in a row
If you’re dead set on quitting your day job then you really need to get your shit together. I mean really.
- Savings, you need them. Aim for around 6 months living expenses to start with (I had 3 months, I wish I’d had more). Think about your incidentals, your dependants, and any emergency funds you might need.
- Clients, line ‘em up. Start being serious about this freelance/new business game well before you actually hand in your notice. Start making connections, putting out feelers, and getting some work lined up.
- A website, collateral, business cards, it all needs to be ready before you quit. On the first day of your new ‘working for yourself’ position you need to be working on some actual cash making stuff, not faffing around with how your business looks.
- Support, start telling your friends and family about your plans. Most of them will say something about you having to get a job within three months, take it onboard and prove them wrong. I did.
- Basic kit, got your laptop? camera? Get them before you quit (and remember they’re a business expense for your new venture, so keep all the invoices).
- Tax shiz, it’s a good idea to talk to an accountant before you quit and get set-up as a sole trader, or a limited company. I was already set-up as a sole trader as I ran my jewellery business, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to do all that in the first week! As I’ve mentioned MANY times before, an accountant was one of the best investments I’ve made for my business.
- Financial implications, if you’re looking to purchase a house or go on expensive holidays within the first couple of years of your self employment then you probably shouldn’t quit your day job. Most mortgages require 3 years worth of books to prove your income. And holidays? You’re gonna be working WAY too hard for that ;)
- Start changing your lifestyle, sure, we all love meals out & trips to the cinema, but it’s a good idea to start thinking of how your lifestyle would change if you quit your day job and didn’t get the big-ticket clients you were hoping for. Having a steady income is incredibly comfortable, something that doesn’t always exist in your first few months/years of working for yourself.
Day One of working for yourself should not be about getting your business ready, it should be about diving in head first with your new projects.
What’s your back up plan?
What would happen if you made no money within the first month? first 3 months? Would you starve? Have to move in with your parents?
- I gave myself 6 months to turn a decent salary, I can’t remember the exact figure I aimed at but it was my plan to look for part time work if I hadn’t met the aim. There is nothing wrong with supporting yourself financially with a bunch of jobs on the side. It’s not failure, it’s being downright sensible and setting a good foundation for your business and life. Your new venture would absolutely fail if you didn’t have the means to support yourself.
- Stay on good terms with your previous place of employment, chances are they’d snap you right back up again if needs be!
- Remember, it’s really difficult for small businesses to make any decent money within the first year or two, so don’t feel deflated if you’re not making much money to start, just keep swimmin’.
- Think about multiple income streams – man, I love them so much! How else could you make money? Having multiple income streams means that you’re not completely tied to one branch of your business, so if work dries up a little, you’re still making money from other things. I do this by being both a web designer AND jewellery designer (and, soon, other things).
- Always have a back-up plan, and keep changing that back-up plan as your business grows.
Now you can think about it…
Now that you’ve been thoroughly scared shitless about quitting your day job… you can start thinking about quitting your day job. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and you need to be really sensible about it if you want to succeed.