Thanks to Elisa Soffietti for the image!
In May 2011 I decided that I wanted to quit my job. I didn’t know what I would do instead, but I knew that I needed to move on. That December, I did move on, and I haven’t looked back.
Today I work as a professional blogger and have never been happier. Earlier this month, I launched my own content marketing agency, Clear Blogging Solutions.
In this post I want to recount my story. Hopefully you can learn from my experiences – both my successes and my failures.
You’ve Got to Want It
I actually liked my old job.
I led the management and development of an eight figure property portfolio in my father’s business. But I became restless – I was an entrepreneur at heart, and even though I had autonomy in my role, I had an epiphany. I wanted to quit.
On May 23rd of 2011, I launched my first website. I then set myself a goal – to quit my job within one year. I did not rely solely on hope and dreams. I set a concrete, actionable goal.
To succeed at anything, you need goals. Nowhere is this more true than in efforts to quit your “offline” job and start an online business. I didn’t waffle and waver – I committed to my goal and I succeeded because I really, truly wanted it.
If you don’t have the drive to strive for your goal, then you are unlikely to succeed. That’s okay, but it might mean that you aren’t ready to quit your job. You have to really want it.
I did. And December 23rd of 2011 was my last day of employment – I beat my goal by five months.
Don’t Play It Safe, Play It Smart
People just starting out are often told to wait until they are making as much or more with their online business as they are in their current job. Frankly, I think that is bad advice.
I started out trying to gain passive income from niche sites, which did not really work out (more on that later). After a while, I began doing freelance writing work. I secured one client, then another.
I wasn’t making enough money with my writing to support my lifestyle. But I did the math – I was making an equivalent hourly rate of $25 (which was considerably higher than my hourly rate at my job). If I could find writing work to fill the extra hours freed up by quitting my job, I would make enough to stay afloat. I was confident in my ability to find more clients. Simple logic dictated that I could quit my job and still make enough money.
You should not play it safe and wait until you are making as much money online as you currently do. Instead, you need to logically calculate when you can successfully rely on your online business.
Prepare for the Worst Financially
Another key part of playing it smart is making sure that you have something to fall back on in case your financial situation turns bad.
Any sort of safety net works. You could save money. You might be able to get the guarantee of a job in the event that you need to return to stable income. You could even consider moving back in with your parents if things don’t pan out (if such a thing were an option of course ).
Whatever you choose, you need some sort of Plan B. For me, that was financial savings. I put enough money away to cover me for several months.
There is another side to this coin. Yes, you need to prepare for the worst. But you also will need to make sacrifices. To brighten my financial outlook, I critically assessed how much I was spending and cut 30% of my monthly costs.
That’s right – I eliminated almost a third of my expenditures. It is hard – but if giving up that flat screen TV or shiny new car will give you the wiggle room to succeed in quitting your job, it is worth it.
What is the takeaway from all of this? You should be prepared to adopt a more frugal lifestyle and you always need a back up plan in case things go south.
If It Doesn’t Pan Out, Change Your Plan
When I decided that I wanted to quit my job, I didn’t know how to do it. My first plan involved passive income streams – creating niche websites and making money through ad revenue.
I created an authority site for parents in the world of child modeling (random topic, I know — such are the vagaries of creating websites based upon keyword research). I obsessed over SEO and did everything I could to target the right keywords.
After a few months, it worked. Modeling for Kids reached #1 in Google search rankings. But the earnings I had hoped for didn’t pour in. Soon, due to excessive backlinking on the site, Google pushed it down in the rankings.
I was seriously frustrated. So in September 2011, I submitted a bunch of applications to the ProBlogger Job Board. I did it on a whim, but soon heard back from WPMU. After a paid trial there, I secured ongoing work. I then sent out some more applications and got a job with the ManageWP blog (where I still write). Finally, I was making real money.
I learned that passive income streams are not the only way to make money online. From my experience, they are not necessarily even the best way.
I did not begin to succeed until I took a leap and tried something new. Of course, you should work hard to put your business plan into action. But you should never ignore new opportunities.
The path of your online business may twist and turn in new directions but as long as you enjoy the journey and it gets you where you want to go, that’s okay.
Know What You’re Doing Before You Do More of It
Unfortunately, I wasn’t done with my futile foray into niche sites.
In January of 2012, even as I was getting paid for writing, I drew up a plan to create a large number of sites. Without the time to work extensively on the mass niche sites myself, I hired a Virtual Assistant (VA) to write the content for me.
On April 5th, my VA quit without notice – I only found out when I emailed her to ask why nothing was getting done. It was a huge setback for my passive income dreams and gave me a chance for reflection. My ideas about scaling completely changed.
I didn’t really understand how to make money from niche sites, and yet I had tried to make money from multiple niche sites. That was a bad plan.
On top of that, I tried to hire somebody else to do the work of creating content for those niche sites – work that, again, I personally did not know how to do effectively.
Scaling could mean that you are going to do more of something yourself, or that you are going to hire someone else to do more of it. Either way, you should always understand a process before you try to scale it.
Carve Out Time To Think
The next month I took a trip to Bulgaria. It was an amazing decision. With little to worry about, I found that I finally had a relaxed creative zone to relax and reflect within.
Too often, we get caught up in the noise of daily life. But great ideas that drive us forward come most easily in the silence of reflection. Here is a short list of ideas I came up with while on holiday:
- Two different information products
- A new strategy for guest posting
- A new blog
- The re-branding of Leaving Work Behind
- Ten ideas for new articles
I was able to make positive changes to my own blog and put new ideas into action. That would have been impossible without some space to think. Constant hustling and endless work will burn you out. Instead, you should be sure to make room for time when you have nothing to worry about – with no worries, you can think.
Own Your Time
Prior to quitting my job, the issue was finding enough time to work on my business. While working many hours in my offline role, it was often hard to slot in enough time to advance my online aspirations. Time management was paramount.
After quitting, I came to realize that time was still important. Now that it was totally in my control, I started striving to be as efficient as possible. Reading and experience led me to four steps that I call the AESA process: act, eliminate, streamline/systematize, and automate. I detailed it in an earlier post.
Time is the single most important asset you have. Don’t waste it.
Preserve Your Integrity
Some advice seems so short but rings so true. Here’s a piece that I learned – be honest.
In the past, I tried a lot of ways to earn money other than niche sites and freelance writing. A lot of them centered around my blog – affiliate hard sells, webinars, etc. I always ended up feeling bad about these ploys and with good reason. They may not necessarily have been unethical, but they got far closer to being so than I was comfortable with.
Don’t build your business on dishonesty, cheap gimmicks and short term profit goals. I have now decided to do the right thing and throw those ideas in the trash can (where they belong).
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize…
Running an online business is hard and the difficulty doesn’t end. It’s not a quick dash – it’s a marathon. But it can be incredibly rewarding if you keep the right mindset. I try to do that every day.
I don’t force myself to work. I know that on some days I will feel demotivated. If I need to read a book or take a nap, I do that. Why? There are days where I work for hours on end late into the night. Those motivated days will more than make up for the days when I’m just not feeling it.
Here’s my point – the ultimate goal of a business should never be money. Money is nothing more than a means to an end. If money gets you from point A to point B, that’s great. But what matters is point B and the journey to get there.
My focus is always on quality of life. For me, the little things matter. I enjoy an occasional afternoon round of golf. I love the freedom to drop by my dad’s office in the middle of the day to say hi. The little things do matter because they stack up and make my life more fulfilling.
Never lose sight of why you do what you do.
…Because the Prize Is Awesome
I hope that you will adopt a similar mindset – never stop dreaming and never be afraid to make your dreams come true.
This post was an overview of my experience quitting my job and starting an online business. I think there are some key lessons you can glean from my story – both the things I did right and the things I did wrong.
- To succeed, you must truly want it.
- Don’t be too cautious – be logical, and know when to take the leap.
- Be smart with your finances.
- Never be afraid to branch out, even if it changes your plans.
- Understand a process before you scale it.
- Find your creative space, be it a location or vacation.
- Value time management.
- Be honest with your customers.
- Quality of life is always the most important consideration
Hopefully my story and advice will give you the practical wisdom to leverage your work ethic to make massive gains. Good luck!