How do I know when it's time to quit my job and run my side business full-time?
This is a question I hear often and have the hardest time answering. The truth is, there is no right answer. I think it's an art and a science and the timing will be completely different for everyone. However, now that it has been two years since I put in my two weeks, I can definitely tell you the 5 things I would ask myself before taking the leap.
1. DID YOU KEEP IT AS A SIDE GIG FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE?
When I quit my job in 2015, the single most important thing I did was wait until I had a concept that was already proven and profitable. I really, really don't recommend quitting your job THEN starting something. If you're ok pouring yourself into work on nights and weekends, do it for as long as you can, save some money, and relish in the lack of pressure for it to work out when you have another source of income. Sometimes I think Be There in Five worked because I didn’t need it to; it came from a very sincere place of wanting to share an idea with the world and I would have been thrilled at the time if just 10 people bought them. By not relying on the income, I was able to make better long-term decisions for the business instead of forcing it directions that may have seemed shiny but felt unnatural. When you need the money, it's hard to be patient and say no sometimes, but a new business will go through so many changes that you need to be able to see beyond the short term. So if you can, ease into the role; get a glimpse into how hectic your life will become and learn how to manage your time and the added stress. If you can figure out what is and isn't working before it is your sole source of income, you'll be setting yourself up for success.
2. HAVE YOU CRUNCHED THE NUMBERS?
I can't emphasize this enough - it is going to be a long time before you pay yourself. You'll want your business to grow, which requires ongoing investment, and taking out a salary isn't something that you can justify for a long time. What you make you'll want to put back in the business, and typically to get to a point where you can pay yourself, you have to hire and pay other people first. So save up a lot of money, minimize your living expenses, scale down from full-time to part-time elsewhere; whatever you need to do. Just don’t confuse revenue and profit potential with being anywhere close to what your take-home income will be.
3. ARE YOU QUITTING BECAUSE YOU HATE YOUR CURRENT JOB OR BECAUSE YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS YOU SO BADLY?
Much like making it to hometown dates on the Bachelor, to be able to ride the emotional rollercoaster of self-employment, you have to be doing it for the right reasons. If you hate your full-time job and are romanticizing not reporting to anyone else MORE than immersing yourself in your craft, I'd suggest you get another job before becoming your own boss. Reporting to a micromanaging boss might be hard, but being on your own is harder. I didn't realize how much I relied on the built-in structure and accountability of a 9-5 to operate like a normal human until I left my job. It is a struggle every.single.day. for me to get up, get started, stay on a schedule and ultimately feel accomplished. No one is asking me get to the office at a certain time, asking me about my progress, or telling me I did a good or bad job. If i didn't care about this business working so much, I'd completely take advantage of the freedom and flounder. Some days I do, but most days I just have to be ok with no one but me knowing I did anything worthwhile. Being on your own is great at first, but in the long run it will become a new normal and you'll forget about the job you hated. So make sure you love the work more than the idea of total autonomy, because sometimes freedom becomes your biggest obstacle.
4. ARE YOU OKAY WITH YOUR PASSION BECOMING YOUR JOB, THEN YOUR JOB REQUIRING YOU OUTSOURCE YOUR PASSION?
When you pursue a career in the same field as your passion, it's often because it's an activity you love doing yourself. This is a great basis for creating a career, however, there will come a time when you are no longer scalable. There will come a time when your value is not in the creation of your end-product and your job will become very uncreative. If you want to grow, you have to be ok with the fact that other people are going to have to execute the creative part of your business and you will need to become passionate about running it. The first year I was making all the mats and was so hands-on, and I was quite happy with it. But no growth happened until I hired other people for production and focused more on strategic, administrative and managerial tasks. This is kind of a dance where you'll delegate and reel things back in until you see what works best. When I tried to step too far away, I was sad being uninvolved; I didn't exactly leave my job to be an operations, shipping, and fulfillment manager. So I make sure that at the very least, I still do the design work and do all the customer service so I can stay close to the business. The silver lining of having to step away from the creating is that you'll learn to appreciate it again. There was a time when I never wanted to look at a rug again, but now painting them after hours is my reward after a long day.
5. DOES YOUR SIDE GIG MAKE YOU OPERATE AS THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF?
When I started my business, I thought it would always be a side job. I didn't think about running it full-time until I realized one day it required full-time attention. When it got to the point that I had to choose one, even though I knew there were many risks, I just couldn't ignore the level of enthusiasm and determination I felt for Be There in Five. It’s interesting how you go through life thinking you’re one way, forgetting that what you’re used to doing doesn’t necessarily reflect what you’re capable of doing. For my whole life, work or school always felt more like something I wanted to get out of the way so I could get back to creating and dreaming. Through building something of my own, It’s as if I discovered an untapped work ethic; this incredibly focused and driven person that was hiding until I found the right vehicle to bring out that side of me. Once I met this side of myself, I couldn't go back.