I wanted to quit my job. But I didn’t know how.
I get emails from people who are in the same situation. They want to quit their jobs and go freelance but the time doesn’t feel right.
If there is a time that feels right when quitting a job, I haven’t experienced it.
We all have mortgages and bills to pay, cars to run, equipment to buy, partners and (sometimes) kids to look after. We all have responsibilities. There’s pressure to make ends meet.
Here’s how I managed to pick up the courage to do it.
Make a plan
Set a date. 3 months. 6 months. A year. Then make a plan. I wrote a business plan which included who my customers would be, what I’d offer, how much money I’d need to make, and how I was going to promote myself. I had this already stored in my head but the act of writing it down helped me think things through. It made it real.
I hear a lot of people saying that they’re not a risk taker and that quitting their job is a risk. 99% of people on this planet aren’t risk takers. Even people who invest millions of pounds aren’t really risk takers: they do everything they can do to mitigate risk. You don’t have to be a risk taker to quit your job. Your plan exists to reduce that risk. You’ve already thought about every eventual outcome.
Practice while you’re employed
I worked 9-5.30, commuted for 2 hours a day, I’d regularly make dinner, and walk the dog twice a day. Even with that, I was able to get around 4 hours of freelance work in a day. When you’re employed, you need to make a start. You need to make time.
Build a security net
I saved up roughly 3 months of living costs as a buffer. I’d have liked more. While you’re at your day job, start saving. This could be savings from your salary or savings from the freelance work you’re doing on the side.
Sort out the nitty-gritty
You need to register as self-employed, find an accountant, pick a business name, set up tools for invoicing and tracking expenses, set up a website and an email address. This is all stuff you can do before making the leap. My first day as a freelancer was working on a job I’d lined up. I wasn’t doing admin… I was making money.
Get your partner on side
This is the most important advice I can give you. You need the backing and support of your partner. I didn’t know if I could make freelancing work. But my partner believed in me and gave me encouragement. That’s priceless.
If your partner is unsure or wary, that’s completely normal. Mine was too. You need to communicate. Show them your business plan, show them how you’ll get clients and how much you’ll charge and how much you hope to make. Show them everything. They’ll take comfort from the fact you’ve thought about it and that you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t).
Have an exit strategy
The reason I went self-employed was to fill a burning desire that I should do it. I wasn’t happy because I knew I should at least give it a go. If things aren’t working out and I’m not happy, then it’s not worth doing. The exit strategy exists for that reason. It also helped reassure my partner. My exit strategy is simple: if after 3 months I’m eating into my savings and things aren’t going to plan, I’ll re-evaluate and look for a job.
Brick by brick
There’s a Will Smith quote that I just love:
“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say I’m going to build the biggest, greatest wall that has ever been built. You say I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid and you do that every single day and soon you have a wall.”
That’s what you need to do. Starting a business is daunting but start by breaking it down into smaller parts and pick them off one by one. You can lay the foundations by spending 2-4 hours a day over 3 months.
Leave your job on good terms
If you can leave on good terms, do it. They might outsource work to you. Even if they don’t, it’s a badge of honour for yourself: you’re going out the same way you came in, as a professional.
The deep end
It only became real when I handed in my notice. I had to commit 100% otherwise I’d have to get another job (my exit strategy). I was working hard before this, but the day I handed in my notice I started working really hard. Funny how diving in at the deep end gets you motivated.
Don’t wait for permission
I’ve wanted to be self-employed for over a decade but there was someone stopping me. Who? It was me.
One day I gave myself permission to do it. That’s all it takes.
We live in a world where you don’t have to be unhappy in a job. Everything you’ve ever wanted is out there. It’s up to you to go get it.