Why I Decided Not to Quit My Job (Yet)
If you’re someone who is close to me or otherwise knows me personally, you know that I was very close to quitting my 9 to 5 job up until a few weeks ago. I’ve expressed my desire to take the full entrepreneurial plunge multiple times on this blog, but had yet to take any action. The idea factory (inside my head) was constantly in motion, churning out idea after idea, some good, most probably bad or unrealistic.
The idea of quitting your job to make it “on your own” is extremely appealing. You’re your own boss, you set your own goals, and you are the only person ultimately responsible for your wild success or your epic demise. It’s all in your hands. This power and excitement of uncertainty began to cloud my judgment and I think I was missing the big the picture.
My goals and overall plan have not changed, but my timeline and approach have been modified. If you are planning to quit your job or have only thought for a few minutes about what it would be like to start your own business, you’ll want to keep reading. Even if you’re perfectly content working for someone else for the rest of your life, consider this food for thought.
Now or Later?
There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to your initial dive into entrepreneurship.
1) Stop thinking and planning – act now and make adjustments as you progress.
2) Make sure all the pieces are in place before you quit your job. Have a plan, make sure you still have sufficient income to support your expenses, and act with caution and care.
Both perspectives have their merit, and I can definitely argue each side strongly.
If you act now, you are taking advantage of your passion. While you may not have all the pieces in place, your desire to succeed will help you push through any intial slow progression. Ideas are fresh, and so is your fire. Also, you’re taking advantage of time. If you start your business now vs. a year from now, you have an entire additional year to build your business and income level. While waiting a year might allow you to better plan your business, you might not be any better off (i.e. you may still experience the initial growing pains). Starting a year earlier allows you to reach your goals that much sooner. Additionally, because you’re free of your “day job,” you have ample time to really focus on your business.
If you take a more cautious approach, you can slowly plan your business while earning an income at your “day job.” Although this will eat into your free time (i.e. time for relaxation and enjoyment), you will hopefully enjoy the planning process. During this time, you can get others’ feedback and ideas, and come up with ways to overcome obstacles before you even reach them. Furthermore, you can put yourself in a position to already have an income at the time you quit your job, so that you aren’t hit with the shock of not being able to cover your living expenses without dipping into your savings.
Some people didn’t need to make this decision – there are many people who had business plans in mind, but didn’t take action until they were fired/laid off from their jobs. Can being forced into this decision lead to success? That may need to be the subject of a whole other blog post.
What Other People Think
If you do a bit of reading, you’ll find that there are proponents of both perspectives, and all of them can act as inspiration for whichever path you’re leaning toward:
- Guy Kawasaki, in his book The Art of the Start, recommends getting started now. As part of his top 5 tips for starting a business, #3 is “Get Going” where he writes, “Start creating and delivering your product or service…Don’t focus on pitching, writing, and planning.”
- Chris Guthrie in a post titled “How to Quit Your Day Job“ writes about a more conservative approach. He asks the questions:
- “Are you turning a profit greater than or equal to your day job income?”
- “How much money have you saved?”
- “Do you really want to work full time for yourself?”
- Maren Kate from Escapingthe9to5.com is full of entrepreneurial advice and motivation, and her general tone focuses on the “start now and get going” attitude. Notable posts include I Hate My Job! 5 Ways to Quit & Do What You Love and Starting a Small Business in 2010 – Now is the Time!
What I Think and Why I Didn’t “Act Now”
There’s a lot of writing focused on the “start now, get going!” attitude, for good reason. It’s fun, exciting, and motivating. Few people want to read advice that says “take it slow, don’t quit your day job, and gradually build up a plan and stream of income.”
As tempting as it was to drop everything, quit my job, and “pursue my passion,” it really didn’t seem practical. First, I don’t believe I’ve fully defined what my passion is. I have interests, goals, and desires, but I still struggle to pinpoint a specific “passion.” Maybe it isn’t necessary to have a specific passion – perhaps a general area of interest is sufficient. That’s something each person needs to figure out for him or herself.
Second, I believe I can build streams of passive income while I’m earning a salary, which will allow me to more comfortably transition to my own business. Lending Club has been a very easy and painless form of true passive income for me. My $2,000 per month challenge isn’t going to be easy, but if I can accomplish even half of that goal, I’ll be on my way to having a solid base of passive income.
In addition, I’d like more time to talk with other entrepreneurs, form relationships, and perhaps discover people who would make good business partners (see “start a mastermind group” as part of my plan below).
Finally, I think the general passage of time will allow me to save more money from my current job and build a more solid plan of attack for my own business. Neither of these is critical to success, but I consider them part of my sanity and comfort. While “step outside your comfort zone” is often the advice given to aspiring entrepreneurs, I’d rather do it on my terms during a time I feel comfortable with it (however contradictory that may sound).
My Tentative Plan
Because I’ve essentially decided to take option #2 (the cautious approach), here’s a simple outline of my plan and steps for execution:
Set a Targeted Time Frame
I’m not going to set a specific day that I plan to quit my job, but it helps to target a time frame to plan your entire escape around. For me, I think generally a year from now (i.e. sometime next July) would be a good target. This could obviously be accelerated, but I’m going to try my best to not defer it.
Identify and Solve a Problem
There’s a place for just wanting to make money for the sake of making money, and for me, that ends with my passive income experiments. For my actual entrepreneurial endeavor(s), I want to make sure my focus is on solving a problem. This is probably something taken straight from a Business 101 course, but I think it needs to be the foundation of any business I start. Solve a problem and do it well, and the money will come. Don’t start a business to make money and then look for a problem to solve. I don’t think that’s the right approach.
Start a “Mastermind Group”
This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. If you’re not familiar with what a mastermind group is, it’s basically a group of people with common goals that you meet with every so often to discuss ideas, gather feedback, and in general, make good networking connections. It’s a group you can count on for advice and likewise a group that values your advice. A face-to-face setting is probably ideal if everyone lives nearby each other, but I know there are many mastermind groups who meet online.
I have no concrete plans for when or how I will do this yet, but if you live in the Chicago area and would be interested in forming such a group with me, please contact me.
Quit My Day Job
Obviously, this is the last step of the plan. I don’t think I need to have the entire business fully functional by the time I quit my day job. For me, it’s only important that I have a concrete idea, a network I can count on (no, this isn’t a cell phone service commercial – I’m talking about either a partner or partners and/or a mastermind group), and established streams of passive income to support myself while my business is in its early stages.
I’m curious to read your take on this. Feel free to share a personal story of your own and whether you’ve struggled with this dilemma.
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