I’d originally written a post about rabid wildebeests stampeding my house and the cleanup of the damage, but I realized that today marks the one year anniversary of jumping off the bridge and ditching the yoke. How do I feel about it? It’s absolutely awesome. I am loving every minute of the freedom that I have, and loving the fact that I’m not particularly beholden to anyone. For that, I’m thankful to The Unlikely Mage for allowing me the opportunity to do what I want to do with my life. For those who are thinking about quitting your job and doing what you love, I would encourage you to do it. This is an expansion of 7 Tips for Bridge Jumping, one year later. I’m removing the original post from this blog, but leaving it on Fat Lady Blogging.
Seriously. If you’re thinking about jumping off the bridge into freelance work, there’s not going to be a right time. You can try your best to convince yourself that you’re going to quit after this one thing or that one thing, or by the time that you get some cash available in your pockets, or something else, but that doesn’t change the fact that time is still slipping by. If you want to leave your career and go become a musician that tours the country and sings… do it. If you want to become a contact juggler, do it. There’s not going to be a really RIGHT time.
I debated on leaving my job for TWO YEARS before actually taking the plunge. I would set up one line in the sand after another. I would say ‘well, after this doctor’s appointment’ or ‘once I get this bill paid off’ or some other excuse. You know what that was doing? It was hiding the fears that I had, and so I was making excuses as to why I couldn’t jump off the bridge. I’d get peeved with the way my boss had handled something, grouse, and become lulled back into the comfort once more. Yeah, I was comfortable. I was fearful, and I wasn’t taking the chances that were put in front of me.
1.5 Set a Date and Stick With It
So, there’s absolutely no right time to quit your job. There’s not a magic moment that’s going to pop up where there’s the golden opportunity to quit what you’re doing and become a freelance entrepreneur. The heavens rarely open up to say ‘this is it’ to you. With all that said, you need to set a date and stick to it.
May 4th 2010 was the first day that I was ‘on my own’ and it was an absolutely stupendous, scary, awesome, and delightful feeling. I had, really, only a vague idea of what I wanted to be doing, but I knew that there was an absolute joy in not having to wake up really really early in the morning and do some of the commute. Make your date, give your job appropriate notice, and leave.
1.6 Get your Finances in Order
You’re probably constantly juggling your finances. In reality, you want to make your finances absolutely awesome even if you’re not leaving your job, but if you’re leaving your job to become a freelancer, it’s seriously one of those essential things. The short version of making your finances awesome is essentially ‘pay off your bills as fast as you can, get an emergency fund.’ Get an idea of where the money is going, and see what’s absolutely important to retain.
You know why this one’s important? Because jumping off the bridge inherently means that your finances are going to change. Even though you’re probably going to quickly ramp up, there’s going to be a lagtime between the salary that you were earning at your ‘regular’ job and the salary that you’re earning as a freelance entrepreneur. One or two bills removed from your plate makes it exponentially easier to keep track of the other stuff that’s sitting around. This means more cycles that can be devoted to the researching and the experimentation.
2. Research and experiment in the interim
Researching is one of those things that’s being done all the time. Everything that you see, everything that you experience goes into the field of research. There’s stuff that you’re doing right now, including reading this particular post, that could be considered research. One of the things that nailed me to the wall in the beginning was that I was too vague about my intentions when I left. I wanted to be a writer, and I didn’t realize how many types of writers that there were. So, I spent a lot of time free-falling while I was attempting to figure out what I wanted to be doing.
Now, this isn’t so bad if you’ve got a financial cushion with which to work. That way, you can devote your entire attention to what you want to do and then keep observational results. It gives you a chance to evaluate what you’re needing, and go on from there. The thing that I lament was that I didn’t start doing what I wanted to do *before* I left the job. I wasn’t being the writer that I wanted to be, nor was I discovering the things that I was good at and bad at. I figured that once I left the job, I could put the mantle of ‘writer’ on my head and just be that. Life, actually, doesn’t work that way.
The reason that I talk about this is that I would have found out that I didn’t want to be in article marketing early on while I still had the cushion of a paying job underneath me. The research and experimentation is done so there’s a direction that’s put into place. Once there’s a direction, once you know generally where you’re going, then you can go onto the next step.
3. Develop a plan
You know that a plan is the single most dangerous thing in the world? It keeps you from running around in circles and not getting anywhere. When I started this, I knew that I was going to be a writer, but I had no idea what *KIND* of writer that I’d be. Sure, I’ve written fiction. I’ve written a lot of nonfiction, too. I’ve done some ghostwriting, and written articles for article marketing purposes, too. The point is that I was wandering around in circles for the LONGEST time before figuring out what I wanted to do. Then I changed it. And changed it again.
For those folks who are thinking about leaving their job and jumping off the bridge, one of the best things that you can do is make a plan and stick with it for at least a month. This is no matter WHAT you do. If you’re really wanting to write poems for the best poetry magazine on earth, bust your ass and do everything that you can to write poetry. Make a easy plan for how you’re going to achieve the goal and then stick to it. That persistent determination is what is going to get you there, that adherence to the plan is the key to achieving your dreams.
4. Stick TO the plan
Your plan does no good if you’re just giving it lip service. Now, there’s some who will say that you have to give it three or six months. There’s some who will ask that you give it a year. I’m going to say that it depends on what it is. If your plan requires marketing (most of them do), you want to be pouring in a LOT of time in the beginning to get it on the road. If you’re all about the blogging, then take the time to ping your blog. If you’re doing handcrafted products, take the time to go to the shows and pimp what you’ve got. Make your plan tangible, so you can see the progress that you’re making with it.
That said, realize that the plan that you have needs to be flexible to handle the wealth of information that you’re going to be receiving every single day. If you’re truly passionate about something, truly loving what you do, you’re going to be reading about it, and associating what you’re doing with the overall plan that you’ve got. Let’s say that you’re a budding blogger who loves the idea of having millions of folks a day read your words. The plan that you’ve created says, ‘post comments to X blog and Y blog’ … well, your plan should be able to accommodate Z blog, in case that comes along.
This is something that I’m going to do for the second year: Write a list of exact things to do. It’s hard to keep up with all of those things in my head. I KNOW that it’s a group of little things that is going to keep me going, and it doesn’t matter what ORDER the little things are done in, just as long as they get done. Even though I have great appreciation for Chore Wars and Remember the Milk and all of the other task management programs, I really enjoy dry erase boards and getting to wipe things clean with my fingers.
5. Develop a contingency plan
The contingency plan is something developed in the instance that the original plan doesn’t work. Many folks ignore the idea of the contingency plan, knowing that their first plan is working. I learned the value of having a backup plan from my excursions into the stock market. Seriously. Just because something is following a pattern, one that it’s followed for the past several years, does not mean that it will continue following the pattern that it’s established. So, when the stock that you’ve banked on loses half its value in less than three months, you have to be prepared to do something that’s out of the ordinary.
Unpredictability is present in ANY business which involves people. If you’re trying to get your stuff approved by a publishing house, you need to have someone at that publishing house like your book. If you are trying to get a job in the IT field, you have to go through an interview process. If you think that you’re the best artist on the planet, you have to get your stuff seen by others. Thing is, is that you might not be getting enough of that hoped for traction for the ideas that you’ve got. You might find that the editor at X place or Y place is a complete butt to deal with, and you don’t want to wait until that other person is gone before trying again.
The trick is to develop a contingency plan which goes about getting the thing that you want in a different way. It could be as easy as going from publishing house X to publishing house Y, or it could involve revamping what you’re wanting to do to better cater to your needs. For instance, if you’re just after getting something published – you might want to consider self publishing or publishing on one of the information book sites. As there are many many religions, there are also many ways to achieve the same goal. Before implementing the contingency plan, you have to get cogent results from the primary plan. Two weeks is NOT enough.
This is where I had trouble when I was first starting with the freelance stuff. Some of the advice that I’d been given through my research was that I should have a presence on as many social networks as possible. I should do my absolute best to get my name out to everyone that I knew, and the money would somehow magically flow back to me. I was supposed to create a reputation and a rapport on all of these sites, keep track of them, and then try to find the time to have for myself. And in reality, this networking thing appeared to be a way to confuse me and make me feel very bogged down.
I firmly believe that attraction marketing is the best form of marketing available. I don’t like the hard sell, and attraction marketing isn’t about that – it’s about making people want to hang out with you and do some of the things that you want to do. If you’re confused or harried or aggravated, then this type of stuff doesn’t happen. The advice that I gave on the original post was that you should talk to folks early and often, so when you want something it doesn’t seem like self aggrandizement. When it comes right down to it, being an entrepreneur means that it’s all about brand you.
I do have advice to give on this front, though. When you’re networking with other folks, talk about the stuff that they want to talk about. Keep yourself limited to what you can handle – because if you spread yourself out too thin, it’s *really* hard to keep track of and folks who might like you only get the chance to see what you’re like when under stress. Facebook and Twitter are awesome places to talk about your personal business, but spend MORE time looking for what you can do for others.
7. Believe in yourself
I leave this one for number seven because it’s the absolute most important thing that you should know. Believing in yourself is what is going to make you into the superstar that you know you are. Believing in yourself and possessing the confidence… not letting yourself be overwhelmed with fear and trepidation, that is what is going to take you to the next level. That belief is what is going to take you to a spot where you WANT to work your ass off for the goal, and that belief is a foundation from which to develop your personal empire.
The Unlikely Mage and I were talking about this the other day. It’s truly confidence that propels you, but there’s a paradigm that needs to be had. I don’t wonder IF I can do something. I know that I can do whatever I want to do. I ponder more on whether I want to take the time to do it.
This article came out significantly longer than the one that I’d written previously. I have a lot more to say on the matter of becoming more awesome as a freelancer. And, well, becoming more awesome in general.