6 Things I Learned From Quitting My Job

6 Things I Learned From Quitting My Job

About a year and a half ago, I had an epiphany.

I was in a job I enjoyed. The prospects were great. But I decided that I didn’t want it any more. I needed change. I seemingly became unemployable overnight.

Not one to do things by halves, I quickly set myself a goal of quitting my job by 23rd May 2012 (exactly one year after I launched my first website). I knew at the time that the goal was not rooted in any logic – I had no firm plan that would get me to where I wanted to be. But I felt that any goal was better than no goal at all.

To be perfectly honest, whilst I was determined to achieve my goal, I had absolutely no idea whether or not I would. And as it turned out, what I thought I needed to achieve in order to quit my job wasn’t what I ended up doing at all.

Fast forward to present day, and I have been running my freelancing blogging business full time for nine months. My last day of employment was 23rd December 2011. I beat my goal by exactly five months, and my blogging business currently earns me about as much as my job did in less than half the hours.

It has been a roller coaster period in my life. A time of unprecedented change. And in that time, my perspective on what it takes to quit your job and enter the world of self-employment has changed drastically.

There are six key realizations that led me to quit my job, ahead of schedule, and with confidence.

1. You Don’t Need To Replace Your “Offline” Income before Quitting

Embracing this concept was a huge step for me, and served as a catalyst to the sharp acceleration in my plans.

Most “make money online” advocates will tell you that you need to get into a position where you are matching or exceeding your “offline” income with your online endeavors before you quit your job. I blindly followed this advice for months, without realizing the sheer impracticality of it. Extremely safe advice, yes. Advice that I would pass on to anyone else? No.

For me the calculation was pretty simple. I had a couple of clients, and was being paid an equivalent hourly rate of $x (which exceeded the equivalent hourly rate at my job). I had confidence that I would be able to find more clients. Therefore, logic dictated that I would be able to earn enough money with more time. The theory was enough for me — and it could be enough for you.

I want to make a key distinction here. I am not saying that you should quit your job tomorrow with nothing to show for it. But I am saying that, given the right circumstances, you do not need to hit an income target is that not only arbitrary, but often completely unnecessary.

2. Time Is Your Most Important Asset

Why am I confident that you do not need to match or exceed your “offline” income before quitting?

Simple — time. What I call the most valuable commodity in the world.

Let’s say your job takes up 50 hours a week — 8 eight hours work per day, 1 hour for your commute, and an extra 5 hours for overtime. You sleep 8 hours a night — that’s another 40 hours gone. Before you know it, nearly 65% of your available time has been zapped away by just work and sleep. We haven’t even mentioned some pretty important things (like eating, for instance).

I am not saying it is impossible to build up a sizeable side income in the available spare time you have, but it is hard. And whilst launching a successful business is never easy, it doesn’t have to be so hard.

Look at it this way – you are currently being paid by your employer because they believe that they can profit from your input. Who’s to say that you couldn’t independently create as much value (or more) as you earn from your job, given those extra 50 hours per week?

Ultimately, many would-be entrepreneurs simply don’t have enough faith in their own abilities. Once I had confidence that I was capable, and that 150% more available time to pursue my business aims would result in ample grwoth, the decision to quit my job became a far easier one.

3. A Safety Net Is One of the Most Important Requirements

Quitting your job without a guaranteed income in place is a risk. But it is a risk you will ultimately have to take. No income is guaranteed – certainly not the income from your job.

You need to have faith in your theoretical ability to leverage your time effectively to grow a sufficient income. You don’t need to earn it; you need to have faith that you can earn it. Once you pass that psychological milestone, you will need something to fall back on, should things not go to plan. I will always strongly recommend that anyone quitting their job has a safety net.

Traditionally, this would be in the form of 3-6 (or more) months earnings, but it might be different for you. For instance, you might have the guarantee of a job waiting for you if you ever change your mind, or perhaps you could join the boomerang generation.

My father quit his lucrative sales job when he was 23. He had just bought a house with my pregnant mother. It was a terrifying decision. But the sales company practically begged him to stay, and told him in no uncertain terms that a job was waiting for him should he ever change his mind. That was his safety net. He didn’t go back, nor did he ever look back.

My safety net was more tangible – savings. I wouldn’t have made the leap had I not already built up a considerable nest egg. After all, I knew that I would not be making enough money at the outset, and probably not for a few months thereafter. My financial safety net was not only necessary to prevent bankruptcy, but also for me to act like I was running a profitable business. The worst thing you can do during a business’ formative months is make decisions based upon financial pressure. For those two reasons, having a safety net is a must.

4. If You Really Want It, You Have No Choice

I’m not crazy, but I am making the perhaps controversial suggestion that you take risks. Calculated risks, but risks nonetheless.

What ultimately tipped me over the edge and made it clear to me that I could no longer simply wait for a “safer” time to quit was the realization that I simply wasn’t happy. I was treading water. I was no longer enjoying my work. To be perfectly honest with you, I was miserable.

Your own personal happiness should be one of the most important things in your life. That may sound selfish, and perhaps it is. But if you are not happy, you will not be well-equipped to help those around you, so you could consider such a prioritization as both selfish and selfless.

Perhaps you’re not sure that quitting your job is the right thing to do. Perhaps you will never be sure. With that to one side, perhaps your burning desire for change is too great to refuse any more. Life is too short to be miserable.

That was certainly the attitude I adopted in making the decision to quit my job. I was walking away from fantastic prospects, job security, autonomy, flexible hours, and a number of other perks. My friends and family thought I was crazy for quitting (I think they still do). But all of those benefits paled in comparison to a simple assessment of my happiness.

Regardless of how beneficial staying in that job may have been to my career, it was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life (or for another week). Therefore, I had no choice but to leave.

5. Sacrifice Will Be Necessary (or Preferred?)

Now we get to practical considerations. Here’s a thought – maybe you don’t need to earn as much as you do from your job in the short term, or even in the long term. Maybe you throw your money away on a huge number of unnecessary creature comforts and material items.

Just perhaps, happiness in doing what you want with those 50 hours of your life every single week is more important than that deluxe satellite package, or your shiny new car. I managed to knock 30% (that’s right, nearly a third) off my monthly outgoings just through a reevaluation of what was really important to me. The sacrifice I made in order to quit my job was remarkably easy, because I could see the bigger picture.

Even if you are set on replacing your “offline” income before taking the plunge, you could be a lot closer to your target than you think if you make some bearable cuts. And what if you don’t want to make those material sacrifices? Simple – it just means that you don’t want freedom as much as you might. There is nothing at all wrong with that, but it can help to put things in perspective for you.

6. Nothing Galvanizes You More Than Fear

This is perhaps my most controversial point.

I have a firm belief — regardless of how seriously you treat your side hustle, you would treat it a damn sight more seriously if it became your main source of income.

Don’t get me wrong – you shouldn’t be terrified of leaving your job. If you are, perhaps it isn’t time to quit yet. But you should be scared. I’m not sure how on earth you couldn’t be. But that fear is what will drive you to do more than you thought you were capable of.

I had what I would call a healthy level of fear when I quit my job. I wasn’t earning enough to cover my outgoings. If my business wasn’t successful, the mere passing of time would see me approach bankruptcy before long. If I didn’t succeed, I would have to go out and look for a job — probably a job that was far worse than the one that had made me miserable. If that kind of scenario hadn’t galvanized me into action, I don’t know what would have.

Embrace the fear, and use it to your advantage.

What Is Stopping You?

If you dream of leaving your job one day, I want you to ask yourself what is stopping you. With all of the above points in mind, the answer might now surprise you.

Photo by Jack Batchelor

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is the owner of Leaving Work Behind, a blog for anyone interested in quitting their job and building a better life for themselves. He shares everything (both his successes and his failures) related to his online businesses. Find out more about Tom here.

38 Comments

  1. Wow. Pretty bold.

    I am currently employed at a seasonal ‘regular’ job, and earn a portion of my income self employed , but have taken the leap that you are talking about. It was scary, and yes the fear was a great motivator to make things happen on my own.

    I am currently satisfied with my current setup – a mix of a job and self employment, but feel that I’ll be taking the leap again.

    Nice article.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

    Reply
  2. The biggest lesson I learned about quitting my job was that eventually all that actually changes is a person’s attitude. Most people just have better or helpful attitudes towards things they want to do in life and when they find themselves able to do what they love, they feel good, relieved and quite philosophical too.

    So, you should quit a job only when you’re pretty sure what you’re learning and earning form the new job. If it’s all pleasure and no stress, you will get bored too soon…You need some sort of positive stress to enjoy your work…

    But have some really good reason to quit – that’s all I can say.

    Reply
  3. Amazing article, made me look at my life a little bit.

    I’m trying to make a change from the 9 – 5 and still provide for my family, I don’t think I can take the same risks that you did, but you have made me look at some (not entirely risk free) options.

    Reply
  4. I took the plunge some 10 years ago and never looked back. I started my own offline business and it ended up earning me more in less time and gave me enormous freedom to pursue other interests. I’m trying to do the same online now in a different area, to be honest that is not going anywhere near as smoothly! I have re-evaluated how much I require to continue my present lifestyle and now split my time between my offline business and my online potential. Steep learning curve and plenty of doubts – but I keep moving forwards. What else is there?? :)

    Reply
  5. Love it! I quit my job this year without having a steady stream of income from my coaching business. It was hugely scary, but I would have never gotten as far with my business as I have if I still had to devote hours a day to my old job. Sure, it wasn’t the “safe” thing to do. But it was the right thing for me.

    Reply
    • Well done Sage – what was the most effective way you found clients? I’m kinda doing something similar in the UK. I started by writing a book and created a 90 day home study program, but getting eyeballs on it is proving difficult and time consuming! :)

      Reply
  6. Like you I took a similar route and have never looked back. The (false) sense of security is something so many fall back on and it does make it hard for them to make a change.
    Of course it was a bit scary, but the reality is that my efforts always bring results and that the only way to succeed is to keep going.
    I used EFT (the emotional freedom technique) to help me stay calm and get over my old limiting beliefs. It was such a huge help that we now use it in our coaching/hypnosis/thought training sessions.

    Reply
  7. Good for you Tom and thanks for sharing. I took the brave jump out of the corporate world about 5 years ago. No looking back. I had a part-time practice for years that went nowhere. I think we need to be careful of motivating ourselves with fear. While is can certainly propel us forward it can have long-term consequences to what we are creating. I explored this in a blog post a while back : http://livingatchoice.blogspot.ca/2012/02/can-fear-be-useful.html

    Reply
  8. Lovely article bro. I plan to quit my day job and switch to full time blogging business soon. Your post is an inspirational one.

    Reply
  9. I can say with clarity working at what you love is the only way to find real inner happiness and that takes some mental adjustment as likely you will have to learn to live on much less even if it may be temporary. Sometimes we have no choice particularly as few (unless independently wealthy) have escaped the impact of a global recession. As scary as going out on your own may be it beats hands down going to a job you hate every day just for the cheque whatever the material sacrifice and Tom’s right, nothing galvanizes action like necessity for survival.

    Reply
  10. Great article Tom,

    I’m in a corporate job as I just started out, but being married, I would definitely need enough saved up before jumping ship just because I want to provide for my wife to the best of my abilities.

    For now, it’s using all my freetime to work on building up my site instead of wasting time on crappy crap stuff. That’s one habit to build first!

    Reply
  11. This is a great article but I’m just not there yet. I’m not completely miserable at my day job. For the most part, I like it but I know I can do better on my own. One day I will take the leap of faith and quit.

    Actually my kids asked me the other day when I was going to stop working, I told them that it would be a good idea to set a date.

    Today I will set that date. Thanks for reminding me.:)

    Reply
    • A good place to start Michelle is changing your mindset about your job. When you view it from a different perspective it saps less of your energy. :)

      Reply
  12. Great advice for some. I’m more of a creative writer. I’m also a college professor. My job allows a lot of time, (summers, winter break, etc.). Although I’d love to quit my job and make a living writing, getting a large following for a blog about writing, including poems, songs, and excerpts from novels is more challenging. My ultimate goal is to make a living writing books. I’ve published my first “A Train Called Forgiveness,” and will release my second early next year. Perhaps as I gain more sales and a larger blog following I will be able to jump ship. I am only 12-15 years from retirement and keeping an income and retirement fund active has become more important than it used to be. I do encourage young writers to consider their options.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you are on track and well done on your book. If you’re writing is great your readers will come and remember if you can sell one, you can sell a million.

      Reply
  13. loved each and every point written there! Bookmarked it. These life lessons are like inspirational. Will read again for motivation.

    Reply
  14. The most resonant part of this post for me is “what I thought I needed to achieve in order to quit my job wasn’t what I ended up doing at all.”

    When we embark on something new, none of us know what we are doing because we have no experience and therefore no insight. I like to call it walking in the dark. You know that feeling of having no clue what you are doing, whether it will work and the constant doom and gloom question of what if it all goes wrong.

    I’ve found, when I walk in the dark.

    1. The worst thing never happens. (there’s always something worst)
    2. You may not know where you’re going but you always get somewhere.
    3. Bumping into walls never hurts as much as the anticipation of bumping into walls.

    Reply
  15. Great article. Everything thing you said is true. I am working and surviving online for the past 10 years as an independent consultant. Future generation will be more interested to work independently. But the only problem from my experience is that freedom sometimes is difficult to handle. I developed a kind of indiscipline towards work. I developed a habit of working in irregular timings.This is the only disadvantage that I have faced but rest everything is happy and cool.

    Reply
  16. Same here. I’m getting ever so close to the point where my day job is unbearable. I have five kids and after some unexpected medical issues over the last couple of years, even with insurance, my savings is close to gone.

    Even still, I can taste the satisfaction of waking each morning to do what I love over what I am doing doing most days. I recently found a recording of Earl Nightingale that was a tremendous help to me for overcoming my fears and moving forward. I thought I would share it here. You all are good people and I hope this helps you like it has me. http://bricbaccus.com/the-strangest-secret/

    Reply
  17. i completely agree that you don’t have to wait for your ‘online’ income to replace the offline! you just need a plan and implementation. and use that precious time to your advantage!

    Reply
  18. Great article Tom and I agree with you 100% on point 6! Fear of failure or not earning enough through my own business sharpens my focus on what actions I need to take to keep me and my business growing successfully. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen fear paralyze entrepreneurs where they become too scared to take action and become lost and unsure about which path to take. In times like that, finding a mentor and having a support network is critical.

    Reply
  19. Really Time Is Our Most Important Asset.Well thanks a lot for this wonderful article Tom. It made me realize of something very important and I’ll be sharing this all to you as soon as I will succeed on my plans after reading this.

    Reply
  20. If it were just up to me, I would quit my miserable job this instant. I have lots of ideas, lots of plans and enormous desire to be manage my own time. Our family also has quite a good stash of cash which would last us several years even if both of us would not make a penny during that time.

    The problem is, my husband does not even want to hear about me quitting and pursuing something of my own. He thinks we should both stick to our corporate jobs, bring in paychecks and continue building our nest egg. If I were to quit, that would cause an ENORMOUS conflict at home.

    So my question is: was/is there someone in a similar situation and how did you go about convincing your spouse? How did you manage through that initial period after quitting, while your income is still lower than what you had at work? I can foresee constant nagging and reminder of me being irresponsible, so I imagine that would be extremely demoralizing. :(

    Reply
    • Hi Kaytee, I know it may sound cliché, but life is too short for not to go after our dreams and not everything is about money. If something is changing inside you and you have that urge to make the move, then you should really consider DOING IT. Is your life that you decided to share with your partner, however it IS still YOURS … I hope this helps and good luck with all your plans!

      Reply
    • Kaytee, I have the same problem with my wife. She won’t listen to reason so I’ve decided I just need to jump and she will have to deal with it. It’s my life, I am not putting us in a financial bind.

      Good luck if you’re still struggling with this,

      Bob

      Reply
  21. ABSOLUTELY the best message I needed to hear right now! Thank you so much for sharing this you truly dont know what you’ve stirred up.

    Reply
  22. I made simillar decision in last december to quit current job (worked for 12 years) by giving six month notice. I do not have any job offers , but was confident to get one within a period of 2 to 3 months. During this notice period, I always asked myself if it was right decision and then used to worry (fear) too much on outcome. Your article gave me confidence and I belive am in right direction in pursuing my goals.

    Thanks for good artcile.

    Reply
  23. HI! I just have to say thank you for writing this article about your own experience quitting your job. I am exactly in that same possition right now. Happiness vs. financial security. I have plenty of certifications and ideas to start my own business, or take part times jobs while I finish my degree… fear, and not fully believing it will work for me and my family as well as our financial situation is what is constantly stopping me.

    Reply
  24. I’ll be leaving the rat race in a year time after some years of preparation. Time is not just spent on work and sleep as you have mentioned in the second point. A lot of time and mental energy is also spent on thinking about work and the politics of the workplace. Looking forward to a new life with a mind not clouded with useless, unproductive and negative thoughts.

    Reply
  25. I’m ready to call it quits at my job after 13 years. Of course there is doubt and some fear so I decided to do a search on “I want to quit my job” in Google. This was the first link I clicked on and I believe it was meant to be. These simple six realizations reinforced my decision and my entire outlook. Thanks for being so candid and open and for providing some down-to-earth view points. I’m going to save this information so I can reference it anytime I start to lose a little spark of confidence. Thank you so much. I feel bigger and better things are on the horizon and it is comforting to read that others feel the same way.

    Reply
  26. Me too i feel miserable, im not already happy with my work…tnx for your article it gave me the boost to quit, it just 4 month before i started my work but ryt now i already out of energy to goes up to go to work…thank you ;)

    Reply
  27. I stumbled upon your page. I recently resigned from a well paying career. I was not enjoying it any more and needed a change. I am now in the process of finding another job, and perhaps go back to school. I really like the point that you made about how comfort can hold us back. I was comfortable and secure with my job. I felt as though my life was set, which it was. However I had a burning desire to do more. Life is too short to stick to one thing you don’t love forever.

    Reply
  28. This is an amazing post! Will be bookmarking this and sending the link to many of friends who need it very badly! I agree with what you are saying, you don’t need to match your job income or double it or anything like that before you quit. Reduce the amount you need to live on and then you can quit much sooner when you’re online income replaces it.

    Not even that, the thing that got me to quit my dreadful job was just to think that I always needed to be bigger than my problems. Like you say, no income is guaranteed, I could have been sacked and what would I do then? I’d just have to find a way to replace that income. Fear and doubt are our worse enemies! The only thing stopping us from being successful is ourselves.

    Reply
  29. Yes. Thank you. I recently turned-down a job as an Early Ed Teacher because I want to use my bilingual skills in Spanish English and now I work as a substitute Teachere while I figure out, what’s next. This is scary. I have some anxiety. I am not wild about waiting for a call to come work. It is my choice be in this position. The security of a teacher job with a contract and benefits comes at a price. So does not having that. Here I am. Trying to keep an open heart and deep breathing. Lori

    Reply
  30. I’m in a situation where I am done with my job. And I don’t know what else I can do. I feel dead.
    Lea.

    Reply
    • I feel terrible for you Lea. Try to find your passion and pursue it. Life is too short to feel miserable.

      Reply
  31. I have been hanging on by a thread for a year since I was forced into a position I’m not passionate about working for a terrible boss. I think I can “drop out” indefinitely (permanently?) but my wife freaks out and won’t even look at the numbers.

    We’re both 48, we make $210-$220k per year and we live really well on $80k (Phoenix, it’s cheap here). Yes we have been loading the barrels while our friends buy newer, bigger houses and new luxury cars. We have a great house and we own it. We have luxury cars, we just buy them 2-3 years old. We have zero debt, house paid for and $1.5M saved, of which $1.1M is not retirement defined (I can get it now, don’t have to pay taxes on it). One son 12, $100k of the $1.5 set aside for his college. My wife is in private practice and loves her work so she can scale her work to her desires. Heck, she could work half as hard until 55 and make $55k per year to supplement our income and we would be fine.

    Someone tell me why I shouldn’t drop out???

    Reply
    • Hi Bob,

      If you go strictly by the numbers, you could most likely live just fine if you decided to leave your job today. If you’re living off of $80K today, you wouldn’t even see any change in your current standard of living. So you don’t have a numbers problem. It seems what’s holding you back is your desire to not “freak out” the wife. And that’s a healthy desire. I would start there.

      She’s afraid. She wants to know that her future is secure. But I get the feeling that it wouldn’t matter to her what the numbers were. She doesn’t trust them as much as you and I do. But you still have to address her fears.

      I would first acknowledge her fears. Let her know that she has every right to feel the way she does. Let her know that you too have these fears, but that you see them through a different filter. You see them through the filter of your hopes and dreams.

      Pour your heart out to her. Tell her what your dreams are. Paint an amazing picture of what your lives would be like together, ways in which it would be better. Maybe it’s spending more time together to build closeness and an even stronger marriage. Maybe it’s just being an example to your son. To show him to live life on his terms and NOT be afraid to go after his dreams.

      I don’t know exactly what you’re going through. I’m just going by what you shared in your comment. We’re all the author’s of our lives. It’s up to us to write a good story. To make it epic! Best wishes to you Bob.

      Reply

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