Today I’m running a guest post from Juliana Weiss-Roessler, who quit her day job pursue her dream of writing full-time and making her own hours. Take it away, Juliana!
When to Quit Your Day Job
When I embarked on my freelance career, I was bored during my day job. I had a lot of down time on my hands (seriously, a lot of down time), and I thought, why not try to do something productive with it?
But within a few months, I noticed that I was sometimes earning more with the handful of writing jobs I took on than I was in my full-time position. What’s more: I found the work more enjoyable. I loved the fact that I could jump around to different projects, learning about new things and switching it up if I needed a break from a particular topic for a while.
Still, I wasn’t willing to let go of that regular paycheck. Not yet. The idea of letting go of a “real” job at a time when the economy was struggling made me nervous. I had enough regular clients that I would likely have some income, but I would have to rely on getting new clients and one-time projects to make up the difference. Would I be able to find enough of them regularly to make ends meet?
But in the life of any successful freelancer, there comes a point when you have to pull the trigger. A full-time position may provide consistent pay, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to grow your own business and become truly independent. Eventually the workload from your side jobs becomes so overwhelming that you risk affecting your reputation as a freelancer if you don’t focus on it.
Before you take that big step, though, you have to make sure you’re really ready for it. Just because a lucrative one-time project comes your way doesn’t mean you should quit your day job immediately. In some cases, making use of vacation time (or sick days) might be a better option.
So how do you know when it’s time? I spent a lot of time crunching numbers and planning for a worst-case scenario. If you rely on your current clients as well as a spouse’s employment, what would you do if one or both income streams dried up? How much time would you have to get things back on track?
Don’t think it can happen? Well, it did for me. Just a few weeks after I left my full-time position, my husband unexpectedly lost his job, along with our health insurance. Even worse, I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks before, so that insurance coverage was more important than ever.
Luckily, we had ensured that we had enough money saved up to cover us for at least 6 months – longer if we cut back on optional expenses like our nice cable package and our monthly maid service.
In the end, his job loss ended up being a blessing instead of a curse, allowing both of us to focus whole hog on building our freelance careers, and within a few months, business was booming enough that shelling out for those expensive COBRA payments didn’t seem so painful. We even restarted our maid service (we never got rid of the cable, that was just too painful!), and now we’re both able to be at home with our new baby.
If we hadn’t planned for that worst-case scenario, we likely would have both rushed back into the job market, accepting any position that came our way. We’d do this to the detriment of our freelance work (and our happiness).
If you’re still struggling to balance your full-time position and a freelance career, do the math. If you’re not ready today, prepare by building up your safety net and cutting back on your lifestyle.
But don’t wait forever, because you’ll never be 100 percent certain. You just have to trust in your talents and skills, close your eyes, and take the leap!
Note from Paula: Thanks Juliana, for today’s great guest post! I love stories of people who have made the leap into chasing their passions … and who complemented that leap with a ton of common sense and number-crunching!
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