Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Let's back it up a bit! - photo by imagerymajestic

I've been helping a friend who is trying to launch her own freelance business, mostly providing advice, giving examples of what I did, and letting her know what worked and what didn't. She's enthusiastic about it, which is awesome, but sometimes maybe just a bit too much so.

She currently has a full-time day job that (mostly) pays the bills, but she's eager to take the plunge into full-time freelancing. In fact, she asked me to help her draft a two-week notice to her her boss! Her thought was that if she put positive energy out there, with the intent to become a full-time freelancer, the universe would be happy to oblige.

At that point, I had to throw on the brakes and (virtually) sit her down for some tough love. This was the email I sent to her...

Whoa! Slow down!!!

Please listen to what I'm about to say and know that I am saying it as a friend and someone who care about you.

You are not ready to quit your job.
When I left my job to freelance full time, I was in a very different situation:

  1. I pretty much had to leave because I was going to lose my job due to repeated absences because of taking care of my son. It was quit or get fired.
  2. My husband had a job that could (sort of) support us. Not well and not comfortably, but we could keep a roof over our heads and the lights on.
  3. I knew that if things got really dire, there was always a content mill. I don't know of any similar sites for graphic designers
Remember that it still took me more than a year to pick up my current steady client, and work was pretty piecemeal up until then. I was busting my butt to build credits.

How do I know you aren't ready? You told me. If you are having trouble paying the rent on your current salary, you are not ready.

Here's my advice: Start saving every penny you can from your freelance design jobs and sock it away in a savings account. Figure out how much you need for six months of living expenses - rent, food, lights, etc. When you have six months of living expenses socked away, you have enough to quit your job. At that point you will also have more experience and professional credits and be in a better position to get the good-paying jobs.

While I understand the Law of Attraction and the desire to put the energy out there, quitting your job now would be like running onto the freeway and hoping that positive energy would prevent the cars from hitting you. I suppose it might happen, but I'm certainly not going to test it. You absolutely MUST have a safety net. MUST. If you hit a dry spell and don't have a back-up, you'll be screwed and homeless. It's hard to work remotely from home when you don't have one!

Is it going to be tough while you are working to save up? Yeah, probably. But it will be worth it. There's a reason why boxers train with weighted gloves. When you are actually ready to quit, it will be much smoother sailing. Hell, it will probably feel like a vacation!

Please, please, listen to what I'm saying. Don't quit your job unless you score another one. You just aren't ready to freelance full time yet, and that's okay.

What would you have told her?