Why I Decided Not to Quit My Job (Yet)

Jump Off CliffIf 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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19 Responses to “Why I Decided Not to Quit My Job (Yet)”

  1. Eric, I think that you hit it on the head with that is it much sexier to preach ditch the nine to five and start your own business then to teach to work slow and build things up. Do you think that Tim Ferriss would have been nearly as popular if he would have titled his book “Work 80 Hour Weeks Now to Get 4 Hour Weeks Later”?
    I am also working on the side while keeping my day job, but I have given myself a deadline of working 100% on my own business by 2014. Note that I hope to keep working with my current employer to some extent, but on special projects as a contractor or vendor and not as an employee.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Great comment, Tyler. “Do it now” is very sexy and catchy, but in reality, it’s just talk. Granted, there are people who do VERY well once they drop everything to pursue a business, with very little planning or strategy. And we can’t forget that there is a place for failure in the process. If you do it all today, you might fail 5 times before you find success in a year. If someone else plans for a year and then dives into it, he or she might only fail once or not at all. However, the guy who failed 5 times probably knows a bit more that the one who didn’t fail at all. In the right context, failure has value.

    At the end of the day, I want to be confident that I’m making the right decision – in this case, I believe the right decision is to wait.


  2. As you said, both Start Now/Start Later have their appeal. What’s important though is that you’re happy with the choice you made and that seems to be the case. Since it’s your life you’re talking about that’s all that matters.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks René, very good points.


  3. Good post Eric. I’m struggeling with this myself actually. Not really content with my current position within my company and must now choose to pursue a different position in or out of my company or quit alltogether to start my entrepeneuring adventure. I have some ideas in which direction want to start, but don’t have a conrete idea yet.So I’m thinking about choosing option 2 myself….


    Eric G. Reply:

    I think that’s a perfectly respectable path, Arno. If you aren’t sure yet exactly what you want to do, take it slow – there’s no harm in that. If you can find a way to figure it out while earning an income at your current job, you’re really getting the best of both worlds (despite working a job you don’t like). Best of luck to you.


  4. Hey Eric, this is a great post. For sure building a business while working a day job can work as long as there is a well thought out action plan which includes business planning and marketing. One of the best things for anyone, 9-5 or not, would be to get familiar with marketing planning and strategy. Once you’ve got that down, when you are ready to actively start building your business, you’ll be able to start thinking about your business concept, etc.

    I built my first business from my laptop while on pregnancy bed rest. I had a plan of action together, made sure that my knowledge of marketing was in place, and focused much of my time building valuable content for my website. That was my first business that I built from my passion of Tuscan style homes.

    Three years later, I built another company. As long as you have your action plan and you actually take action– that’s progress. 9-5 or not. 2k per month as a goal sounds like a realistic goal for sure.

    I think it’s great that you are starting a mastermind. That’s one of the best things an entrepreneur can do– to build on a ton of powerful ideas and new projects. Sounds fantastic!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Patrice, thanks for the comment! That’s inspiring that you were able to build a business while on pregnancy bed rest – it certainly speaks to the notion that if you’re determined, nothing will stand in your way. I agree that marketing is key to success, once you have an idea for a product or service.


  5. The decision to give up my job was made for me when the company I worked for decided not to renew any contracts when they expired.

    I don’t have regrets, I might not be earning as much but I’m much more happy. :)


    Eric G. Reply:

    There are days where I wish I would just get laid off, so that the decision would be made for me. :) Hopefully you’ll continue to build your earnings (if that’s what you want), and never have to look back. Best of luck!


  6. Great post Eric. As someone who shares the same ideology (create multiple streams of income)I think the key, like you’ve identified in your post, is to create a baseline income that you can reasonably achieve without much worry. If you can live on $2000/month, then how can you make $2000/month while leaving time to pursue your passions? It’s not always easy to answer, but I think its imperative, because nothing is worse than feeling overwhelmed with your lack of funds &/or lack of progress.


    Eric G. Reply:

    I absolutely agree, Jesse. Once you’ve identified your “bare minimum” income that you can live on, if you can find a way to earn that income passively, everything from there is gravy.

    I’ll add that I think it’s ideal to diversify your sources of income (especially if they are passive). You don’t want to run into a situation where one source of income dries up and you’re left with nothing. I am always trying to add to my passive income “portfolio,” and by doing so, I can position myself to be secure regardless of what obstacles I might stumble upon.


  7. I think you are smart to wait before making the leap as making money online (from home) doesn’t always work out as you think it will.

    I have been trying to build up a passive income through niche sites starting about 1.5 years ago and still only make a few hundred per month. I’ll admit, I probably could have worked harder and smarter, but from watching others like me I think the big success stories are the minority.

    I was laid off in March and was excited to go full-time IM. But, I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t have a husband with a good job and health insurance. I’m off now for the summer and hope to put in more effort starting in September, but I still think my expectations of what would happen when I went FT were too optimistic.

    Anyway, I have had to re-evaluate alot of things recently and if I don’t start making more money by the end of the year I will likely look for temp or part-time work. What I would advise for someone in your situation is to not have a time goal (“by next summer”) but a financial goal.

    Quit when you have X number of dollars in savings, X number of dollars in your 401k, etc. Maybe consider working part-time at your job (if possible) and part-time passive income. Don’t forget about health insurance and retirement (and the additional taxes on self-employed income). Sure, you can always go back to work if things don’t work out, but wouldn’t you rather avoid that?

    I think my new outlook is more long-term. It’s not so much that I want to be a full-time IMer, ideally I want to do nothing (working-wise) for the rest of my life. I don’t want to work because I have to, but only because I want to. So I would rather go back to an office-type job now for 5 years and then retire forever than to work from home unsuccessfully for years and end up having to go back to work 10 years from now.

    Hope that helps give a different perspective. I agree that working for yourself is sexy (as someone said) but it alone may not get you to your primary goal, depending on what that is.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Carrie, I really love this comment. There’s a ton of good advice baked into it, and it’s something good for me and others to read because it’s smart and conservative (in a good way).

    One thing I will say is that my goal once I do quit my day job, isn’t to become a full-time internet marketer. IM and passive income will always be a sort of “background” or “side” project for me.

    My ultimate goal is to build my own business from the ground up, with the support of passive income during the early part of the process where I might not yet reach success.

    I agree with you that those who make a solid, full-time income from IM are by far in the minority. No doubt, most people who go into it fail or only see modest success. As each day passes, IM gets more and more saturated, and only those who are willing to put in a ton of hard work will have a shot at succeeding.

    I like the idea of having a financial goal instead of a time goal. The time goal is really just to motivate myself, but ultimately, it’s my financial status that will dictate whether or not I can realistically quit my job. If, in a year from now, I find myself in the same position (i.e. my passive income streams haven’t really grown at all), I will probably need to restructure my plan.

    Thanks again for your very detailed comment!


  8. Hi Eric,
    i really like your post and would like to share my thougths with you.

    my opinion is: yes, option #2
    I agree with you setting up the deadline in 1 year, since it will very much boost your motivation to make the best out of the limited time. Just remember, opportunity comes quickly and goes even quicker, maybe ‘something’ comes to you in the next few weeks, i suggest to do it right away. even if it will be difficult because you still have your job, but our aim is to become financially independent, right? No guts no glory! :)

    I don’t really agree with you about identify and solve problems first. if you keep thinking about problems that you might face in your business you will be thinking about it forever. problems are countless and probably you will not be able to predict most of them. even though i have not succeed in making my own business but i know that problems will come to you everyday once you have set up your business, even if your business has already settled.

    To Create a Mastermind group is really good, but i think i prefer to make a group out of my best friends rather than to strangers. In my opinion friends who have known us inside out will be a great partners and will blend easier. In business group, the success of the group is the main thing but the relation with each other is another important things. The bonds with your buddies will be harder to break than with new guys.

    Oh, yeah, i remember listening to a talk show on a radio station and the speaker gave a very good advice. He said, “What is the most important thing to start a business?” Money? No. Heritage? No. Help from others? No. “It’s BRAVERY.”

    I am always excited about this idea, and will follow you on your ‘journey’. Looking forward for more of your posts. Best of Luck!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Max. I’m glad to hear that you agree with my decision to wait a year, however, I think you may have misunderstood one of my points.

    When I said “Identify and Solve a Problem,” I meant from a business idea perspective. In other words, I don’t mean I want to solve the problems of my business ahead of time – I want to create a business that offers a product or service that solves other people’s problems. I think that if you create a product or service that solves someone’s problem, you have a solid foundation for a business.

    I think a good “mastermind group” can be whatever you want it to be. If your best friends are like-minded individuals when it comes to business, then they could be great for a mastermind group. There are a lot of different theories about what works. I know some people who have told me to never partner up with friends or family, because if the business goes sour, you could be putting your relationship with those people at risk.

    At the end of the day though, you need to go with whoever you work best with. :)


    Max Reply:

    Ow yeah, sorry, i’m not catching that before :)

    Yes, i’m absolutely agree about not to partner with families or relatives. building up a business on your own probably already gives you a lot of problems, but building up with your families gives Tons more problems.
    At first, i wonder if it’s true, but seeing some of my friends who have family business, i totally agree with that.


  9. A regular paycheck is invariably underrated by those who have never done without, especially the ones who leave work at 4pm, but expect to get paid until 5pm (how are you NOT cheating your employer, exactly?).

    If you look at the people who recommend the “just jump in” approach, you will discover, INVARIABLY, that they had another source of income or support that they just “happen” to fail to mention. Frequently, it’s a spouse working a full-time job with health insurance. For Bill Gates, it was a million dollar trust fund, some time at Harvard to make connections with friends with important parents, and two extremely well-connected parents of his own (IBM, anyone?). Plus, he rode the wave of the 80s.

    The other alternative, usually, is a single male (frequently living at home) with no children.

    Real people need two incomes to feed their kids and the mortgage, or otherwise live close to their means. Their employer pays some or all of their health insurance, sometimes life insurance, their retirement fund, and half their employment taxes; pays for their office, sometimes their vehicle, and makes sure that the copiers and the computers work when and as they are supposed to. The entire US economy is set up for people who work for others, and it severely punishes those who don’t.

    People who are anxious to “start a business” don’t think about how many HOURS get spent every week on the business for the one hour that is billed out at $150 (of which the taxman takes 40% or so). Or how many months it takes to win just one big account. Or how much more difficult it has gotten in the last ten years to even infiltrate most large businesses for a sales call; as they have become extremely insular in response to “security concerns.” New businesses don’t throw off money. They CONSUME it.

    Most have no idea what it means to have a marketing machine in place, and many have never cleaned their own toilet (which will probably happen if you run your own business). They don’t know what it means not to worry about your credit score, because common thieves have better scores than you do (credit scores are for people with regular income, so they can pay every bill regularly). People who say “just jump in” never had to worry about their kids starving or their credit rating, because either they had none, or the spouse worked.

    I’ve owned a business. It ran for more than ten years and was (by many definitions) a success. And all good the things they tell you about running a business are true. But the bad things that get glossed over are even more true.

    For most people, like it or not, working for the man is the highest and best use of their resources. Sure, maybe (and I mean MAYBE) they get less money per hour of time worked, and they DO have less flexibility. But the trade-off for a regular paycheck and decent benefits; while not having to look for business, collect for said business, and pay taxes on said business is not nearly so terrible as the few would have you believe.

    So. Definitely option two. Unless, of course, you have a million dollar trust fund and friends of mommy to whom you can market a buggy piece of software.

    My suggestion (and it’s only a suggestion) is to have enough income coming in every month to replace your actual living expenses, including saving for retirement, paying taxes, and taking vacations. Plus, enough left over to fund your business for at least a year (rent, utilities, marketing machine, etc) without touching the income, if any, from the business. If you can’t replace your actual living expenses with passive income, how you gonna have time to build a business while you’re scrambling around figuring out to make the student loan payments and the rent? Also, reduce living expenses to the bare minimum (get used to it now). You don’t need a $1500/mo mortgage, and you can’t afford a new car (real entrepreneurs drive beaters).

    You are fortunate. You are single, and you work for a large accounting firm, and you probably make at least double (and maybe triple) what the average family of four in America lives on. You should be able to save close to $30,000 a year, even with large student loans (which you MUST pay off if you want to keep your credit score).

    If you are interested in staying in accounting, you can travel the world and work where-ever you are, so starting a business that provides a valuable service people want requires only a laptop and a willingness to serve a somewhat less than Fortune 2000 clientele (and a good marketing machine, of course).

    I think a reasonable timeline is three years. And start learning some basic marketing (not the on-line kind, IRL). Maybe you’ll get your company some new business in the process, and they’ll give you a raise so you can leave sooner.


    Eric G. Reply:

    This is an awesome comment – so much so, that I’m going to reply to it in a formal blog post. Look for that later this week.


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