Over the last couple of years, I have had some serious personal life changes and challenges, and that meant a transition from freelance writing full time to a full-time job, a part time job, and then leaving that day job altogether. Part of that had to do with my personal motivation and income, the rest had to do with listening to others and giving in to a certain amount of fear about not making it.
The thing is, the market changed as did my motivation to write and how much I wrote, and that made all the difference. I did not adapt (at first) to new opportunities in the freelance world, and I did not write nearly as much on a daily basis. When I first got back to writing copious amounts of non-fiction content, it was for someone else.
In the meantime, I started my own business (again) this time Unbound Media, LLC. I started with a small plan that has moved forward to something else that now is a much longer-term plan, although I am sure our company focus will change over time just as my personal one does.
For now, there are about six writers that create content for me from time to time, and others that come in and out at will. Some make good money, others have their own businesses and work for me as a side gig for an extra stream of revenue. It has not been easy, but over the last few months it came time to leave the day job (part time at that point) behind, but I put it off at first, and worked way too hard instead. This was partly out of fear.
So as I get back to the writing as a business posts on this blog and reignite some things I have let languish for far too long, I thought I would start with one of the most common questions I get asked (since I have left and returned to having day jobs a number of times over the last 9 years or so). When is it time to leave your day job?
As a freelancer who writes both fiction and non-fiction and also edits along with now running my own company, I think I have some answers, but boiled down to the simplest one, it simply depends.
You’ve Already Started a Business
We covered this topic early in this series, but let me just say this one lesson again: if you have written a book and it has been published, whether traditionally or you have self-published, you have already started a small business. You need to market that book. If you self-publish, you also need to distribute it, and to a certain extent this applies if you are traditionally published as well (that is another topic for another blog post on another day).
You will, if you continue to write, go through the processes of business that include production, distribution, and marketing. However, there is more to writing for a living than that, at least in my case.
I also do freelance non-fiction writing including a lot of web stuff and content for company and individual blogs and even some link building writing, although with a few exceptions I don’t do the rest of the link building process. (Outreach, placement, etc). I also have to go through the process of production (writing), distribution (getting the material to the client) and marketing (of my services that are unrelated to fiction).
As a third prong of income I employ other people who also write for me and my clients (production), distribute that writing for them (getting it to clients) and market (sharing that I have access to more than just my time for writing). All of this sound familiar and repeated?
From the start in this series, I have talked about production and touched on the first part of distribution for authors of books. But the same principles apply across the rest of business. Every stage takes time, and it may be time to quit your day job when it starts to interfere with the time you have for any one of these processes.
But wait. You can’t quit your day job without money, right?
Your Business is Making a Profit
Step one is to save money. The advantage I have as both an author and a freelance writer is that I am creating two different things: I have a service industry, a company that writes content for websites and blog content for clients for various uses and I also create a product, books, that continue to sell and make me money long after I have finished the work of producing and distributing them (or at least making sure they are available to a wide audience).
However, you don’t need to have both (although it is a good idea). If you have one or the other, you can leverage them to make money. Once your business is making you almost as much as you are at your day job, and you feel like if you were spending more time on your business it could easily pass those numbers, it is time to quit your day job.
A word of warning here: know what your earning needs are and what your earning potential really is. Don’t guess. If you earn $2,0000 a month from your day job, consider dropping to half time when your business is making $1,000 a month. When you are approaching $1,800 a month, you might consider quitting your day job as long as your business is growing in a way that will enable to you to make up that difference.
Also, don’t forget to add intangible benefits like health insurance and other factors in there. Don’t forget the increased taxes you will pay. Really to replace your $2,000 a month day job, you will need to make more like $2,800 from your business after your expenses.
You’re Both Fed Up and Passionate
A point will come with your business where you start to resent the time you are spending at your day job no matter how much you like it. For the most part, I loved my most recent day job, although there were some definite drawbacks. But it got to the point where I would be working, and that day job would interrupt my work, and with less profitable work.
At the same time, I was growing increasingly passionate about what I was doing and could do, and less passionate about my day job. I knew I was at a place of great potential, and my day job was interfering with the expansion I needed to really grow the business.
You’re Ready to Face Your Fear
Notice I did not say you were free from fear. Good luck with that. If you get over that one completely, let me know. I said when you are ready to face your fears. Starting off on your own with no safety net of a day job is scary to say the least. There is no formula for you or those around you not to be afraid.
Get over it. Face your fear and jump. You are ready to quit your day job when you are really ready to do this. In fact, do it before you are ready. When the numbers add up, when you are growing, just do it. Jump. You will be fine.
I’ve talked about this topic before. Several times. And I have lived through it myself. When is it time to quit your day job? It depends, but it might just be now.