Before You Quit Your Job

There are countless articles online on how to go freelance or how to start a business — I know because I read a lot of them.

However, one thing that sometimes gets forgotten is, what to do before you quit your job, before you take the step, before you make that crucial decision that has a potential to change your life.

I’m a strong believer in planning. On the one hand, I understand that it’s rare that things will go according to the plan, but writing down goals and strategies help with initial anxiety, and when the chaos creeps in — you can refer to the notes.

I won’t be talking about jobs, freelancing or how much you can make as a business, but rather what steps I took before I did quit my last full-time position, and what you can do to prepare yourself, for when things go wrong.

It’s safe to say to many people fantasise about quitting their jobs, being their boss, having the freedom to do whatever they want. However, as attractive as it sounds, it’s not that simple. More than often, instead of creating a business, people create a job for themselves but without the benefits of working for someone else.

Michael Gerber describes this paradox in ‘E-myth‘. Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a freelancer. I did write about it before — in my opinion, the best way is to combine the two. Learn skills that can make you money but also have another stream of income from other businesses.

For everyone, the journey will be different, so I will outline the steps I took before I handed my notice.

First, it was a decision to leave. There were many different reasons for that, however at that time, over 2.5 years ago, I was 100% certain I wanted to leave my current employer.

That was in April.

Even though I knew the end was coming, what I didn’t do was quit my job on the next day. I’ve done that before, but it was when I knew I could find another position next day.

This time I didn’t have that luxury, so I decided to leave at the end of December same year. Yes, December.

I gave myself eight months to figure out the next steps. At that time I didn’t know what to do; find another job, move to a different industry, change careers, start freelancing, open a business. Next months were full of research, experiments, going to trade events and conferences. I went through the motions, being both excited and depressed for the most time.

Finally, I went back to the drawing board and started from scratch. I asked myself.

What are you good at?

What can make you money straight away?

What do you want to do in 5,10,15 years from now?

I got rid of a short-term planning anxiety and started to focus on long term goals. In the end, the decision was to freelance from home, do simple jobs online such as editing audio and videos as I work on other projects in spare time.

Good.

What’s next?

Finances were the next issue to tackle. I had some savings, but I planned for the worst — what if I can’t bring in any money for the next six months?

Plus I needed to upgrade my system if I wanted to work from home.

I calculated an absolute minimum I needed to survive — rent and food and ‘startup’ cash. It meant no parties, no holidays, no extra spending for an unknown time. Having all the numbers written on paper, I got a loan from the bank.

The loan was an addition to my saving but helped to ease the anxiety and fear in the beginning. It helped, especially that for the first four months I didn’t make any cash and was burning through the savings fast. I handed my notice, and on 1st of January, I was officially self-employed and adamant to make it work. Two years later — I’m still here.

My word of advice is to plan and prepare for the worst. People tend to optimise for best-case scenarios, especially when things are going well. If you are 100% sure you want to leave a paid job and start a business on your own — have a plan A, plan B, plan C and worst case scenario rescue. It’s all so you can sleep well at night, knowing that you prepared. Even if things go ok, there will be days when you will question your decision.

Days when you ask yourself if you are good enough, if you can make it, if you are just wasting time. Enough money in your bank, skills that you know can make you money straight away and friends/partners that keep pushing you are invaluable — don’t dismiss it.

The first year after leaving my job, my net income was slashed to 1/3 of what I was making before — that opens your eyes and can make you depressed, and that was a year of hustling, freelancing and frugality

Two years after and I would never go back to a full-time job (unless there is some unexpected turn of events) — even six months can make a drastic difference in your life.

It takes time, discipline, hard work and drive.

Is it all worth it in the end?

That’s up to you.


Originally published at mikemigas.com on December 3, 2017.