It has been a rollercoaster six months.
In April 2011, I was happily employed. I worked as the director of management and development in my father’s property business. I joined the company straight out of university as a part-time dogsbody. Over 5 years, I saw my role, authority, and earnings increase exponentially. All was well.
The prospects at the company were great. Business was good (despite the recession), and the future was bright. Assuming I stayed, I was looking at a very comfortable life.
But Then Everything Changed
Seemingly out of the blue, I decided that I no longer wanted what I had been working towards for half a decade. My priorities took a sudden and jarring shift from “making as much money as possible”, to “living exactly as I want to”.
I no longer wanted to be employed. I wanted to be in control of my destiny, for good or bad. I’m sure many of you have felt this way (or currently do), but it came as quite a shock to me. Such things hadn’t bothered me in the past. I had happily worked 50-60 hour weeks without stopping to think how it was benefiting me. Now everything had been turned on its head, and I decided that I needed change.
Which brings me back to the rollercoaster six months. Since May 2011, I have been working feverishly to establish a viable means of quitting my job by becoming solely reliant upon self-employment.
Following The Crowd
So I read. An extraordinary amount. And I tried things. Lots of things. And I launched a blog to chart my progress. I really felt like things were happening.
A few months passed, and in terms of income, I wasn’t really any closer to “leaving work behind”. But I was still as determined as ever.
There was just one niggling thought in the back of my head. I’m not even sure it was a conscious thought, as I can only recognize it fully now. But despite my confidence and drive, I still couldn’t picture myself quitting my job and working for myself. I couldn’t see it.
I was waiting for something huge. I was waiting for my online earnings to exceed my wage – that’s what I had been told you had to do. Wait. Make sure that your income is totally secure so that your risk is absolutely minimal – then you can take the leap.
Breaking From The Flock
I had read such advice so many times that I hadn’t actually stopped to think if it applied to me. I had this firmly planted idea in my head that if you quit your job without much of an income to speak of, you will be doomed.
But hang on a minute – am I giving myself enough credit? I lose 40-50 hours a week to my job. Do I really think that if I quit tomorrow, I will spend those hours twiddling my thumbs? I should have more respect for myself than that.
I was completely failing to appreciate the value of time. In employment, I have been worth $x to someone. Who is to say that I can’t be worth that much (or more) in self-employment? Where is this total lack of confidence emanating from? It’s not like me at all.
From this epiphany came a waterfall of ideas. You don’t have to have some incredible business idea to work for yourself. You don’t have to have to release a wildly successful information product. Nor do you need to spend years slaving away at your business on the side, feeding on the scraps of time that your fulltime job doesn’t demand of you.
The Most Valuable Commodity
The biggest barrier to me quitting my job was simply a lack of perspective. A lack of understanding that it is time that drives success, above all else. Time is our most valuable commodity. Yes, you can work for years on end, for 1 – 2 hours a day, and eventually produce a viable fulltime income – but is that the only way? No.
With this in mind, I sat down to figure out my situation. I calculated my current outgoings and then considered if I could produce that kind of money. And I am confident that I can. There are an enormous number of possibilities out there. Freelancing, virtual assistance (of course!), service provision, consulting…the list goes on. And this is even before we actually start talking about the “traditional” internet marketing business models.
I considered the realistic worst case scenario. I would have to rent my house out, live somewhere cheaper, and pare down my creature comforts. Perhaps I would move to a country where the cost of living is considerably lower whilst I built my income. Hardly a disastrous outcome. And it was absolutely a risk worth taking. I would happily exchange short term comfort for long term contentment.
One Size Does Not Fit All
I appreciate that my actions are not for everyone. You may have dependents, and as such would be very hesitant to give up your perceived security. But you might want to consider how “secure” you really are, in this day and age. And you might also want to ask yourself how much faith you have in your abilities.
Ultimately, an employer hires you because they think that they can profit from your abilities. They pay your wages, they pay taxes to the government, they pay for overheads, training and so on, and they then make a profit on top of that. If they are ultimately making money by hiring you, what is to stop you from quitting and taking that profit margin for yourself?
So that’s where I am. I have handed my notice in, effective 31st December 2011. I am excited to see what the New Year brings. It only took me six months to realize that you can spend an eternity waiting, but sometimes you just have to take the leap.
Tom Ewer is the owner of Leaving Work Behind, a blog dedicated to helping people carve out their own path to self-employment. Learn how you can leave work behind here.