It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was crying, sitting on Neal’s (my now fiancé, then new boyfriend) bed, complaining about hating my job. He looked at me and asked, “if you could make money doing anything in the world, what would it be?”
“Well, there’s this thing–I kind of have a blog…If I could do anything in the world for a job, I’d want to do that.”
(I had been so embarrassed of my blog at that point, that I hadn’t even told Neal that I had one–and we’d been dating for quite awhile!)
I finally showed it to him, and he told me I couldn’t not give this a shot, that I had a knack for it and that I needed to pursue it.
Full-time blogging though? That’s something I really never considered for a long time after that. That didn’t happen to people like me!
Fast forward a year later, I found myself leaving my corporate job for an opportunity with an online entrepreneur. I could work from home, my schedule was (supposedly) going to be flexible–it sounded like a dream. However, I was going to have to pay my own health insurance, and I was taking about a 50% pay cut.
I won’t share too much more information about that job because that turned out to be a hell of a lot worse than my Advertising job. However, it got me to the point where I wanted to work for myself SO badly, that I was willing to do anything to make it happen. It was leap, or bust.
So, after careful calculation and preparation, I leapt.
This–the idea of “full time blogging” is something I get a lot of questions about, both from skeptics and hopefuls who are sick of their 9-5 grind, and are searching for something better.
I often get questions like…
“So, can you REALLY make good money from blogging?” (Which, hello? That’s SO rude? What’s the matter with you!?)
And “How many followers do I need to have before I can quit my job?” and “How much money do you think I should have saved before I take the leap?”
And..“How do you know that you’ll be able to pay your rent every month?”
The list goes on.
Here’s the thing though, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone–so, if you’re in the shoes I was in just a few years ago, here are the major factors to consider to determine if you’re ready to leave your 9-5.
Most importantly: How well do you handle uncertainty?
When I was still in advertising, I came across a quote that seriously changed the way I view living my life:
“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty that you can comfortably live with.” (Tony Robbins)
I cannot stress this enough. Are you the kind of person who is OK not knowing where your paycheck is coming from next month? Or would it eat away at you and wither you away?
For me, I am comfortable with risk. I know that if all else fails, I can get a part-time job. If it gets worse, there will be plenty of cubicle jobs waiting for me. Boring corporate jobs are a dime a dozen–if I want to go back and get one, I can.
However, if you’ve grown accustomed to a certain comfortable lifestyle that is only possible with the salary you’re bringing in currently, and you like that lifestyle MORE than you hate your job, DON’T quit your job.
Long story short, if comfort is your biggest priority, do not leave your job.
What’s your current overhead?
I was met with a lot of skepticism in the beginning. I didn’t have a giant following (and I still don’t)–how could I make blogging and freelancing work for me?
Well, here’s the thing. I had very little monthly hard costs.
I lived with 4 girlfriends in a 4 bedroom apartment. I never made a ton of money to begin with in my corporate job, so whenever we moved, I always got the smallest room so I could pay the least in rent. I never paid over $700 per month for rent, which is pretty unheard of in the city of Chicago. With utilities cable, and our twice-per month cleaning lady, it still came to about $800 a month tops. It was easy to get by on very little.
I also didn’t have student loans, or other debt to pay off. I didn’t have a car. So–rent, my phone bill, and health insurance were really the only things I had to factor in when it came to hard costs that were required of me each month.
Now, if I had a mortgage I HAD to pay (and couldn’t move somewhere cheaper if needed), if I had children that I had to put first, if I had other family members who depended on my income? I guarantee you I wouldn’t have been able to do this.
What are you making now on your side-hustle? What do you need to be making?
First of all, how much are you making with your blog (or freelance side-hustle) now? Tally that all up into a spreadsheet.
When I started working for myself, the majority of money I was bringing in was not from my blog, it was from freelance projects. Between freelance and my blog, I was able to get by. As time has gone on and I’ve grown my blog, I’ve been able to do fewer freelance projects. (I still do freelance on the side though!)
Okay, so you know what you’re making now with the side-hustle you plan to go full-time with. But how much of a pay cut are you willing to take?
For me, I spent the first couple of years in the real world scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck. I knew if I had to go back to the equivalent of entry level advertising salary in order to be happy, it’s something I would gladly do. A huge pay cut in the beginning was not a huge deterrent, because I will choose happiness over money any day of the week.
If you wouldn’t though, that’s not a bad thing! Honestly, most people wouldn’t. (I know a lot of them!) Just be honest with yourself!
So, what is your bare-bones salary that you’d need to be bringing in per year?
Here’s where it gets real: if you’re taking a pay cut, you’ll also need to factor in what you’re willing to give up in order to do this–girls night with friends, fancy dinner dates, a cushy downtown apartment–that might all be out the window for awhile. Is that something you’re OK with?
How much do you have saved?
I had over 3 months worth of salary saved before I quit my job, just to have a cushion. I knew my overhead wasn’t much (rent, utilities, and I was confident I could live on ramen if I had to). Everyone is different. Honestly, I wish I had saved more (because, who wouldn’t have wanted to save more?) but I’m happy to say I didn’t need all that cushion.
Factor in taxes
Taxes. SUCK. Keep in mind that every paycheck you get when working for yourself isn’t all money you get to keep. A lot of that has to get forked over to the government. To see current tax rates per bracket, you can check this site to get an estimate of how much you’ll be paying.
Factor in self-employed health insurance
I currently pay $350 a month for bare-bones health insurance that is only accepted at like one hospital and one doctor’s office in the city. I don’t have vision or dental insurance either. However, I’m a pretty healthy person, I don’t ever get sick (knock on wood), so I don’t necessarily need better insurance. If you have health issues where you need better insurance, you definitely want to weigh that heavily. Do your homework before you quit your job, as the prices might surprise you.
What other income streams can you create?
What other services could you offer to bring in money? (These could be related to your job, or just simply a part-time clerical job.) What other talents do you have that you could market in order to make money?
For example, as noted earlier, I did a lot of freelance copywriting for small businesses and websites when I first started out. Maybe you can offer social media management services, or make some side cash with photography! Being a great blogger means you have a TON of different skills–use them!
And really, how desperate are you? Would you rather work for yourself and get a second job waiting tables if you had to? If yes, great. If not, don’t quit your day job.
Make a business plan
Write down how much you want to be making, and how much you’re making now. How big is the gap you need to fill? For example, if most of your blogging income is made via sponsored posts, how many more sponsored posts would you need to bring in to reach your target? Is that realistic?
Okay, if it’s not–that’s where your additional income streams come in. What else can you be doing on the side, (your side-side hustle, haha!) and how much can you bring in there? How many projects do you need to take on there to hit your number?
Now, when you add everything up, how do you feel about it? Does it scare you a little? (Good, it should scare you a little bit. That’s how you grow!) Or does it feel totally unrealistic? What point do you need to get to in order for it to feel realistic but still a tad scary? How are you going to get there?
(If you need help setting your goals, this goal-setting post will be a good read!)
Remember, everyone is different
Overall, I would recommend that you keep your day job until you’re OVERLY confident that you can hit your minimum target number to live on.
Let’s be honest though, I didn’t have a choice in doing that, so I took a huge leap of faith. I knew in the back of my head that I wouldn’t let myself fail, and I didn’t. But, again, this is not a one-size-fits-all decision.
My biggest piece of advice: go with your gut. Listen to your heart, and you won’t go wrong.
I will leave you with another favorite quote–I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” (Theodore Roosevelt.)