How I Made The Escape

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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 :)

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Comments

  1. says

    You are so inspiring. I am really impressed! Awesome advice, thanks for sharing and telling us all the nitty gritty, and congrats on making it all happen!

    • says

      Thanks Clare! I really wanted to put the details out there since it’s so easy to make life look effortless online, when most of the time it’s a lot of work :)

  2. says

    Helpful, insightful post! Thank you so much for sharing this…I sometimes do get that misconception that bloggers up & leave their jobs and miraculously have their creative dream job. You’ve very much validated the hard work, dedication, and drive it truly takes to make such a big leap! I hope to get to the spot you’re in someday! :)

    ~Sacha

  3. says

    Hi Sarah!

    Congratulations!! I really mean it, I am so happy for you! This post came at a great time for me, I was getting bogged down in the process of my liberation, but you’ve given me fresh hope! I just blogged a stream of consciousness about this on my photo a day and pointed my readers to this post as well.
    Thanks so much for sharing and offering your wonderful advice :)
    xo

    • says

      I’ve had plenty of days & weeks like that. Take a few days off and then keep going. Focus on that end result of finally leaving and what you’re days will be like when you finally escape. Good luck!!

  4. says

    Wow, congratulations on actually making it happen! It’s one thing to talk about it– it’s another thing entirely to see it through. I also have a plan, or at least a formulating one. It’s going to take patience (ohhhh so much patience), but I’m very serious about it. Just thinking about it makes me happy and rejuvenated. :)

    • says

      That’s so great to hear! Half of the reason I wanted to write about my journey was to give a little boost to everyone working their way to freedom.

  5. says

    Congrats & great post! I’m at about the same place as you on this journey to escape. Glad I found another person out there trying to make it happen. Good luck!

  6. says

    This. Is. Awesome.

    I need to get my ass in gear and start creating a plan just like yours. Thanks for making me feel like I can do it too!

  7. says

    Well once again another post just in time. I’m about to start my own Etsy shop and I’m getting really stressed out. I also have a bit of spending problem and know I need to cut back on a lot of things and start saving. Thank you for the inspiration and best of luck to you my dear. LOVE your blog! :)

    • says

      You’re welcome! The spending is so difficult to cut back on, but once I stopped shopping I didn’t miss it too much. It’s more of a reward every few months now :)

  8. Paola says

    Congratulations! You’ve inspired me to get off my ass and start planning my life out too. Best of luck with everything!

  9. says

    Sarah!!! This is great! I’m so excited for your new journey! You are amazing and I know you’ll do awesome without your 9-5! :)

  10. says

    You’ve already kicked so much ass… I can’t imagine anything that would stop you now. Way to chase down your dreams; truly inspiring!

  11. says

    Awesome post! TRUE DAT! :P
    I’ve also been preparing a series of posts about how I jumped ship and quit my corporate job to become a writer. Some of the stuff you said up there I also mentioned (the PLAN and SAVING MONEY part, specifically. Glad I found your blog! :) Cheers!

    • says

      Cheers right back at ya! I love reading about how other creatives make the freelance life work, so I look forward to reading your posts :)

  12. says

    All the time we’ve spent talking about these things and it’s finally paid off! Now we get to have all the brunch and work hangs we want, and now you’ll probably inspire me to get more shit done :)

  13. says

    CONGRATS CONGRATS CONGRATS! So excited for the day I am done school (and paying for it) so that I can support your independent life with a new website for myself :)

  14. says

    Thank you so much for this post!

    I dream every day of leaving my zombie job to chase after my dreams, but often find things distracting me. More often than not, it’s because it seems like I’m the only one having to work so hard for it. Knowing that it’s not always instant & easy will help me out so much. One thing I will definitely take away from your tips is to put a plan on paper & up in my face. Maybe if it’s staring at me every day I will quick forgetting it on the days I should be working harder on it (the super stressful zombie days).

    • says

      You’re welcome! It’s a ton of work, but you can do it! Writing out that whole plan months ago really helped to put me on the right track so when the time came I was ready. Go for it!

  15. says

    I am soo happy to hear of your success! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I admire you a great deal for your independence, drive, and guts! This is a great example for others who want to break out on their own. I found this post to be inspiring, myself, and I think I’ll sit down right now and write out my own escape plan!

  16. says

    Congratulations! That is an awesome story. It’s great to hear someone tell it like it is and really show how hard they have worked to get where they are. I would love to have my own business and I know it will be hard but it is something I would love to do. I am currently pregnant and will be on 12 months maternity leave from September. I am hoping to come up with some plans before then so I can start working towards something in my 12 months leave. Hopefully at the end of the 12 months I won’t need to go back!

    • says

      That sounds like a great way to go about it. I’m sure you’ll be plenty busy, but even just putting in a few minutes every day will add up. Good luck!!

  17. says

    Gotta support those who want to be freelance artists with a passion that thrives them for monetary gain. I definitely want to keep my job at Ross Dress For Less and that is only for the fact that I spent the last 3 and a half years in college for Retail Management. But, I did gain insight on what I should do for my other jobs outside of work just so I can say that I work on my own. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

    • says

      It’s something you definitely have to budget for, but there are lots of options. Make it part of your plan from the beginning and it will look like less of an obstacle.

  18. says

    Here via Ginger Mandy and just wanted to say congrats and mad kudos!

    I did something similar last year, but I admit, I had a safety net. Not a trust fund, exactly, but a reasonably sized cushion that will allow me to take a chance on my dreams for a few years. So far it’s been a lot harder than I expected. I thought 1 year would be plenty of time to “make it,” but unfortunately I appear to be slow. Ah well. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity and its stresses for anything.

    Good luck!

  19. says

    Thanks for this article! I really needed this inspiration because I am planning on leaving the job I’m currently at.

    I hope that you are doing well at the circus, I look forward to your future adventures.

    Jamie

  20. says

    I’m heading back to work after a 6 month stint at being self employed. I picked the wrong time of year, had too much debt, was living in an expensive apartment, and just had so many other things that were making it hard. I already have plans for leaving this job within 3 years. For now, my handmaking will be my side hustle until I can make it full time again.

  21. says

    hello!
    thank you so much for posting this.
    i’ve actually made the decision to go back to school this year for something that i really want to do.. i wont be settling anymore and i wont be miserable at my desk job ever again. thank goodness!

  22. says

    so inspiring. i have wanted to leave my 9 to 5 job for a while, i feel like it’s slowing sucking my breath away.

    i wish i could say i have a solid plan. but unfortunately my husband had left his job and was following his dream for a bit which was a drastic cut to our income and it just didn’t work out. we slowly started drowning and are still recovering even though he is back to working for someone else. because of this and when he came back to the work force, at a drastic paycut from what he was previously making – i now don’t see an end in site for me. i feel like we have SO much debt that if we didn’t have it i would be completely okay to work for myself.

    i am completely and totally envious of those who climb out of their debts and work for themselves and make it. some day, this is my dream. so until then i work my day job and am actually soon going to be starting up two more side businesses. maybe one will take off and i cant make my escape sooner rather than later.

    thank you again for the inspiration, good luck to you!!

  23. says

    Love it! Congrats on taking the right steps to get you where you wanted to be.

    I can totally relate to your story. I also quit my corporate job to work on my own and it takes a LOT of hard work. I’ve been tempted to quit many times, but the vision of what I’m working towards is very empowering.

  24. says

    This is fantastic!! As a girl who plans to work for myself someday, It’s refreshing to hear that you’re following your dream without a backup, completely holding your own. So many kudos to you, so inspiring. Looking forward to reading more about your exciting journey :)

  25. says

    CONGRATS Sarah!!! I just left my job too, and completely relate to everything you’re going through. You have what it takes to make it, i’m so happy you got out! :)

  26. says

    Very true. I did, in fact, up and quit my boring desk job, but I wouldn’t recommend doing things that way. For me though, I just couldn’t take it one second longer, which is a sure sign that I wasn’t in the right place! Lol.

    One thing that I’ve realized though is that as much as I tried to plan for my escape while I was working there, I was in a sort of zombie state, creatively speaking, and wasn’t really able to make any concrete steps in that direction. It’s like my brain was crippled or something. Once I quit, it was like a weight was lifted and I was able to throw myself into creative pursuits. I’ve having to live w/ my parents again while I go through design school now, but… emotionally I think this was absolutely the best decision. My desk job was stealing my soul.

  27. says

    Hi Sarah,
    Here’s a back story for you. I read THIS POST, stalked around your blog for a bit, then shut my computer off and went home from work. On the tube home I thought about this post over, and over, and over again. Why did I like it so much? What really spoke to me?

    I recently bought an ebook from a blogger who I really admire which is about how to start a blog (I believe it’s called Blogging 101). The problem is that the ENTIRE BOOK is about her routine of ‘coffee at 9, then writing a post,’ and ‘how to say no to big company collaborations’… just totally irrelevant to me.

    And that’s what I love about this post. I just started a blog and, although I won’t be monetising it any time soon, it would be incredible if one day I could. I loved this post because rather than ‘selfishly’ talking about how easy and fabulous your life is as a full time blogger and business owner, you were honest about how hard it was. It’s so selfless the way you’ve really laid the truth out there for people.

    Thanks so much. This totally made my day :)

    Lizzie

  28. Carolin says

    What a great story. And just the right push I needed right now, while I’m procrastinanting on preparing for a n interview at a freelancing position which -I hope- will help me to escape from a pretty unbearable situation as well :-)

  29. says

    I needed to read this. I love the paragraph at the end that starts with “Start now”. My situation is totally unrelated to yours but the point is the same…. Do it. Make a plan and go for what you want. I’m glad it has worked out for you. You have awesome ambition! Thanks for this.

  30. says

    Omg you are my HERO! No really, you now have the professional life I dream of. I have been an aerialist for 2 years and I LOVE it, but I don’t see myself at the level of “running away with the circus” just yet. Maybe someday. And I would really love to become more internet/tech savvy and launch my own online business, but it’s all a long, slow learning process for me. How long had you been training before you started performing with The Weird Sisters? And I’m curious how you learned to be a web designer–were you self taught, or do you recommend any good ways of learning? Cheers to the good life! :)

  31. says

    Late to the game. Just discovered your site, read this, and it’s exactly what I needed to read. I’ve been half-heartedly working on my Escape Plan for about a year now but I need to step it up. Thanks for sharing your story and advice.

  32. says

    This was an awesome post that I can so relate to! I work a 9-5 desk job with weekend hours and it is so stifling! I just want to pole dance all day long, not answer emails and make spreadsheets – LOL. Thanks for the inspiring post :D

  33. says

    I read this several months ago when I first started following your blog, and I just had to re-read it as a reminder to work harder towards my self-employment goals. Thanks for the inspiration!

  34. kitty says

    thank you so much. this was just the inspiration i was looking for. i’m happy all your hard work paid off.

  35. says

    This makes a lot of sense! I hear you talking about working for yourself a lot, but was just wondering what exactly it was that you “do” for a living – so I dug through your archives and found this post. I like what you said about making multiple streams of income. That’s very smart and something I need to be better at. I sometimes feel like I “should” be good at just one thing and do that one thing very well, but… truthfully many things interest me and that’s probably a good thing – diversifying your income streams is a great way to not lose momentum if one of them doesn’t do as well for awhile!

  36. says

    You know what . . . WOW! I so needed to read this. It’s funny how a person can know a thing but reading it or hearing it gives the concept power. I pinned, FB’d, and Stumbled this post and I thank you for writing it.

    I was referred to you by Brittany at VaVoom and I will devour your site. I know it will take a while; however, I am taking my blogging to another level. I am unemployed with a Master’s Degree (the new hubby stated I could be a stay-at-home wife); but the real is he needs assistance with our budding farm.

    THANK YOU!

  37. Brielle says

    Greetings Sarah,
    I was just reading this post and it was beyond encouraging!
    I am setting up a game plan to leave my other job to do my costume shop full time. So exciting! Thank you for the ideas and helpful tips to push myself to get this going. =)

  38. says

    Great post! I was sent here by another blogger and I appreciate you sharing your experience as well as some useful tips. My first step would be to figure out EXACTLY what it is I want to do once I quit my 9-5. :-)

  39. says

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!… BY THE WAY.. THANK YOU!!! SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS POST… as I am reading it from my sucky 9-5.. or my case 8-4…. I am making that first step RIGHT NOW to leave this place!!! thanks for your encouragment.!!

  40. says

    i just dived into setting up shop with Etsy – decurieuxoiseaux, as I am researching tools and inspiration i came into your site! The best of all I saw so far. You are generous, clear, kind and you inspired me! Thank you!

  41. Andrea says

    I hope everything is going well,your story has given me courage to create my own escape plan. I also work at a giant corporation giving away all my soul and creativity to them for very little pay.I came up with an idea that this global company is going to use to make their workforce perform better. That made me think ,if this company is going to use my ideas,with no raise or promotion to me by the way! Then why am I giving my talent away for free.I want to use my talent to promote myself and live my dream.

  42. says

    This is the most inspiring post I have ever read! Those last few paragraphs really hit home. Us creatives don’t belong in a normal 9 to 5 desk job. It always feels so depressing. I’ve suffered long enough and because of this post, am making my own escape plan!

  43. says

    Wow, thank you for writing this. I know I’m a little late to the party with reading this (and finding your blog), but this is exactly what I needed to hear. Your words have certainly struck a chord with me, and I feel like I can (and will) put some of these tips to good use! Excellent post!

    xo.
    holly

    happinessbrand.blogspot.com

  44. says

    It’s two years later and you’ve got the E-course and a Badass Babes blog club – how amazing that you don’t have to bother with the “Dragging my ass back to the cube: How I completely and utterly failed at the freelance life” post. :) We’re two friends just starting out on our Escape Plan as well, and this is just the realistic boost we were looking for. Thanks for the inspiration, Sarah! Good luck with everything.

  45. says

    Thanks for much for your great article – this is something that (scarily) I look forward to some day! It’s still very early days – like, right at the beginning – but I’m going to do it one day. :D

  46. Isabel Klennert says

    Hi there, I am 14 years old, and I am currently writing exams at school. For our life orientation exam, we had to choose a person with an unusual career or a person that has turned a hobby into their career. I was hoping you could answer a few of my questions: who tried to stop you from following this career and how did you know this is what you wanted to do? Thank you in advance, Isabel

  47. Tracee says

    You are amazing Sarah! Once I read your introduction I could not pull myself away from your blogs. They’re inspring and truthful. I look forward to making an ESCAPE PLAN and keeping up with your blogs and advice. I wish you great wealth & luck on your endeavors!

    • Sarah Morgan says

      Thank you Tracee! Good luck to you too – if you have any questions or need help in your escape, feel free to submit a question (link is in my nav bar) :)

  48. says

    This is exactly what I needed to read today as I left my house crying this morning because I didn’t want to go to this job that makes me miserable another day. Thank you.

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  1. [...] really follows through when she has a vision no matter how long the goal might take to be achieved. She recently quit her job to run away with the circus and focus on web design after a long time planning and preparing for it. For someone who has spent her life quitting things [...]

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