Welcome to the land of living in your PJs, working from the kitchen table! No really, when you’ve spent your life going from school to uni then on to work, the thought of breaking free of the structured system and going out on your own can be appealing, and exciting. Freedom! Running your own agenda! What could be better than that?
But when you *actually* do it, it can be equally terrifying. It can be liberating to be your own boss, but it’s a big responsibility. It might be exactly the change you need in your life, but sometimes the only way to know is to take the risk and try it.
It can be liberating to be your own boss, but it’s a big responsibility.
Disclaimer: I’ve now quit corporate life not once, but twice. In the middle of living between continents and careers, I’m still trying to put all the pieces together the way that works best. Here’s what I can tell you about life on the other side.
A few things to consider before quitting your job
1. After quitting your job you can survive on very little money. Really.
Sometimes I wonder where all the money I earned working in a corporate job went. I sort of say it as a joke sometimes, but then I think about it. And this is where it went: renting a nice apartment, buying expensive clothes, shoes and jewellery for work; routine things I didn’t think twice about like having wine delivered every month, going out for dinner a couple of times a week, paying for a Pilates and a gym membership and buying extravagant gifts for friends.
You have the freedom to do things your way, so take advantage of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all that stimulating of the retail economy and I was still saving, but real joy and satisfaction can be found in stripping back to the essentials for a while. There is real power too in knowing you’re not beholden to following the latest trend or needing as much stuff as you used to. Even if it’s borne of necessity (ie: insecure or unstable income), you might find you enjoy living with less.
It’s a useful exercise even if you’re not thinking of quitting your job.
2. Before you leave your job – save before you jump. Plan before you jump
Make sure you have enough money to cover rent, basics, emergencies and other needs and bills that will come up for at least six months, and even better a year. Work out exactly what services or expertise you will offer as a freelancer or consultant, start working out how you’ll pitch yourself and make a list of ideal clients.
3. Once you’ve quit your job, you’ll need discipline. Like, stacks of it
We spend more than a third of our lives at work, and even more than that usually, plus time spent getting ready for work, making lunches, in transit etc. While not having to show up in a given place at a given time with your hair washed and game face on may seem like a dream come true, the reality can be a nightmare if you’re not organised.
The lack of structure can feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. I confess that on more than one occasion I have put on work clothes on a Friday at 5pm to meet my friends, having worked all day in yoga pants.
The lack of structure can feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you.
I found too that my friends and family assumed that ‘working for myself’ meant ‘available for coffee and/or to run errands and help out with stuff’, and to be fair, when I felt directionless, confused, or simply like avoiding my to-do list or the hard work I didn’t want to tackle, I probably hung that sign on my front door.
Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and stay on track. Just decide to do it, whatever works for you: excel spreadsheets, motivation boards, egg-timers, reminders on your phone (or even simply turning your phone off).
4. Find your better way to get things done
Don’t like getting up early? Guess what, you don’t have to. But it means you’ll need to find your optimal work time and take advantage of it.
Yes, you’ll have time to workout, maybe even when the gym’s not full. But I enjoy going at 6pm or 6am to get the energy and the buzz of everyone who is at the office all day. Somehow it’s just not the same on an empty weights floor (maybe that’s just me) – the point is that you have the freedom to do things your way, so take advantage of it. And nobody says you can’t still get dressed up, if that’s what flicks the switch to work mode for you.
Experiment and make your routine as efficient as you can. You might even have more time for reading.
5. After you quit your job, you’ll need to hustle. Big time.
Hustle is not my favourite word, but I guess the option is saying you’ll need to work your butt off, which hasn’t got the same ring to it. You don’t have a natural, everyday network (or the illusion of one) to rely on any more. Call people, follow up with people. If you’re no longer physically in people’s faces every day it’s likely they will forget about you. It’s not you, it’s life. You need to be taking the initiative and selling yourself and your work every day.
It can be very tough, but ultimately incredibly rewarding.
You need to work it yourself, seriously. Tell people you are working for yourself. Explain your offering. Get your sh*t together with social media, your website, even business cards if you are attending a lot of functions – and you should be attending at least some. It can take a while to get in to the groove of doing this your own way, but find a way of selling yourself that you like and that feels natural. And when you need a break from the hustle, you can always turn to Instagram for laughs.
6. You will work strange hours
I’m writing this from London. At 1.30am. I came down from Edinburgh yesterday and had planned to work while travelling. The ex-Oxford professor in Biology who sat next to me on the way, also a Buddhist, had other ideas. I could have shut him down but instead we chatted about North Korea, growing plans, collapsing economies, and he hand-wrote me a list of books to read.
Yes, you get freedom to travel, see the world and meet interesting people. But it comes at a price. See again that point about discipline…
7. There is no IT team coming to your rescue
Amazing, I know. You’ll need to learn to solve problems fast. Everything is your responsibility now. If something doesn’t work, you have to fix it.
I have a friend who worked in a big media company, before transferring to a role in a very small up-and-coming business. Apart from a massive amount of growth in the breadth and diversity of her skill set, she noticed the big difference working (nearly) alone, saying to me: ‘I’d never been the one to turn off the lights at the end of the day…I’d turn up and the fruit bowl was stocked, there was champagne in the fridge, and if our emails weren’t working, we’d just call the guy to come and fix them. Here, I do all of that and everything else.’ After a while, nothing will faze you. And this friend gets to take her dog to work too – bonus.
8. You’ll miss the 10.30am birthday cake sessions
There was a time when I was working for a charity that I thought we must have all been born in the first three months of the year. The morning tea calendar was that packed. Deep down, and this makes me sound life an awful person I know, I resented those morning teas, the reminder emails, the person in HR or admin who was always banging on in a really cheerful way about not forgetting to sign a card or contribute your money for the present.
I am not one to refuse cake, and my lack of self-discipline annoyed me. I genuinely wanted my colleagues to have wonderful birthdays but not at the expensive of my diet or my workplace productivity. Guess what? When I started working on my own I missed the collegiality of that communal celebration.
9. Your Christmas party is at your local café, with you and your barista, Jim
Self-explanatory. BYO tinsel and Secret Santa.
10. And while we’re talking about loneliness…
… it can be isolating.
All those memes about work? No longer relevant. Co-working spaces though are your new best friend. Research what’s around in your area and try it out before taking on a membership.
11. Quitting your job – It’s the ultimate freedom
While working in a structured office environment might suit some people perfectly, for others, the urge to get out their on their own is at minimum an itch that needs to be scratched, and for others, the gateway to the freedom to live and work on their own terms. It can be very tough, but ultimately incredibly rewarding.
And if it turns out quitting right now just isn’t for you, here’s how to get your side-hustle off the ground while juggling a full time role. It’s entirely possible. I promise.
Are you considering quitting your job? Have you ever wondered what to do when you quit your job without another? Are there things you want to do before you quit your job (the office bucket list)? Go ahead and share in the comment below.
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Things to consider before quitting your job