To take advice from one of my favorite bloggers who recently wrote a piece called “Let’s not pretend it’s always easy,” I wanted to talk a little (err…a lot) about how I was able to leave my corporate day job.
It can seem, on the internets, that lots of bloggers create a side business and then just up and quit their jobs. And maybe some of them do. Maybe some of them have a trust fund or immediate success or a husband paying all the bills, but my guess is that most of them put in a lot of hours before they left the cube for a creative job.
I don’t have a trust fund, immediate success or a husband, I only had a job I didn’t love in the least and a whole lot of motivation to leave.
I started planning to leave about a year ago. In September I put up a giant white board and wrote out eight months of goals for my design business, my shop, blog stats, aerial classes and shows under the heading ESCAPE PLAN. I picked May for my escape because in figuring out how much money I would need to make in order to leave, the increase in revenue month-to-month was a little crazy, but not insane.
I worked toward my goal every day. Whether it was going through song choices for a show, building a new templates, responding to potential clients, creating spreadsheets for class. I was 100 percent focused on where I was headed. I visualized putting in my two weeks and driving out of that parking lot for the last time (yelling with joy) over and over and over.
And a lot of times it was really, really difficult. I was taking on an enormous amount of work and I was afraid that if I stopped moving for a second my dream would be compromised. I spent quite a few nights in a ball on the couch crying my eyes out, completely overwhelmed, while Slayer climbed all over me trying to lick my face. And I had multiple conversations about how I was “falling apart, taking on too much, and everything is a mess” with a good friend who basically told me “shut up, your life is amazing, keep working.” As much as I didn’t want to hear it, it was good advice.
In March I had my yearly review with my boss and unfortunately/fortunately he was well aware of my lack of passion at work. His solution for this was, beginning in June, to have me write news stories for the site (what I did when I first started my job) and work weekends (after putting in 7 years there). This turned out to be the push I needed to leave.
In April and May we (The Weird Sisters Circus) booked nine shows, which meant more rehearsals and routines to build – I literally did not have time to be stuck in an office 40 hours a week anymore.
I tied up all the loose ends, bought a new computer, went to the dentist, worked out a budget. Then last week I told my boss I was leaving my job to run away with the circus. It was exciting and terrifying (hello mortgage!) and a leap I knew I had to take because I didn’t want to wake up in 10 years at the same job knowing I’d been so close to reaching my goal.
All of the long hours were so worth it when on Monday morning I woke up sans alarm and spent the morning eating breakfast on the deck while going through email. Then I was able to run all my errands to pick up stuff for an upcoming show and go to a fitting without having to cram everything in at the very end of my day. My new freedom hasn’t completely hit me yet, but the relief is slowing starting to seep in and so far it feels really good.
Now let’s all cross our fingers that I don’t have to write a post in a year titled “Dragging my ass back to the cube: How I completely and utterly failed at the freelance life.”
My advice to those of you currently reading this from your soul-sucking job and dreaming of a creative life…
SAVE YOUR MONEY All of it. Especially if you’re like me and are SINGLE with a MORTGAGE. Stop buying shoes, stop eating out. Do you want a new dress or do you want to leave your lame job? That’s the question I’ve asked myself on a weekly basis and, frankly, sometimes I bought the damn dress, but most of the time that little reminder was enough for me to hold onto the cash.
MAKE A BUDGET Know where your cash is flowing. Cut down all the bills you can. I canceled my cable to save $15 and changed my phone plan to save $20.
MAKE A PLAN The second I realized my job would be changing and I wasn’t going to stick around I went back to my desk, opened up a file called Escape Plan and wrote: new laptop, health insurance, Photoshop, clean office, dentist appt. What do you need to do in order to leave your job? Don’t leave it until the last minute.
If possible, CREATE MULTIPLE INCOME STREAMS I make money from freelance design, my template shop, teaching aerial and performing. If one of those comes up short one month I have three other places where I can try to make up for it. This not only helps my bank account, but saves me a bit of stress too.
If the WORST CASE SCENARIO is holding you back – mine is losing my house – then imagine it happening, what will you do? Make a plan. I would: get another job, get another roommate, build a million templates for my shop, start selling possessions. It won’t be the end of you world and you will not die from the worst case scenario. If you managed to escape the 9 to 5, then you surely have enough balls and strength to get through a lot of bad shit.
START NOW Like, immediately. There is no reason to spend another day dreaming about what you want to do and not lifting a finger to move yourself in that direction. Stop making excuses and complaining about things you CAN change and start believing in yourself and just take one step forward every day. Seriously…do it.
ALSO…I cannot say thank you enough to those of you who read my blog, bought one of my templates, hired me to design your site or just cheered me on. Each one of you has given me a little leg up on my journey and I’m truly, truly appreciative of your support. I would not have been able to do this without you <3 <3 <3
If you have any questions feel free to comment or email :)