Migrating from a Full-Time Job to Self-Employment
How to take the fear out of leaving your job
Many of us view working for yourself as part of a fulfilled life. The sense of freedom derived from managing your own time and your own schedule is nearly impossible to match if your are working for someone else. Further, when you work for someone else, by definition you must be working for less than your true market value. After all, employers can't keep you on the payroll if you are earning a profit for them. With this in mind, it is certainly easy to understand why you would want to move out on your own.
While this dream is almost universal, it isn't always very easy to accomplish. The constraints and responsibilities of life often get in the way of setting your own course. Family responsibilities, mortgages, and the lifestyle that we tend to build around our regular income conspire to hold us to our regular jobs and stop us from fulfilling the dream of self-employment. With this in mind, we need to set a course to move us toward the goal of independence. How then can those of us with all of our responsibilities make this leap?
The answers are fairly simply in explanation, but not terribly easy in practice. If you are committed to this dream, you must have commitment to the process. The extra work required to reach your goals is the reason most of us fail to achieve our dream. You must have a plan, and you must then work the plan.
Determine what your dream really looks like - You need to understand what you are seeking before you start. Do you want to make your living as a freelance writer, a real estate investor, or in retail? Be sure that your dream is consistent with your life situation. For example, you may not be able to open a brick-and-mortar retail store and continue to working at your regular job. To make a transition to self employment, you must be able to set your own hours.
Invest in the tools you need, but do it on the cheap - As a full time employee, you must make the most of the time you have to invest in your business. It is, therefore, important that you invest in tools to maximize you time. If you are working on-line, you should buy a laptop and a tablet. The laptop will allow you to work anywhere in your home, and the tablet will allow you to work just about anywhere else. (For example I am writing this on an iPad while watching my son’s hockey practice). The tools are the key to maximizing your available time. Don't be frightens by the price, you can buy a new laptop for under $400 and a tablet for even less. If you can't afford new, find something used. For those looking for more capital intensive endeavors, you must buy good used equipment. Taking on debt and buying new will significantly incase the likelihood of failure, and often result in significant financial loss. That said, you must have tools if you are going to be successful.
Find the time to work on your business - In step one I mention that you must be able to set your own hours. Having established a business plan that allows for flexible hours, you now need to find the time to work on your business. I usually work after I put my boys to bed. Often I sit on the couch with a laptop and watch a bit a TV as I work. This seems to be a good approach for me to be able to unwind from my day while also managing my other businesses. If you are too tired at the end of the day, then wake up a bit earlier and get some work in before you start your regular workday. Don't overwork yourself, or you will burn out. This is a slow, steady process, not a sprint.
Know how you add value - I own and operate several web sites but I didn't build many of those sites myself. While I am capable of putting together a decent site, it takes me a really long time, because that is not a core skill. I know business, not web development, so it waists my time to try and build the sites when I can be working on content and plans to monetize those sites. I have been using offshore workers to build the site, then I add value once they are ready. No matter what your business, the will be things that need to be done that are not part of your core competency. Don't try to do everything, concentrate on your strengths and find help for the rest. There are sites all over the web that allow you to hire others, at reasonable prices, to handle the work that is not part of your skill set. Use those sites, and maximize the time you are spending on your business.
Drop several lines in the water - You need to attack your transition on several fronts. If you are a freelance writer, write for several money producing sites. Schedule time for each of the sites, to maintain an activity stream for each. Offer your services on Craigslist, freelance, and through forums. The goal is to try several opportunities and begin to hone in on those that begin to produce for you. A little bit of time in a lot of areas allows you to figure out what does, and does not, work. From there you can begin to drill down on the opportunities that are most fruitful.
Attack you niche - Having completed step five, you should now have the information to move into your niche with vigor. After having tested several opportunities, you should have defined those that are performing. Concentrate on those areas and double down on your effort. You have learned what works and what does not, so it time to work your successes. Build you income and prepare for step seven
Build a transition fund and leave you job - By now you are building your business and producing income. Invest in the growth of the business as necessary, but also begin building a fund that will help you work through the transition from your job. You should be able to extrapolate how much more you will make when you take your business from part-time to full-time. Do the math, and figure out when you can leave your job. Make sure you have your tradition fund in place so that you can make the move without the anxiety of worrying about how you will paying your bills. Think of your transition fund as emergency money.
You are now ready to make your leap. Obviously this is a quick guide to leaving your job for self-employee, but I hope it at least gets you moving in that direction. It is possible, and if you follow these steps (and customize them for your own situation) you will be able to take the leap without betting the farm to make it happen. Godspeed and best of luck!
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