Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Sick of your day job? Yearning for a life of freedom from the cubicle? Ready to give your boss the finger, quit your job and start your own business?

Don’t do it.

Yes, a lifestyle of freedom played by your own rules probably sounds damned tempting. But never take your day job for granted, no matter how much you hate it. It could just become the best exit strategy to self-employment you’ve ever had.

Here’s why:

You Can Find the Right People

If you’re yearning for employment independence, you might’ve started reading advice online that tempts you with alluring promises: “Find your passion, follow your dreams and the money will come.”

Frankly, that’s BS.

And people who tell you this advice aren’t the ones you should be listening to. They aren’t giving you wisdom and sage advice – they’re filling your ears with a siren song. They aren’t telling you about the dangers and pitfalls – they’re glossing them over with smoke and mirrors.

Self-employment isn’t all roses and rainbows. The right people will tell you this. They’ll talk about why you shouldn’t leap without a safety net. They’ll be forthcoming with advice about difficulties you might face.

They’ll tell you the truth. And they’ll help you achieve your goals.

Seek out those people, the ones who have been where you are and who have gone far beyond it. Listen to what they say – they won’t hand you false hopes and unicorn dreams. They’ll tell you that you need to plan, and they’ll tell you how to begin, as well as the steps you need to take.

Your day job will be a boon during your research phase, because it gives you the time you need to map out your business and plan for it properly. You’ll be able to build a solid foundation for future self-employment and completely avoid impulsive decisions.

You Can Prepare for the Storms Before They Hit You

Starting your own business may seem sunny, but storms will inevitably blow your way. Your day job gives you time to prepare for them. As you build your plans for self-employment, you can work in predictions for rough scenarios, ask yourself what you’ll do if they happen and form plans for the ‘umbrella’ you’ll grab should dark clouds start to form.

For example, let’s say you quit your job and don’t earn a penny for 7 months. How could you begin preparing for a potential slow start now? What would you need to weather that storm? What safety net could you plan and have handy should you need to protect yourself?

And what would you do if you decide you hate self-employment? Not everyone enjoys it, so what Plan B could you implement should you start your business and decide it’s not what you hoped it would be?

Figure out solutions and options well in advance – before you quit your job. Ask yourself hard questions about possible dark times. For each obstacle you can think of, ask yourself: “What would I do if this happened? What can I do to prevent this from happening?”

You may never need your safety plans, but you’ll be ready to put them into motion at the first sign of rain.

You Can Save Up Emergency Funds

Starting a business is full of peaks and valleys. It’ll take time to begin earning enough to cover all your bills and feel financial steady.

You need to have emergency funds stashed away – both before you quit your job and at all times during self-employment. Here’s where your day job is truly useful: You can start saving now while you still have steady income, long before you cut off that source of cash.

It’s no exaggeration to assume you need least six months’ income saved up before making the leap. If plans don’t work out as expected, or “life” happens, your savings will help cover the bills while you hunt out a difference source of income or a new job.

Your emergency funds help you feel more secure and safe. Money’s there if you need it, and if you don’t, great!

It might take time to save up six months’ worth of financial cushion, so be patient. Get a second job or work overtime if there’s no extra money right now to sock away. Cut back on expenses. Stop spending.

And for the love of Pete, don’t quit your day job without cash in the bank, or you’ll be stacking the deck against yourself from day 1.

You Can Start Slow, On the Side

Starting your own business doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. There’s no rule that says you can’t keep your current job and start your business on the side until your footing is secure.

Build your website. Get your copy up. Start your marketing. Learn your technologies. Take on a client or two, if you’d like. Discover whether you have the dedication and commitment to make this work.

You don’t have to quit your job. You can have a job and a business, allowing yourself to gain experience and grow your venture slowly.

When your business endeavors begin to pay off in a sustainable way, and your income from the business starts coming close to or matching what you earn from your current employer, you can begin considering the transition from paid employee to solo entrepreneur.

Your business will be ready, you’ll be ready, and you’ll feel far more confident about your decision.

Celebrate with Caution

Once you taste success, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever have hard times again. You’ve done your due diligence, took your time, planned well and are reaping the rewards – woo hoo!

Celebrate the good times… but with caution. Every business has highs and lows, and the lows often come when you least expect it. Clients move on, a product doesn’t work out, or the market moves in a different direction and no longer wants what you sell.

Insulate yourself by learning how to manage your money responsibly. Take a course on budgeting, and get smart about your financials. Spend wisely, and save smart. Don’t assume the money will always keep coming in – enjoy some of it, and stash the rest away for a rainy day. Develop a smart, proactive plan for growth that strengthens your financial net worth, and keep a realistic perspective in mind.

You’ll establish secure footing that keeps you standing strong in the deepest of valleys, and you’ll be able to reach for your business dream with both hands knowing nothing can knock you down.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Heh. I didn’t follow any of your advice . . . which is why I agree with you 100%. It’s not easy! The job I quit 5 years ago, though, was just a temporary thing after a previous temp thing–what I really was avoiding was getting back into freelancing (long story there). I was taking so much abuse at that job it was ridiculous, and the only self-respecting thing to do was to walk out with the final insult (the place went out of business in a month anyway, though if I hadn’t walked, I would have had unemployment for awhile). Not being sure of where I was going was tough not to mention no emergency fund, and I worked some steady, independent contractor (online) jobs here and there. Which wasn’t the goal, but they worked out well.

    The way you describe things sounds great compared to how I did it! It’s hard to do your best work and stay motivated/cheerful under (ongoing) stress, at least for me. I’d advise anyone with a choice to just suck up at the current job for awhile if that’s what it takes and do some planning.

    • Now that’s actually a point worth raising: what if you’re in an abusive job?

      If it’s flat-out abuse – verbal, physical, or mental – then getting out is probably the healthiest thing to do. No one should have to live in a toxic situation.

      I do recommend trying to see what you can do to fix it in the first place (and I’m using general you, here, not YOU you). I see a lot of people in bad situations who don’t take steps or do anything to change it, and quitting becomes the easy way out. They don’t make official complaints, they don’t stand up to the abuser, they continue to say yes when they should say no… that sort of thing.

      Then they end up starting a business, and they can’t say no to clients or bad projects or the wrong type of work… they’ve changed the environment, but not the behaviors.

      I guess I’m on the fence, eh? I always think it’s worth doing what you need to do (no matter how difficult it feels) before pulling the plug. It helps you become a better person, if nothing else! But I also think there are some situations in which it’s super appropriate to pull the plug, so… yeah. 🙂

      • Definitely two different situations. Kind of like running from a relationship without trying to make things work or considering what your (general your 🙂 part is in the problem. Then you bring the same exact problems into the next relationship (or job/business).

        Staying at the job I had and doing things in a more planned-out way would have been great. A lot of the crap I just shrugged off, and I complained about other stuff and even went higher up (only to be met with the same crap attitude). I probably could have dealt with all of it except for one big problem on top of the rest: unpredictable hours. I was a sales manager at a place with dwindling business. Hiring and keeping help was impossible because so much of the pay was commission (it was great when things were busy, plus it was a product I love–popular language learning software). So on top of nastiness and bizarre manipulative stuff from management, I’d often have to work 12-14 hours unexpectedly. It was impossible, but I was given no choice. So it was do it or walk.

        If you haven’t written it already, skills needed for your own business (esp. online) after quitting a “regular” job would be a good one!

  2. Frankly, I’m glad I listened to your advice, James! 🙂 It’s worth the time building up the foundation of your work, and figuring everything out without the pressure of having bills to pay. It took me two years to figure out my business’s foundation and appropriate tone for my website. The only frustrating aspect is when it comes to blogging, figuring out a schedule/format that fits me best, and not having much of an audience. There are times when I feel like I’m speaking into a void. It also means no freelancing gigs.

  3. Heather Reisig says:

    I’m curious to know if someone who lives in the United States needs more than 6 months set aside than one who lives in Canada. I’d think, since we do not have inexpensive health care like all y’all do in Canada, that we might need a bit more. Anyone know for sure?

    • That’s a GREAT question, Heather.

      Experts in Canada recommend 3 to 6 months. Experts in the United States recommend 3 to 6 months. Both recommend 6 months as being the ideal, and 3 months as the bare minimum.

      You bring up a good point about health care, but other factors balance things out.

      For example, my heating bills up here would probably make someone in Florida cry. Our income taxes tend to be higher as well, from what I know. Food is *definitely* more expensive up here, as is housing.

      So while health care doesn’t cost us as much, the cost of living is higher, thus balancing things out.

      Where we definitely do get a break is higher education for kids – so basically, if you have kids, come up north, and if you don’t, head down south! 🙂

  4. Manney says:

    Here’s another perspective – some of us don’t have a “dream” to follow.. We just want to work in a job or career that is at least as fulfilling (and decently paid) as was promised when we went to school. I’m 50 now, but when I went to college in the mid-80s, I went to study computer engineering technology at a community college. I became an electronics technician. Unfortunately NASA wasn’t calling and AT&T only wanted “the cream of the crop” – and within 3-4 years after I graduated and wasn’t even considered by firms like AT&T or Grumman, they lost their US Gov’t contracts and laid off all those “cream of the crop” people by the tens of thousands at a time. Meanwhile, the job I had was in a small firm testing boards. At first it was all cool and stuff, and the money wasn’t bad ($19K in 1987 for a single guy, no debts, no possessions), but after a while I saw no real upward mobility. Training was only for the job they needed me to do, not the whole product. After 18 months I just quit. I couldn’t face getting up in the morning anymore. After a year of traveling and working PT, I went back to the field in a bigger firm, for a couple of thousand more. Three years after I got laid off. By that time, again, the job lead nowhere, so I was glad I got out. After that job I never went back to that field. Then I worked with mentally retarded people, at an airport, and for the next 6 years in a community agency helping people – In a way that job was fun and satisfying, but again, no way to move up unless you are there a decade. The money wasn’t bad, but I needed more. Some years later, I found a satisfying job in NYC as a desktop technician – excellent money and benefits. I’ve been in IT ever since then. The money has always been good. And though there are frustrating days, in the end, it’s just a job to pay bills, not the definition of my life. The title does not mean squat if you have to devote 24 hours to a job and no life of your own, ,even it its just to watch TV. So, even if you have no “dreams” of being a rock or literary star, the fact that you can earn a decent living, pay your bills, live relatively debt free, have some spare cash for a whim, and owner of your time is a much more achievable and realistic goal than being the next Stephen King, Steve Jobs, or any hero of the field you admire. Some people have a natural talent for certain things, some are lucky, some are born with a golden parachute – like the infallible Donald Trump – and some have a downright rotten and ruthless personal character like the odious but extremely lucky and bright Steve Jobs. If you watch “Shark Tank” you will see that each of the people that asks for money for their companies, do not have a life at all. All their time is devoted to the company they founded. For some people this is best. Younger people without mortgages or children may do better as by the time they either succeed or fail, they have at least the advantage of time. There is no straight or clear rule. And don’t feel worthless or guilty for not having a “dream”. That is all television and media BS. Not everyone is film or TV quality attractive, or talented, or has the type of personality to make millions by screwing other people. Happiness is not always money or sex as they show on TV. It is being healthy, sleeping well and in peace. Money is necessary, but not at the cost of one’s limited time on this earth. You only get ONE ticket on the merry-Go-Round of life. No extensions, no refunds, no rain checks, no free-rides.

  5. That’s really wise solution. Many people just quit their job and sitting,waiting,wishing…But you need to be prepared to it. It has to be well conceived, informed decision. Otherwise you are doomed to fail.


  1. […] That knowledge sweeps away uncertainty and brings you confidence. You’ll know where you are right now and what’s coming up – and that helps you yourself avoid the famine zone in the first place. […]

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