How and When to Quit Your Job
When I quit my job to start Write Ahead (now Renegade Planner), I only had $200 to invest in my new business. I registered my name, got a set of $5 business cards, bought a $100 piece of software, and put an ad up on Craigslist. I was good to go.
All of this might lead you to believe that I have a very high tolerance for risk, and you’d be right.
But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared.
When I talk to people who want to become entrepreneurs, their biggest obstacle is when and how to quit their day jobs. It’s frightening as hell to give up a steady income – even when that income is too small and going to work every day is slowly squishing your soul. Steady income is just that; it’s predictable. It’s much harder to create a steady income source from your own business, especially in the beginning when you’re still testing the market and it’s more difficult to forecast your revenue and your costs.
So when’s a good time?
The answer is different for everyone. But when the thought of sticking to your day job and holding out for a sunnier day is more painful than the thought of failing as an entrepreneur, it’s probably time.
For you, that might be right now.
Or maybe you’re okay with continuing your 9-5 for a while – nothing wrong with that! In fact, if you’re comfortable in your job but you know entrepreneurship is on your horizon, you’re actually in a great position. You can start putting a little money aside – even if it’s just $5 a week – to fund your entrepreneurial dreams later on (it helps to know how much money you’ll need, so make sure to read up on that in Chapter 3). Although the amount of money you can afford to save might not be anywhere near enough to start your business, it’s a start, and it’ll show lenders and investors that you’re serious about starting a business and willing to put your own skin in the game (more on that in Chapter 3 too).
I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. It’s always going to be scary, and you just have to accept that.
If you’re looking for a litmus test to determine the right time to leave your job, try asking yourself these questions:
- Do you spend at least an hour of your work day daydreaming about owning your own business?
- Do you ever wish you could be at the helm of the company you work for, making all the decisions and influencing the entire organization?
- Could you realistically quit your job today without compromising the health or safety of yourself or the people you love? In other words, could you get through the hard times for a little while?
- Do you have a really clear solution for a really specific problem in the world, which your business will address and which you can describe in a couple of sentences?
The more of these questions you can shout YES! to, the more prepared you are to start a business. But remember, that’s just my opinion – not direction or advice. Only you can know when you’re truly ready. The next step is to choose the date that it’s going to happen, and make a plan for your last day on the job.
How do I quit?
When you start the transition from employee to entrepreneur, you’re going to encounter naysayers and sceptics. There will be people who don’t understand why you’re doing this; they’ll think it’s too risky, or it’s foolish or even selfish (!) to let go of guaranteed income to pursue something that might fail spectacularly.
When I announced my intent to start a writing business, here’s what I heard:
“Have fun being a starving artist!”
“Writers never make real money!”
“Why don’t you just start investing instead?”
“You might as well throw your money blindly at the stock market.”
Yup, I heard it all – and sometimes it was a real downer. Why were these people trying to make me doubt myself? Maybe they were right. Maybe I would fail. Maybe I was signing myself up for a life of poverty. My reputation of being a failed entrepreneur might mean I could never get hired for another job again.
For a while I decided they were just jealous, and maybe some of them were. But I think it was more than that. We are still so conditioned to believe that the only path to success is to get a decent paying job and work our way up the ladder. Putting our heads down and just working hard. Hoping, and waiting, for a better opportunity, and meantime, playing the lotto.
Yes – some people “make it” this way. The ones who doubted me are all – to my knowledge – in the exact same place they were a few years ago. Still waiting. Still wishing. Still hoping. Still suffering from idea paralysis. Nothing’s changed.
Maybe you’re in limbo about starting your own company right now. Are you hearing negative messages like the ones above? If you are, here’s my advice: it’s up to you to decide if you want to remain a wishful thinker or become an opportunity maker. Naysayers are usually just trying to be helpful and offer perspective; they don’t mean any harm, but they also don’t understand what drives you.
When I finally decided to accept negative remarks as disguised statements of kindness – it was really easy to say SCREW THE CUBICLE and set out to prove everybody wrong.
That’s how you quit your job. With fearlessness, confidence, and absolute certainty that you’ll either figure out how to succeed, or become wiser and move on if you fail.
Want to do a little more planning before taking the leap? Good idea. Let’s talk about how to find your customers and bring them on board.