How to make the leap to self-employment
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
When I graduated from university I felt lost. I had spent three years studying history without any consideration for what I wanted to do afterwards.
I drifted along for those years in a bubble of studying and socialising. It was only when the end neared at the end of those three years that the bubble popped.
I realised this was it. I was about to enter the real world, there was no getting away from it now. No way of pushing back against it. I felt like I had jumped into the ocean and the riptide was pulling me further and further out.
I was floundering.
Applying for jobs was an interesting experience. Hardly any of them appealed to me. Graduate manager schemes that required me to work long hours, entry-level jobs. Nothing jumped out at me.
After applying for several jobs, all of which were unsuccessful, I ended up working in a betting shop in my hometown. This was not what I was expecting when I graduated.
However, looking back, working there was one of the best things I ever did. It made me realise that you can?t take anything for granted in life. I was able to get a peek into the working world and I didn?t like what I saw.
It was at this point that my mind started working overtime to come with ways of working for myself. I dreaded heading into work and the mornings would be spent racking my brains about how I could work for myself one day.
This was put on hiatus when I quit after ten months and went to live in Australia for a year. Yet, this was another fortuitous moment. My experiences led me to start a travel blog, which ended up being the route to becoming self-employed I had envisioned all those years ago.
However, it?s not as easy as quitting your job and going for broke. You need to take a considered approach. You need to have a plan.
If you?re considering working for yourself, I?ve put together six steps, which can help you trade the office cubicle for freedom.
You Need a Side Hustle
The first step to becoming self-employed is to have something to do once you?ve quit your job. You can?t just quit your job and start a business, you need to have it in place beforehand.
I started my travel blog in 2015 as a creative outlet. After travelling in the Philippines and finding it difficult to find relevant information on online I thought I could do a better job.
I didn?t think it would become my full-time job when I started it. The more I started working on it and the more it progressed, I began to realise it could morph into a full-time working opportunity down the line.
The best way to become self-employed is to start a side hustle today. It could be anything, a blog, writing here on Medium, or something as simple as selling arts and crafts. As long as there is a market for it, there is potential for it to grow.
A side hustle is a great way of earning income, which is essential in today?s climate. Even if it doesn?t work, you will have learned a lot and you can use failures to push you forward in the future.
You Need an Exit Plan
Once you have your side hustle up and running, it?s tempting to go for broke and quit your job. I remember being in this situation in 2018. I was working in a job I didn?t like, but I wasn?t yet in a position to quit.
I wanted to get myself in a secure financial position before I quit in case anything went wrong. Plus, I wasn?t 100% sure if I could make the blog pay full-time.
Then there was the nagging thought all of this was a huge risk and I might be better off staying in the job despite the fact I hated it.
Eventually, I put an exit plan in place. Once I hit a certain number of views a month and I was earning over a certain threshold, I decided I would quit.
As soon as I put this plan in place I felt much better. I knew the job I was working in was only temporary. It made me more determined to work on my blog and turn the goal into a reality.
Without an exit plan your un the risk of drifting along with no real idea of when you can go all in. It?s scary formulating a plan to quit a job which is deemed stable, but if you want to be self-employed, it?s a risk you have to take.
You Need Proof of Concept
This is probably the most important part of becoming self-employed. Without proof of concept, it?s hard to justify taking the risk of going all-in on your business.
Sure you can quit your job and give it a go, but if it fails you?re back at square one. You will have to start over again, which can be demoralising.
Before I quit my office job, I made sure my blog was meeting certain standards. It needed to be receiving a large number of page views to translate that into money.
I also wanted to see growth in these views month after month to ensure I wasn?t flogging a dead horse. Once I saw my views were increasing and the revenue was going up alongside it, I knew it was time to give it a go.
It?s tempting to go all-in as soon as possible especially if you don?t like your job, but you have to play the long game. Building a separate source of income away from your main job is demanding.
It takes a lot of work to see minimal returns at the start. If I had quit my job six months before I did, I might not have made a success out of it and I would have likely run out of money.
Make sure your project has the legs to go the distance before you jump into it full-time.
You Need Financial Backup
Money makes the world go round. You can?t do much without unfortunately and a job is the best way to earn money. While a lot of them may be uninspiring, they pay the bills.
I was desperate to quit my job, but whenever my monthly pay went into my account I was always a little less inclined to do so. Negative thoughts were constantly running through my head.
Would my blog make this kind of money every month?
What if I run out of money?
Would I have to come back here if it didn?t work out?
This is why you must have some money reserve in case your worst-case scenario comes to fruition. Yes, your project should be making money at the point you quit, but no one can predict what the future holds.
A financial safety net is imperative to have in place. It will give you some breathing space to take your time to get things in order and push your project onto the next level.
An ideal sum doesn?t exist. It should be an amount you feel comfortable having in reserve once you go it alone.
You Need To Work Twice As Hard
The work you have to put in to become self-employed is substantial. Unfortunately, there is no way around this, if you want to realise this dream, you?re going to have to work for it.
I had to work my day job and then come home and work on my blog afterwards. My working day started at 7 and would last until 9 some night as I slaved away.
Did I want to come home from my job and do more work? Not really, but I had no choice. If I wanted to go it alone, I had to do it.
The problem with self-employment is that no one else is going to do the work for you. In an office jo, for example, there are always people to pick up the slack. You don?t have that luxury when you work for yourself.
If you?re ill, no work gets done. If you go out, no work gets done. You have to be disciplined and focused to reach your goals. Working hard is a prerequisite for success, but it?s even more important in relation to becoming self-employed.
You will have to make sacrifices in the short-term, but it will be worth it in the long-term.
You Need Belief
One of the more underrated aspects of working for yourself is you need to believe in yourself. When you?re working for a company or someone else, you don?t have to consider this.
You?re almost like a robot. You go in, do the work and forget about it once you get home. When you?re working for yourself, your work stays at home with you, especially if you?re working from home.
Suddenly, you can?t escape the nagging feeling that you should be working, or there is something that could go wrong. When you?re still trying to make the transition, this can be debilitating as it makes you question whether you will be successful or not.
It?s important to believe in yourself and trust that your process will work. Our minds can be our own worst enemies if we let them.
In the blogging industry one of the biggest reasons give up is an initial lack of success. They don?t see the views, likes and share rolling in and become disheartened.
After a few months of this, they decide it?s not worth it and quit. The problem is we imagine success will come quickly when in reality, it?s a long slog.
You have to believe you can do it, otherwise, you won?t.