It was the third time I'd had that conversation in a month. Someone else wanted to quit their job and start freelancing full-time. And, for the third time, I told them not to do it. I told them to keep their day job, choose their hobbies wisely, and stay at it. I told them to stay put.
In my mind, there are only two reasons to quit your day job:
- You have something viable to go to, like another gig with guaranteed income, a new project that pays, or a lotto ticket that it's time to cash in.
- You're about to literally blow your brains out.
I worked at a hotel for two long years. I drove to work and back home most days thinking I'd rather do anything else. But I knew I couldn't do nothing. So I stayed until I finally was hired in the nonprofit world.
There's a lot of social media experts (nearly 16,000 of whom are on Twitter, according to this Mashable report), but very few get paid. Of those that do, very few make enough to live on. I made just a hair over $10,000 last year speaking and consulting about it. I could have pushed it hard and maybe doubled that total, signing up more corporate and nonprofit clients. But, to do that, I would have spent a lot of time selling myself and less time doing actual consulting work.
This year, I'll consult less, taking gigs that pay more. So, I'll work less and get paid more (or the same probably), only because I've developed enough of a reputation in certain circles. But it took me nearly three years to develop that reputation. It's not something I left any job to build. It's happened over the course of hours and days and years.
Remember: jumping off of a 200-foot cliff is a lot of fun for 199 feet. That final 12 inches is a bitch.
But, there's hope.
If you have a 40-hour-a-week job that you hate, the upside is this: you have 109 days off this year. Add up your weekends and major holidays and you'll find that these are days you have entirely to yourself. That's over three months that you have to do what you want.
Most of the world will spend it watching TV or mindlessly surfing the Internet. Noble and relaxing pursuits, but they don't help you build a reputation that you can cash in on in three years. So, let's do some math:
- 109 days off this year
- 8 hours a day spent perfecting a hobby, talent, or skill
- 872 hours total to get good at something
Add in paid time off and other vacation days (I didn't count days like Columbus Day or the day after Thanksgiving) and up your output to 10 hours a day and you'll have 1,300 hours of available time.
Wake up an hour or two earlier on the days you head into the office and you can easily find yourself with close to 2,000 hours to spend doing what you think you have to quit your job to do. Do that for two years and you can build a network of true fans and paying customers.
In 2,000 hours, I could write a book (I could probably write several), start a few web ventures, and maybe even become a good photographer. The time is mine to do with as I please, all the while being able to pay my mortgage, save money, and get ready to take a leap (with a parachute).
Skipping the trip to Destin, a few football games, trivia nights, and entire seasons of TV shows could pay off a lot quicker than leaving a job you hate for no good reason.
What will you do with your 2,000 extra hours this year?