Today’s guest post is from Laura Pennington, a writer and business coach who left her teaching position and later her job in Corporate America to focus solely on her own business. She now works with others who wish to follow their passions and grow their businesses.
In the summer and fall of 2011, I was busy as an over-worked inner city teacher trying to keep 110 seventh graders in order while teaching six back to back hours of lessons every single day. I was exhausted, sick of being there and tired of dealing with the bureaucratic nonsense that made it difficult for teachers to do their jobs. Simply put, it was more difficult working with the adults at my job than it was working with the children.
Knowing that I couldn’t bear another day of teaching after having a scary and dramatic incident being chased to work one day in Baltimore, I accepted a position working at a corporation where I had previous experience. Heading back into corporate America was certainly the important bridge that I needed to get out of my day to day grind as an urban teacher. But I quickly began to experience the same frustrations that led me to pursue a teaching job in the first place. I didn’t feel fulfilled by my corporate job and I was not rewarded for getting my work done sooner rather than later. In fact, it seemed like the most important thing to the corporation was that I be sitting in my desk from 8.30am to 5.00pm everyday whether or not I had work to do.
After starting a freelance career part-time in the summer of 2012, I finally was free of my day job twelve months later. Although I wish I could have left my day job sooner and I wish I had had the guts to do so, here are the things that prompted me to know that it was officially time to go.
Sign #1: Your work begins to bleed over into your day job.
While you initially might start off having a freelance career or a side business or a blogging opportunity that fits in nicely with your free evenings and weekends, this won’t last forever if you are managing your business properly. Ultimately you’ll feel like you are overbooked or like you are constantly working during every hour of the day. Those weekends just won’t be enough time when you have too many things on your to-do list. You’ll find yourself working over lunch hours and working later and later into the night or waking up early. This is a key sign that your business is growing to the point of being sustainable full-time. While you have to determine the official financial benchmark that you want to hit before leaving your day job, this is a good sign that you are on the right path. Make sure you are making the most of your time and consider if this is an opportunity to raise your rates if you are working as a freelancer or in a similar position. This can help you build that financial cushion to leave your job.
Sign #2: You find your day job absolutely aggravating.
Even if the aggravation in your day job was bad before you started doing a side gig, it can get even worse when your business is finally turning the corner and giving you that sense of emotional and financial freedom you desire. Things that were not as much of an annoyance before simply become unbearable while you’re in the workplace. There were certain coworkers who were aggravating before I started freelancing and just became a daily source of serious frustration every time I interacted with them. I knew that it wasn’t necessarily their fault but I felt like it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore. Little things that happen in your office can easily become big frustrations and problems for you if it’s time for you to leave your day job and get out of there.
Sign #3: You are not receiving the support that your part-time business offers you with your day job business.
There are many different ways that this can play out. For me, it was in terms of scheduling. Working as a writer on my own hours meant that I could work during the times that I was most focused or most likely to commit to finishing a project. My day job, however, expected me to sit at my desk 8 or 9 hours every single day even when there were some days that I finished work by noon or 1 o’ clock in the afternoon. This increasingly drove me crazy because I had the exact opposite experience with my freelance writing to compare it with. So as time went on, this being forced to sit at my desk when there was nothing to do really frustrated me. I didn’t feel like the corporate environment rewarded me for being efficient and in fact, it was the complete opposite. I had to drag projects out for far longer than I needed to because I was instead trying to be busy all the time and trying to come up with a whole day’s worth of work when it just wasn’t there.
When you work for yourself, there are two interesting things that can happen:
First of all, you work when you want to work but you’re also likely to be more passionate about it and find that there is so much to do in growing your business and taking it to the next level that you may find yourself working 40 hours a week. This work, though, happens on your own time in your own way, in your own comfort level and you should also be able to take time off without any office drama – when things come up that need your attention outside of the office or if you just don’t feel like working that day.
For me the scheduling was definitely the most frustrating part of it. For other people that I’ve spoken to who have started a side business, it’s the customer service. It’s the idea that working for themselves allows them to say no to certain people whereas when you are working for another company they set the parameters of who you can interact with, sort of what you have to put up with. When you are under someone else’s umbrella and they have expectations that the customer is always right, you are obligated to stick with that even if you know that given the opportunity you would say no to it. When you work for yourself and make your own schedule and bring on your own clients, you have the right to be the one who says no and you can draw clear lines about who you are going to interact with. The basic point of this particular sign is that there are going to be things that come up and you can have that direct comparison experience to working for yourself and you much prefer the working for yourself experience.
If it really motivates you to have a plan to leave your day job, make sure you set clear financial goals for yourself. It can be a big mental challenge to leave the comfort of your day job, but working your way up to an amount of money you have saved or a monthly amount you’re bringing in is going to make that transition even easier. I actually nearly tripled my freelance writing income in the first year after I left my day job because I had the passion and the time to devote to it. It was further vindication that I just didn’t belong at that old position!
Laura Pennington is a writer and business coach who works with new and emerging virtual assistants, writers, and other freelancers who want to build and grow their businesses. She can be found on www.sixfigurewritingsecrets.com.