How I Prepared Before Giving Up My Day Job

IMG_20180219_093136_717When I handed in my notice almost a year ago, a lot of people congratulated me and said they wished they could leave work too. I’d been employed in office jobs for over two decades and although I enjoyed many aspects of company life, there came a point when I wanted to see how I would fare on my own. Our family life had changed again as my little girl had started school and I wanted to see if I could earn a living from doing the things I enjoyed the most – digital marketing, social media, writing, photography and books.  With over twenty-five years left until retirement, it seemed a good idea to see if I could take time out to find a career that was more satisfying.

I’d already had a taste of freedom during my maternity leave but knew that working for myself would be completely different. For a start, there would be no statutory pay (I don’t claim benefits), regular coffee mornings or time to relax.  Our basic costs had to be covered plus we’d want occasional treats too. As for many people, the idea of going independent was just a distant dream, but I couldn’t shake the idea so we started to think about it seriously.

The journey from thought to action took around three years – with many wobbles during this time. Did I really want to give up a solid wage, pension and all the perks that came with my admin job? I liked my colleagues and my employer, but at the end of the day, multiple circumstances encouraged me to take that final step. Here are the things I did to prepare for making the leap:

1) Asking friends and family about their experience of quitting work

Before I committed myself to serious planning, I found out as much as I could about the reality of quitting traditional work and chatted with a wide variety of contacts.  I was lucky that Al, my husband, had taken time out to run his own website business while I remained in the stable job ten years earlier so we already had some knowledge of what to expect.  Saying that, our setup had changed hugely since that first break.  Back then we didn’t have a mortgage or a child and we lived in a city so there were significant differences.  There aren’t a wide variety of jobs in our local town so I was aware I couldn’t necessarily jump straight into a like-for-like role if things didn’t pan out.  Because of this I examined my position very carefully over a number of years and actively sought out ways to improve my situation – knowing that if I gave it up, my decision would be a thorough one.

While still in this role, I made a particular point of speaking to those who had recently transferred from regular jobs – especially women with kids because their situation was similar to my own.  The biggest lesson I learned was that it would take time to get established.  For some it had taken at least two years to build to a decent wage and for others, it still hadn’t happened. Rather than take this as a negative though, I saw it as a motivator.  Knowing that I most likely wouldn’t achieve immediate success removed the pressure to perform and encouraged me to reduce my expectations so that they fit the real world. If I hadn’t found this out beforehand then I think I’d be feeling a lot more demoralised now especially when there’s so much hype about making lots of money from self-employment on social media.

I read tons of blog posts promising fast wins and five-figure sums while I was researching giving up my day job but now I realise that most were often designed to sell courses or e-books. I’m sure some of these offer real value (I’m happy to give it a go if someone wants to give me a free place!) but with a staggering choice out there, I felt it best to quiz people I knew instead.  During my conversations, I discovered that several people had returned to the traditional workplace after going it alone because they needed the company of others. This is undoubtedly a factor if you’re planning to work from home.  You need to be someone who’s happy with solitude as you may have to operate independently for long periods of time.  But money is obviously the  biggest factor and the greatest obstacle for most. Here’s what we did to tackle this aspect:

2) Living on one wage while working

Unless you have savings or a partner who earns a salary that can support your household, money can be the biggest block to giving up traditional work.

When we began to commit to the prospect of me giving up work, the first thing we did was to review our finances.  I tried various methods but by far the most successful was You Need A Budget or YNAB.  This app allows you to track and catalogue all your expenditure against fixed budgets.  It involves a bit of effort as you have to log every single transaction, but the rewards are worth it. After a few months, we were able to pinpoint exactly where we were spending cash and make savings.  The YNAB software costs $83.99 a year but it’s highly likely that you’ll save much more than this if you use it properly.

Another resource that we consulted is Moneysavingexpert (UK only) which lists all the best tips for saving money via comparison tables, best buys, financial news etc. Again, it takes time and effort to achieve results but if you want to reduce your expenses then this website offers great advice.

Once you’ve scythed your outgoings, you can really start to review how much you need to live on and unless you’ve already been keeping tabs on your finances for a while, I recommend giving it at least a year to chart your expenditure fully.  When you have a realistic picture, practice living on as close to one wage as possible. It depends on your personal circumstances, but I’d also recommend trying to save up at least three to six months of salary if you can. That way if things don’t work out, you can fund any shortfalls until you find paid employment.

A note here – paid sabbaticals are rare these days, but if your employer offers them then this is a great way to explore other options while having the security of a job at the end of the break.

3) Researching ways to earn money as a homeworker

If you have a clear business idea then start planning for this while you’re still employed.  It’s hard to find the time, especially if you have kids, but do all the research you can beforehand and think about your marketing well in advance. It takes time to build a consistent social media presence so the sooner you start the better. Likewise, if you want to re-train, can you do this while working? It can take longer than expected to earn money so try and fit in as much as possible around your nine to five.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do, but my aims weren’t totally clear so my back-stop was to look for an online job.  Al had done this in the past so I knew that it was possible.  I currently work for Appen and am very happy with the way they operate. The projects are short-term, based totally online and there’s no guarantee of continuation but in the seven months I’ve been employed by them I’ve been offered several interesting opportunities.  I love the flexibility of the roles and homeworking is a handy way to supplement your income.  Lionbridge offers similar positions. One word of caution though – it can take a while to qualify for these types of jobs and you’ll have to pass tricky tests so don’t expect to secure work immediately.  Sometimes people wait for months until they get the green light.

Another way forward is through earning money via surveys, mystery shopping and focus groups, but these really do pay peanuts.  You can find more information about them on the Moneysavingexpert Boost Your Income forum board.

I’m only talking about the solutions I’ve tried in this section but the world is changing fast so homeworking possibilities are increasing all the time.  You can teach and offer administrative assistance remotely as well.  If you don’t want to work online then you could consider temping work or even part-time jobs to bridge the gap while you develop a new career.

4) Evaluating working time and space

If you’re going to earn money without the stability of a traditional job, you’ll need adequate time and space to do this.  Time management is one of the hardest elements to nail when you become self-employed so make sure you have enough hours to complete everything. I prided myself on my organisational skills when working in the office, but it’s been much harder than expected to balance the many changing demands of a portfolio career. For a start, things change frequently as new projects come and go, and I have a shorter day because I fit my main routine around the school day. Although I enjoy working late, being on the computer until 11pm at night isn’t beneficial in the long-term as tiredness makes me less productive. That’s just me though – everyone has their own limits – just be aware of your own and make sure you observe them. Here are some questions to consider before you hand in your resignation:

  • Do you have a dedicated workspace? If not, can you carve out a corner of your living area so that you can establish a quiet zone?
  • How many ‘free’ hours do you realistically have in a day/week? Think about childcare, household tasks, travel etc.  If you give up a regular salary, can you pay for childcare?
  • Do you want to keep your weekends/nights free?
  • Are you good at time management? Be honest and prepare strategies/buffers if not.
  • Are you disciplined? (see above)
  • Do you have someone to support you?
  • Do you have all the equipment you need?

Asking these questions before you give up the day job will help to clarify your goals more effectively.  Be as honest with yourself as possible to save yourself stress and disappointment down the line.  Self-care is as important as hard graft and if you don’t think you can juggle everything then maybe you need more time to put supportive measures in place.

5) Setting modest goals

Last but not least – set those goals!

Without accountability or vision, you may find it hard to stay motivated so write them down and keep them close.

I set five big ones this year and have hit four of them so far – exceeding on two.  One was income-based, one was marketing-related and the others were to do with family and personal health.  I made them measurable and manageable because I didn’t exactly know which route I’d end up taking and wanted to allow room for experimentation. Also, I wanted to stay positive at the start of what I hoped would be a long and exciting journey.

Giving up the security of a day job is pretty scary so although you need to tackle a new life with intention, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as you’ve planned.  My year has been full of bonuses and disappointments but I’ve learnt from all of them and next year, with a little experience behind me, I’ll establish more ambitious targets.

If you’ve reached the end of this post and still feel determined to quit your day job then good for you! Leaving the traditional workplace comes with risk, but if you plan well and take a decent amount of time to consider your future then you should be able to at least take a break from the rat race and hopefully forge a long-term career.  I’ve written about my progress so far on this blog and will be publishing regularly updates over the coming months so keep on checking in to see how my life as a multi-hyphen homeworker is coming along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Year ‘Off’ Work – Nine Months In

Self Reflection

How did that happen?!

I’m almost three-quarters into my year away from the traditional workplace – a liberating yet also slightly scary realisation.  Since Little M has  returne to school, I’ve been in review mode. What have I achieved? What do I still need to do? Has it all been worth it (so far)?

The answer to the last question is definitely YES! I started this journey with a very loose set of goals (you can read my three month review here) to allow for spontaneity – and the lack of structure has definitely opened up some amazing and unexpected paths.  Just after I’d written my first review post, I was featured by Instagram as part of their WHP Challenge which kickstarted a whole new creative chapter and led to mentions in online magazines, HiFiPublic and frolic.  Then surprisingly I was featured by Insta again four months afterwards for #WHPdailylife! I know the platform has had some bad press recently, but it’s been really a fulfilling experience for me.  Not only have I got to know many lovely like-minded people, I’ve also been able to meld my interest in photography and books in a fun way.  I’m not sure where I’ll go from here but I’m enjoying the journey.

Continuing the bookish theme, highlights of the year have also included attending the Bookstagrammer’s Breakfast at the Hay Festival and being part of the Slightly Foxed giveaway – two wonderful experiences I would never have dreamed of six months earlier.  Trips to Addyman Books and the Ironbridge Bookshop were the icing on the cake – go and visit them if you can!

The immersion in social media has clarified my career goals too.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working as a social media evaluator and in spring, I started to successfully manage the digital marketing for a printing business.  I’ve always enjoyed being involved in online projects and now I’m taking this to the next level by launching as a freelance digital marketer at Cuppasocial.  It’s very exciting to be taking this step after dreaming about it for years.

All this has taken time to set up though, and invariably something has had to give. On this occasion sadly it’s been the writing. I have a very rough first draft of a children’s book, which I’m sitting on, and am planning an adult ghost novel with Al, but these are longer-term goals rather than the main focus now.

So what’s planned for the next three months? Well the business obviously! I’ve only just launched officially so I realise it may take time to build my portfolio.  I’m keen to keep on stretching my creativity via my Instagram and Pinterest accounts – perhaps by taking a small photography course. We’ve had to be frugal this year but it’s really made us appreciate the simpler things in life.  We’d like to develop this further by cutting down on waste, enjoying what we have and contributing towards our local community in some way.  I’ve just discovered that a new zero waste shop will be opening in town this month so hopefully these goals will happen sooner rather than later!!

On a final note, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has supported our family this year. We’re lucky to have so many friends, both near and far.  Your company has been the best part of all xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Life After Quitting the Day Job: The First Quarter

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Back in late December, I packed away my office and quit my day job, a step that I’d been contemplating for several years.  There wasn’t one factor that encouraged me to make this decision, rather a number of reasons – both positive and negative, but the dominant motivator was to find out whether I could follow my passions and make a living from them.  This wasn’t about becoming a housewife or indulging my whims (OK a bit!), it was about finding my enthusiasm for work again – within a finite timescale and with a limited budget.

So how’s it been? Well great on the whole! My first priority was to earn money from a remote-working job, which took a little longer than anticipated but in March I managed to secure a small contract as a social media evaluator.  The role is ideal for me – it’s doing something I enjoy and it’s extremely flexible but I still need additional income – ideally as a part-time copywriter or as a social media co-ordinator – so am focusing on this next (any offers welcome!).

My second aim was to write a new manuscript which again has gone well, if more slowly than I originally predicted (isn’t it always the way?!). I’m two-thirds through the first draft of a middle-grade fantasy adventure and hope to finish it this month then revise throughout the summer. I’ve also been accepted as an emerging author by the Society of Authors, which has boosted my confidence massively.

Alongside all the above, I’ve hosted a writing retreat, been on holiday, built on my Instagram account and have – most importantly – been able to support my little girl during her first year of school.

As with any change, there are a few downsides. I have to be disciplined as my days have been much shorter than I expected (I’m only free during school hours at the moment). I’ve also noticed that I’m busier now because I’m excited about the projects I’m doing and want to work on them so this means being mindful of making quality space for family, friends and myself. The lack of money hasn’t been as big an issue because we changed our spending habits before I quit the day job. My main regret is that I can’t support as many charities or friends with their ventures, something I used to love doing, but I hope this will improve as I find more work.

So what next?

More writing, more image-making, more leap-taking.  My goal is to turn this world of ideas and creativity into a permanent situation – either working for myself, for someone else or a combination of the two.  If you’ve ever gone down a similar route, I’d love to hear from you.  Likewise, if you have any questions for me, please contact me via email or in the comments below. Wishing you a magical day!