Tag: leaving your job


How to Make the Risk of Starting Your Own Business Doable

I used to have a full-time job with benefits with a very prestigious university. I later quit to pursue my own freelance business.

However, it wasn’t so cut and dry.

There were (and still are) a lot of layers to pursuing a dream of working for myself.

The process I went through looks a lot more realistic (and doable) than some of the mythical stories you hear these days about making the jump from working for a boss to becoming your own boss.

This process can also spark some ideas for you to realistically take the risk too.

It may even help ease some of your fears and concerns preventing you from taking the leap. Here’s my story that began about 10 years ago.


Don’t Quit Your Day Job

For the first time in my career as a college career adviser, my creativity was being stifled under new leadership. I was also experiencing a lot of micromanagement under this new leadership.

I couldn’t continue to work under both conditions and had to start planning an exit strategy.

At first, this strategy wasn’t to quit my day job.

I started where most people start, looking for another job working for someone else doing the same thing elsewhere. Of course I wouldn’t leave my current job until I found my next job.

But, I never found the right fit.

Instead, I found opportunities that only served as an escape from my current situation. Not opportunities I could truly thrive in.


Ask yourself:

Are you just running to something that could possibly be worse than your current day job?


Don’t Quit Your Daydream

Next, I started listening to what my friends were telling me.

They kept telling me I would be good at wardrobe styling. This was something I’d been daydreaming about for a long time. Wardrobe styling would definitely provide a creative outlet for me.

But I still wanted to use the skills I’d developed as a career adviser over the previous eight to ten years. Those skills included interview coaching.

After giving it much thought and doing some research, I decided to start branding myself as an image consultant since image isn’t just about how you dress, but also how you present yourself in an interview.

Specifically, I branded myself as an image consultant for up-and-coming recording artists here in Nashville. I knew there were a lot of young artists moving to town and taking the risk to pursue music.

Also I knew they lacked the ability to properly present themselves to a label (which is basically a job interview). Or in a media interview (I’d had some past experience in media coaching too).

I went and got a business license. This is when it became real for me. But I still didn’t quit my day job. Not yet anyway.


Ask yourself:

Is there something people tell you you’re good at? Is it something you enjoy? Do you see a potential market for it?


Making the Shift to Starting Your Own Business

I worked on my branding efforts part-time while still working my day job as a career adviser.

Following my own advice to my students, I also spent my spare hours networking with the few contacts I had in the music industry and growing my network.

I attended as many industry events as I could. And I conducted informational interviews with several people in the music business, always asking for the names of two or three other people I should talk to.

For nine months I did this and my efforts began to pay off.

I slowly began getting clients. I worked with those few clients on weekends, evenings, and any time I had off from my full-time job.

Then, one of my networking contacts approached me about a part-time temporary job at his small music label.

This opportunity reduced some of the risk and gave me a bit of a safety net to leave my full-time job and pursue my business full-time. (This is just one example of why networking is so important!)

However, I still wasn’t hasty in my exit from my day job.

Instead of giving two weeks’ notice, I gave 30 days’ notice because the policy was I could work for the university again in the future if I gave 30 days’ notice. But not if I’d only given two weeks’ notice.

I wanted to keep as many options open in case things didn’t work out.

I used the three months for the temp job to increase my networking efforts in the music industry and promote myself to potential clients. This way I would have more lined up once the contract was up.


Ask yourself:

What are some small steps you can start taking toward your daydream? Are they things you can do around your day job? Who are some people you can start meeting and connecting with? Can you come up with some ideas for an eventual exit strategy from your day job? Do you have a potential safety net you hadn’t previously thought of?


Don’t Let Fear Overwhelm You

Once I was on my own, I was already getting used to working for myself. And there wasn’t as much to fear as I would if I’d left my day job and then started a business.

This isn’t to say I had no fear at all. A few days before giving my notice at my day job, I experienced my first (and luckily my only) panic attack.

Then, when the economy tanked in October 2008, less than two months after I’d left my day job, I started to get nervous.

But, what I saw happening all around me was people being laid off. They were being forced into becoming their own boss with no real planning or preparation.

Luckily I was way ahead in that department because I’d already been preparing for nearly a year. And I already had some clients.

When I was short on image consulting clients, I supplemented my work with resume writing and career coaching services for those who’d been laid off during the recession and were looking for a new job.


Ask yourself:

Are you still having some fears about pursuing your daydream? Are these fears real or perceived? What are some ways you can calm your fears or put them into a different perspective? What would be the worst case scenario if those fears proved true? What’s the best case scenario?

Click here to read more about the myths of the common fears of leaving your job.

Rely on Connections to Supplement Your Income

Throughout my time as an image consultant I continually made connections through networking. This turned into additional ways to supplement my income with my growing business.

While attending a fashion show, I met the president of a small design college who hired me to teach a class on image at the college for a semester.

He also ended up publishing the 2nd edition of my first bestselling book, Advance Your Image, through the school’s small publishing company.


While attending an event at the Entrepreneur Center here in Nashville, I met someone who needed a contract employee with career advising experience to do outplacement counseling for his clients.

I still do this work to this day because I get to make my own schedule and it’s the complete opposite of micromanaged work. I love it.


The connections I’d made through my original day job also led to a part-time (10 hours/week) temporary job at another university, which unexpectedly turned into a part-time permanent position.

I was hired to fill in for one semester while one of their employees was on maternity leave. But when she returned, they asked if I could stay on indefinitely. I got to make my own schedule so I could work it around my business.

Eventually they asked if I could work 20 hours a week. As much as I loved working at this university, I’d already put in so much blood, sweat and tears into my image consulting business that I couldn’t afford to risk that much time away from it to work for someone else.

So I decided to be fair to both myself and the university and leave so they could find someone who was able to give them the number of hours they needed.


Ask yourself:

Are there connections you have now in your current situation which could benefit you in the future? Are there connections you’d like to start making? What are some things you can fall back on to reduce financial risk when your daydream business is slow?


Be Willing to Shift Gears When Necessary

After leaving that part-time job, I realized I was burned out on seven years of image consulting and wanted to do something different.

But what? I had no idea.

I just knew I didn’t want to risk all the work I’d put into developing my brand.

Then a year and a half later I realized I still wanted to do career advising, but this time on my terms. (Click here for the story on how this realization came about.)

I still wanted to be my own boss. And I wanted to keep the same name from my image consulting business.

I was able to do both with a slight shift in my mission and an overhaul of my services.

Now, I offer unique career coaching services focusing on helping people discover and pursue their own passions.

This includes helping them either find a new day job they’ve been daydreaming about, or helping them take the steps (not the leap) to becoming an independent freelancer or business owner. Whichever they’re most passionate about.

My business became more successful once I was willing to make this change.

I was also able to see how the experience I gained and the tools I developed in my image consulting business fit nicely with my new mission and offerings.


Today, I don’t have to supplement my income anymore.

Now, I get to do it simply for the love of the variety in my schedule and the love of the creativity it brings me.

Unfortunately my time only lets me do one additional gig to my full-time daydream.

But I’ve never been happier in my work.

No one is micromanaging me or stifling my creativity.

I get to choose who I take on as clients and which projects I want to invest my free time into.


Ask yourself:

How can I start planning my exit strategy for my day job and my entry strategy to my daydream? How can I reduce unnecessary risk? And how can I maneuver around inevitable risk?


How I Did It

I simply started setting goals and then taking small steps toward achieving those goals.


Bottom Line:

You may want to pursue your daydream of starting your own business but think it’s impossible.

And it may be impossible for you if you simply quit your day job to follow your daydream.

I want to serve as one of several examples of how doing it with an alternative, less-risky strategy can make it possible even for you.

Probably more so than you ever imagined.


Biggest Lessons Learned

Want to know the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past 10 years working for myself as a freelancer (so you don’t have to learn them the hard way)?

Check out my post 10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing.

Related Posts:

Click here for more resources and posts on the topic of working for yourself.

starting your own business

When Is the Right Time to Leave Your Job?

The short answer to this question is when you:

a) have enough

AND

b) have had enough!

There are several different items that can fall into both the a) and the b) categories. 

When You Have Enough

It may be the right time to leave your job when you have enough:

  • job offers
  • interest from other companies
  • potential clients (if deciding to start your own business)
  • savings
  • financial support (from a spouse, an inheritance, etc.)
  • fill in the blank ______________.

Have Had Enough

It may also be the right time to leave your job when you’ve had enough:

  • of a toxic environment or poor company culture
  • illness caused by the above
  • of the little to no opportunities for advancement
  • abuse from managers or co-workers
  • of unfair/unequal pay
  • harassment of any kind
  • fill in the blank ______________.

For me, I’d had enough

You may find your situation leans more in one category than the other.

For me personally, when I was contemplating leaving my full-time job at a prestigious university to take my part-time business full-time, I was more in the “have had enough” situation.

While I had a little bit of savings and some financial support, I didn’t have a lot of clients yet.

But I had enough of a toxic culture and a micro-managing boss that was making me physically ill and offering me very little opportunity for advancement to want to leave. Plus, my creativity was being stifled.

I knew I couldn’t stomach another fall semester there. And I would’ve been of no use to my students if I’d stayed.

The thing that helped me make the decision to leave was a bit of a safety net being offered to me as a result of my networking efforts. My contact said,

 “Lori, it’s never going to be the right time for you to leave your job to start your business full-time.”

He knew I probably wouldn’t leave without something there to support me, and offered to provide a way for me to build my contacts in a 3-month period so I could quickly increase the number of clients I needed to make the jump.

Good Timing vs. Bad Timing

I left my job on August 1, 2008…just a month and a half before the economy tanked and the US went into a recession.

Some would say my timing was bad.

But I know in my heart of hearts, if I’d not left my job when I did, I probably never would have.

Once the economy tanked I would’ve been too scared to leave. And I probably would’ve been stuck in a toxic environment for several more years, getting sicker and sicker.

So I’d say my timing was good.

I was already learning the things I needed to learn and hustling to do the things I needed to do to grow my business.

Other people I knew who were laid off during the recession and were forced to start their own business just to survive were a month and a half behind my learning curve.

And in November of 2008 when people were really starting to feel the full effects of the recession, my replacement in my job at the university quit…

…Only 4 months after she’d replaced me…

…At a time when no one in their right mind who still had a job would leave it.

What does that tell you about how bad things were there? Huh?

Factors to Consider Before Leaving Your Job

Of course if you find yourself asking the question,

“When, if at all, should I leave my job?”

…there are a lot of factors to consider, including financial, mental, and physical.

Only you know your financial situation and your health situation. You have to make the best decision with the information you have. Is your health going to deteriorate if you stay and therefore cost you more in medical bills?

Or is it possible your health will improve if you leave, therefore saving you some money to help tide you over until you find your next opportunity?

There’s also the factor of timing.

Is it clear this is a good time to leave? For instance, do you have another job offer on the table?

Is it clear it’s a bad time? For example, is your spouse currently out of his or her job on medical leave and you have those medical bills rolling in?

Is the only thing that’s clear is that you’ll never be able to predict the best time? (This scenario is usually more likely than the previous two.)

Sometimes it takes someone like a career coach who’s objective to help you see all the factors and the options available to you. Especially when you realize you’re being led too much by emotions such as fear and panic. 

But you shouldn’t focus just on the factors that affect you. Consider how your current work situation is affecting others.

If you stay, will you make things better or worse for your co-workers, your customers/clients, the company’s bottom line?

I knew if I didn’t leave my job, my students would feel the effects of the toxicity in my work environment, and they didn’t deserve that. They didn’t need that negativity spilling over into their own college experience and their own job search.

If you stay, will your family have less time with you? Will they have to deal with your irritability, anxiety, and depression due to the stress from your job?

How to Create an Exit Strategy

If, after taking all the factors into consideration, you realize it’s the right time to leave, you have to create an exit strategy.

1. Clarify your goals

Start by clarifying your goals, both short-term and long-term. Step out of your comfort zone and brainstorm a list of steps you can begin taking now to achieve those goals.

Check out “Be Honest: Is Your Comfort Zone Really All That Comfortable?”

For instance, your short-term goal may be to leave your current department or company for a similar job. Some steps would include visiting a career coach, updating your resume, and getting in touch with your network.

2, Have a plan B in place

Next, develop an alternate plan in the event your first plan doesn’t pan out.

For example, if you aren’t finding any job openings in your field with your experience, what are some other ways you can monetize your skills and expertise?

Could you consult? Could you start a side business? Or a full-time business of your own?

Check out: “How to Make the Risk of Starting Your Own Business Doable”

If so, start taking steps toward that goal such as determining your target market, their pain points, and how you help them solve their problem.

Determine where your potential customers spend their time so you can know when and where to market to them.

3. Find ways to cope

In the meantime, while you’re waiting for your exit strategy to take root, do what you can to make your current job as bearable as possible.

For ideas on how to do this, check out my post “How to Make Your Current Job More Bearable: 8 Ways to Cope Until You Can Get Out”.

Related Posts

right time to leave your job