I quit my job 6 months ago. The first day was a mix of freedom and excitement. But things changed quickly. And over the last 6 months, there has been plenty that has happened and that is why I thought it would be good to pen it all down. So if you have been contemplating quitting your job and doing something on your own, read on.
The fear is real
The fear of having no job can hit you hard after a few days. Irrespective of how motivated you are, the security of a confirmed paycheck at the end of the month cannot be described. You are programmed for that. It was the third day, when the negativity started. I was getting increasingly worried about making money soon. And it was just the 3rd day after I quit my job. My paycheck was intact (the last one I got) but that is how the brain starts to react.
There is no such thing as ‘office friends’
One of the first things that hits is the loss of colleagues, the office banter, and a routine. I began to lose touch with them even though they seemed like my close friends a few days ago. In the last 6 months, I have hardly got any calls from them and the invites to parties and causal trips completely stopped. I shouldn’t think about those aspects because even if I had changed my job, this would have happened. Only a few people, whom I worked with in different companies, over the years and have remained in touch, know my whereabouts and what I do. It is a fact that people and even ‘friends’ judge you on the basis of your salary and the job you have.
Living frugally starts
My frugal living started to border on miserliness. I started saving every rupee and keeping a count of every expense that was made. I stopped eating out, shopping and only watched movies at home to stop any unnecessary expenses. Though it freaked my family out, it was the insecurity that was taking a toll on me. Now I realize that it was unnecessary.
Regretting my decision to quit
It would hit me hard initially once in a while about my decision to quit my job. I missed the office, the ambience, friends, email exchanges, funny jokes, relaxed weekends and last but not the least- paychecks. The family started hinting about finding a new job. And this is the time when you start losing hope and most of the potential entrepreneurs drop the idea and look for safer havens or take on a new job. With luck, I survived this phase.
The initial enthusiasm wavered. I started feeling depressed with no friends, loss of paychecks and a sense of lower self-esteem when comparing myself with other friends that were ‘successful’. There was a constant nagging worry and I lost sleep over the negativity that started to surround me. Though I had some clients, I still started to look for ‘part time’ jobs as a safety net. That became my ‘wake-up’ call. It suddenly dawned upon me that I’ve began inching towards the 9 to 5 slavery & fixed paychecks, with more bosses to deal with. This is exactly why I quit my job in the first place. Now I knew what I wanted. That was the time that things started looking better.
You’ll know who your real friends are
I started getting calls from long-lost and fairly new friends as soon as they learnt that I had finally quit my job. I suddenly became an icon and that is when I realized that everyone harbors a desire to quit their slavish jobs and do something on their own so that they can live a life they want. Though they watched motivational vides and read umpteen books on start-ups, but when it came to loosening the shackles, the fear of failure prevents most of them. When you talk to friends that care, it helps to give you the boost of positivity and confidence that you need at this time. They are your real friends.
Family support is your rock
I have plenty of time for family now. I have become closer to them in the past six months than I did in the last 26 years. They have always been a support and pillar of strength for me, always reinforcing that they love me and money is not important but whatever makes me happy is essential. For the first time, I am appreciating the little things that my family does for me. I love my mother’s daily calls, which used to bother me when I was busy with my work. Now I look forward to it. I have a better understanding of the work that my brother does and have time to listen to the things that my wife did in her childhood. And we reminiscence over our childhoods and I had a lot of time to build relationships with old friends. They were ecstatic. This is the life I wanted and now I had a chance to do it.
Life gets busy
I had a flexible schedule with no fixed time to work. The best part was that I could meet clients any day of the week and as needed. I think that is what my clients loved. Even though moon-lighting sounds interesting but the 100% focus is lacking and that is what turns off most of the potential clients. Clients prefer professionals that are available for them as and when they need them. Slowly I started getting lots of emails and started meeting 2- 3 clients a week. With time, work increased and even though it was hectic, it was immensely satisfying and that was the turning point in my life. I was happily busy now.
It starts getting better
I realized that I was getting more clients that I could focus on and then I started planning for the future. This was the time that I got total control of my work life and decided upon my working hours (sounds great, isn’t it?). I decided that I’ll only work for 4-6 hours a day and then I needed to calculate how much I need to earn to do that. Based on my calculations, I decided my fees and the clients I wanted to work with. I played with the numbers every week and everything started looking brighter and more interesting with time.
Meeting wonderful people
After I warded off the insecurities and refusing clients that I didn’t want to work with, I got better clients. I was receiving invites for exhibitions, fashion shows and product launches and now I had the time to attend them. And it was here that I met a lot of interesting people. Most of the people who have been successful would tell you that having a free and flexible lifestyle is valuable. Think about it. How many times do you have to miss family and friends’ events due to your work schedules? Now I don’t have those limitations anymore.
The finances started to look better
I have control over my finances now that there are no fixed paychecks coming. I don’t depend on bonus and annual raises now. Money is important even though it is not the biggest perk currently. I have the freedom to choose clients and personally, I choose interesting clients or challenging projects over high paying clients. I sorted my fees based on the value I add to the project.
I love my work because I am doing what I enjoy, with the clients that I like to work with. Some of them have interesting stories. One of my Indian clients paid a cool million (about half the investment they raised) for just a domain name while a Finnish client spent about $2.5 million on a rebranding project. I worked on a project a fortnight ago that allowed me to spend time with 3 to 5 year olds for a week. Currently I am helping an $8 billion U.S company create their flagship product fir India. This is so much better than the pixel pushing I used to. Now that I am enjoying my work, I have become more productive than ever before.
When you have the choice of picking clients, you are respected more. My clients ensure that even before I sign a deal, I am treated well. Getting to meet and socialize with CEOs of some of the coolest start-ups in the country is great. I have started getting a lot of respect from distant relatives and especially those younger to me as they now seek my advice about their career and education. Even though I dropped out from college, today my dad takes a lot of pride in the fact that I don’t have to work for a boss. That is a beautiful fact and I love the feeling.
Live your dream
I love to travel and meet people. In the past few months, I have travelled more than I did when I was working and rubbed shoulders with people from all walks in life. Now I get to meet my family on all events and occasions, completely enjoy the festivities and meet my friends as and when needed, without the thought of weekdays and weekends. I watch movies on weekdays, stroll through fairly empty malls instead of pushing through the crowds at malls on weekends. I am closer to my family while there is plenty of time to indulge in hobbies. I get to read books and so many other things which I could only think about earlier.
Thank yourself later
If I could write to my younger self, I would advise him to take the risk and quit early or at least look for a job that gives him the freedom to work where he wants and when he wants. Having the flexibility to work from home holds more importance than a bigger pay check. Lounging around in your pajamas is more important than having a free pizza in the office. Playing cricket with the neighborhood kids is more fun than playing PS3 in office. We get seeped in the corporate culture that these small and mundane things start looking so charming.
Help friends follow their dreams
This holds true for entrepreneurs. Though the internet is full of advice on how to quit your job, we all read about freelancing or leave a job and build a company. Everyone is excited when they read such stuff and the rush of blood to the head can be exhilarating. But when you get out of your comfortable chair to have free coffee, the feelings slowly subside. However, you need to think beyond free coffee. Think if you are going to be proud of the life that you are leading a couple of years from now.
Think out of the box. You are young, dynamic and have plenty of ideas. Implement them. Following your dream is essential. With the experience of working on my own, I would be happy to offer free personal advice to anyone that is planning to quit the regular job. And there are plenty of other entrepreneurs that I know who would be willing to do that. As we have experienced both sides of the coin, we know what’s waiting on the other side.
Additionally, I know that you might have a different approach to life and work while everyone has different needs and requirements. However, things need to constantly evolve so even if you cannot quit your job, it is understandable. Everyone has different amount of productive time and if you can make your workplace more flexible, it will lead to an increase of productivity. Some work better at night while others have spurts of concentration, others might need a couch to sit and work on. The list is endless but the fact is that 40 hours week can be made more flexible.
If you’re a boss
If you are the boss and sit on the other side of the table, it is essential to understand that basis on which you too the risk and started your own company. The fact is that your employees deserve a better work environment, that productivity increases and they can have a better life too. So think about giving them more flexibility on how and where they work. Give them a chance to work from home and don’t push for a 9 hour work daily. Encourage free thinking and entrepreneurship. After all you are an entrepreneur. Build a culture that is caring and compassionate. Don’t just run a business.
If you’re a manager
Be considerate and look for building relationships. That is going to last past your job changes. Assist your team by keeping flexible schedules and if they want leave, don’t burden them with extra work. Have compassion and let them take a few days off to relax and unwind. It is essential to be a good leader and let others take inspiration from you. Do the right thing.
Planning to quit?
The first step is to stop procrastinating. Don’t dwell upon it for too long. Plan it ahead. If you are already thinking about quitting your job, makes you a few steps ahead of those who are unhappy with their job but don’t do anything about it. You are fearful and that is absolutely normal because there are no backups or safety nets. All that you need to do is believe in your potential and have the confidence that you can do it. In case you fail, you can always take up a new job. You’ll never find out what you can do if you don’t try. It is better to fail than not to try at all.
In the words of Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream and discover.
Take the leap. Set yourself free. Go build something incredible!