How I Went from Zero to Quitting My Job for Writing in 15 Months
This all feels a bit weird still.
I never considered myself the type of person to leave the corporate world to do something as creative as writing. I thought only people having mid-career breakdowns did such things.
It’s why I’m slightly embarrassed when I talk about it with the people I know in real life. Everyone has been so supportive but a nagging internal voice tells me that they think I’m throwing my life away.
Maybe deep down you think you aren’t the type of person either.
Maybe you’re worried the people in your life will confirm your doubts.
Maybe you’re just as wrong as I was.
When you consider the full story of my journey over the past 15 months, my decision makes sense. It took time for me to adjust but I believe all aspects of my life will be better.
It was hard for me to believe in myself enough to make the change and I hope I can inspire you to not let your fears hold you back.
The New Year’s Resolution
I’d never have started if I didn’t set myself a little challenge.
I’d been reading online for a long time but found it hard to keep track of my own thoughts. Then I had an innocent idea. Maybe it would be better for me to write articles rather than having arguments in my head.
You know how people decide this is the year they will go to the gym every day and they keep it up for about 2 weeks then stop? That’s what I thought posting online would be for me.
My expectations were low and I would have been happy if a couple of hundred people read my articles a month. I started in secret without the delusion anyone would care what I had to say.
Yet lightning struck and my first viral article shattered all my sensible benchmarks. Readers asked me how I discovered my writing voice and I had to Google what they even meant.
It appeared I had some talent but I’d have never known if I didn’t press the publish button. It may not pass purity tests but I wonder how long I’d have continued writing without the praise in those early days.
What you should do:
You don’t need to start with the end in mind or even have a vague idea of what you want to achieve.
Just start and don’t underestimate the value of going from 0 to something even if you don’t become an overnight superstar.
Maybe you’ll find it doesn’t work for you and it’s ok to move onto something else. Yet you might find you enjoy it more than you could have ever hoped for.
The Brick Wall
After a few months, I was convinced I was a one-hit-wonder. Everything I wrote flopped and I was getting rejections everywhere. The honeymoon period was over.
I felt like a fool for believing I knew what I was doing.
My motivation was weak so I looked to the community for inspiration. It was easier to read others talking about writing than actually writing myself. Over a period of weeks, I slowly started becoming more active in the discussions. I told myself I was being productive but it was just procrastination.
Until one day when I volunteered to become a moderator of one of the Facebook groups. Overnight I became an authority despite having huge doubts about my own ability.
Helping other people was my savior. While I was far from an expert, my obsessive reading meant I had the answers to many of the questions in the group. I was 10% better than them and this was enough to gain their confidence.
I improved my writer's brain and gained friends along the way even though my results still weren’t great.
What you should do:
Join a community and observe for a little while. Work out how people interact with each other and look for ways where you can add value to others.
Everyone online is looking for ways they can enrich themselves so you can stand out by doing the opposite. You’ll learn along the way too and the satisfaction from helping people gives you another reason to keep going.
After 6 months, I finally proved I wasn’t a one-hit-wonder!
This was a tipping point and now my average article was far more popular than before. The income increased dramatically to the point it rivaled my day job. Something I hadn’t imagined possible whilst in the shadow of the brick wall.
The writers I idolized started reaching out to me and our conversations lit a fire under my writing. I kept the mentality of looking for ways to help them too and this led to strong friendships and unexpected opportunities.
It was only at this point I started adding more income streams. This diversification gave me more resilience but I wouldn’t have coped if I had started earlier on. This is the T-shaped model of becoming good at one thing first before branching out.
I was still a long way off even thinking I could ever quit my job for this though.
What you should do:
You never know when things will click so you need to continue to be proactive. Keep trying to improve and ensuring you have something to add to other people.
While my journey was faster than average, there were many points where I should have quit if I was only in it for the money.
Focus on keeping a positive mindset with your ears wide open and someday, your day will come.
Everyone portrays online success as an instant way to bring about happiness but this wasn’t the case for me.
It complicated my life because I failed to plan for what I’d do if things went well. It was meant to be a carefree hobby on the side.
My job was still my number one priority but I found myself turning down many shiny objects to maintain my sanity. I stopped replying to most messages to make sure I got time to relax because my mind was becoming too scattered.
When my social life returned post-lockdown, I knew I couldn’t put off the decision any longer. I had to pick two out of work, side hustles, and social life.
I ruled out social life quickly because what’s the point of being successful in the other two if I can’t hang out with my friends?
I agonized over work vs side hustles for months with lists, spreadsheets, and tree diagrams. It’s not a simple choice and I did the right thing by analyzing my choices fully.
My gut said take the plunge but I had in-depth discussions with my family, friends, and other writers. I needed the validation to build up the courage.
As I said, I wasn’t the kind of person to quit their job to become a writer.
The thing is over the course of 15 months, my identity changed. I no longer had to be loyal to a version of me who I’d outgrown.
What you should do:
I’d never tell someone to quit their job when I have no idea of their individual circumstances.
When you get to the stage where you’re considering it, write down the pros and cons in detail. Look at it from both a financial and lifestyle perspective. Be realistic about the income and stress levels you’re likely to face.
Don’t take the decision lightly but if the signs are pointing one way, shed your old identity. Become the new, happier you.