Quitting the day job: Finding the guts to pursue your dreams

Something amazing has happened in the past eighteen months. While I've been learning about personal finance — and sharing my knowledge with you — Get Rich Slowly has grown from a small site with a couple hundred readers into a real-life business. GRS currently has 35,000 subscribers and generates $5,000 in monthly revenue. It also takes most of my time. This is a blessing and a curse.

The Blessing

As my income from this site has grown, I've been able to achieve my financial goals more quickly. In two weeks, I'll be debt-free except for the mortgage. I have an emergency fund. I'm maxing out my Roth IRA every year. Get Rich Slowly has also put me in touch with a lot of great people: readers, colleagues, and media contacts. Most of all, I've learned tons about personal finance. I'm still a novice when it comes to investing and retirement planning, but I'm a novice who knows how to find the information he needs, and who is willing to share it with others.

The Curse

As wonderful as this site has been to me, it's not without its drawbacks. Chief among these is that it takes time. Kris and I used to do more things together. I used to have spare time to read books and to play games and to hang out with my friends. Though I still do these things whenever possible, more of my time is devoted to providing quality content. Writing Get Rich Slowly is literally like having a second full-time job.

The Decision

After months of deliberation, I've decided to quit my job at the family business.

Yes, having two sources of income provides a tremendous sense of security, but I cannot continue at this pace. Lately I've struggled to squeeze Get Rich Slowly into the cracks of life: evenings, weekends, down-time at the box factory. As the site has grown, so has the workload. In order to make Get Rich Slowly everything I want it to be, in order to provide the best personal finance information, this site must be my top priority.

Quitting the day job scares me. My web income can support my lifestyle, especially if I'm frugal. But I had developed grand plans of accelerated savings, of paying off my mortgage in just a few years, of traveling around the world. When I quit the day job, I'll be sacrificing:

  • The second income.
  • An additional retirement plan (about $5,000/year).
  • Daily contact with co-workers and colleagues.

I'll be trading these sure things for an uncertain future. What guarantee do I have that Get Rich Slowly can continue to produce enough income to support me? What guarantee do I have that I'll still want to do this three years from now? There are no guarantees.

The Plan

And so I am making a leap of faith. Or, more precisely, several “hops of faith”. In order to provide myself and the business a smooth transition, I'm going to reduce my hours gradually over the coming year.

  • Beginning 01 January 2008, my Tuesdays will be spent working on Get Rich Slowly.
  • Beginning April 1st, I'll drop Thursdays at the box factory.
  • On July 1st, Mondays will be spent writing.
  • Next October, I'll be down to only Wednesdays at the day job.
  • Finally, on 01 January 2009, I will be an official real-life full-time blogger.

I've always wanted to be a professional writer. I just thought I'd write science fiction novels. Or the sorts of short stories you find in Harper's and The New Yorker. I never imagined I would one day make my living by writing about personal finance.

The Preparation

Now that I've committed to taking this leap, I'm scared. I've become a master of the worst-case scenario. Yes, Get Rich Slowly has generated enough revenue to support me during the past few months, but what if something goes wrong? What if I run out of things to write? What if Google or FeedBurner cancel their ad programs? What if I lose my thumbs in a blogging accident? What if all these things happen at once?

I've had people ask me how to prepare for a potential job loss, or how to make the transition to self-employment. My answers have always been theoretical. Now that I'm facing this situation myself, however, I can tell you the sorts of preparations I made. I think all of these are important:

  • Crunch the numbers. There are many good reasons to track every penny you spend — potential job loss is one of them. Sit down and go over your records. How much do you spend on food every month? What do you spend on utilities? What could you sacrifice if needed? Run the numbers for a variety of “what if?” scenarios. I'm fortunate to have health insurance through Kris' job — if I didn't, the numbers tell me I couldn't make this leap yet.
  • Manage your money. You should always be smart with your finances. But when you've lost your job, or are about to make a career change, this becomes even more important. I can't imagine making the move to full-time writer if I wasn't debt-free (except for the mortgage). If I still had spending problems, this transition would be even more frightening.
  • Embrace frugality. I've done a great job of developing frugal habits over the past two years. I need to maintain these. I need to make use of the library. I need to walk and bike on my errands instead of driving. I need to follow the tips I share with you.
  • Kill the lifestyle inflation. As my debt-free date approaches, I've begun to loosen the grip I've had on my spending. We've been dining out more often. I've been buying toys and gadgets. I had even begun planning to purchase expensive furniture for the living room. All of this needs to stop now.
  • Bolster the emergency fund. I'm generally an advocate of smaller emergency funds — $500, $1000, $5000. But as I consider my upcoming transition to full-time blogging, I've realized I want to have more in savings. Much more. Though it seems like an impossible goal, I'm going to strive to save $20,000 by the end of 2008. (My mind boggles just to type that number.)
  • Seek professional advice. Consult with an accountant, and maybe even an attorney. There are tax and legal implications that come with starting your own business. Take the time to speak with somebody who knows the rules. Get things right from the start.
  • Pursue multiple streams of income. Most people have a single stream of income — their job. The more income streams you have, though, the more secure you are. My current situation is a perfect example. When I leave my job at the box factory, I need to pursue other income sources as well. I might consider a part-time job. I might pursue computer consulting work. More likely, however, I'll start additional web sites (such as Get Fit Slowly, which I hope to have ready for launch by the first of the year). The more sources of income I have, the safer I'll feel.
  • Define goals. It's always good to know which direction you're headed. In the face of an uncertain future, this becomes even more important. I've thought a lot about this lately. Where will I be in five years? In ten? In twenty? I need to decide what my objectives are, and be sure that my other choices align with these.
  • Focus on what's important. Because I'm placing all of my faith behind this web site, I need to work to make it the best it can be. I need to provide more useful information, offer more tips, help readers find more answers.

The moment I decided to quit my day job, my entire mindset about money changed. It was as if somebody had thrown a switch in my brain. It's more important than ever to practice what I preach. I've entered Ultra-Frugality Mode. I sat down the other day and crafted a new spending plan. I listed exactly what my monthly obligations are, and what my expected income is. The surplus is earmarked to boost my emergency fund as high as it can go.

It feels good to know that I've made some smart money decisions over the past eighteen months. These now serve as a sort of safety net. I don't have a lot of fixed monthly expenses. I've eliminated my debt. I've developed the saving habit. These things will help me as I make the transition to working on my own.

The Dream

This decision has been difficult. The box factory is a safe, comfortable environment. It's a sure thing. By leaving the business, I'm sacrificing stability.

On the other hand, I have to consider what I'm gaining: time. I'm going to gain time to exercise, time to actually respond to e-mail, time to research more extensive articles, time to begin writing the book I've had in mind for the past year. I'm going to have a chance to live the pastoral lifestyle I've always dreamed of.

I'm finally following some of my own advice: I've gathered the guts to pursue my dream. I'm glad to have you along for the ride.

Edit: In the comments, I answer the question, “How much time does running this blog really take?


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fivecentnickel.com
fivecentnickel.com
12 years ago

Wow, big news. Good luck with the transition! As always, let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

Renai LeMay
Renai LeMay
12 years ago

Congratulations from a traditional journalist in Sydney. I have been reading and enjoying GRS for a long time. Keep on following your dreams!

Renai

Dark Sociologist
Dark Sociologist
12 years ago

Congratulations! I’m proud of you that you’ve made such a big decision and have the courage to go through with it.

I was wondering if you have a plan on what you’re going to do with all your extra time or are you going to figure it out as you go?

Savage
Savage
12 years ago

I’ve valued a life of spending wisely and being prepared. You’ve always come across as having a good head on your shoulders and your articles are top notch. Here’s to your continued success. Best of luck!

KMull
KMull
12 years ago

Rock on, JD! I had to give up blogging for now due to the time crunch. It was either my steady income and MBA, or blogging.

I especially love the “lose my thumbs in a blogging accident” comment. Bring it!

Devan
Devan
12 years ago

Congratulations and good luck!

m
m
12 years ago

Congratulations! VERY happy for you!!

Sydney Lagier
Sydney Lagier
12 years ago

Wow, I can identify with your fear–I’m retiring from my job at the end of THIS YEAR, to pursue my dream of full-time retirement.

I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to reading your future posts about what it actually FEELS like to be living that dream!

brief
brief
12 years ago

*applauds* Congrats on deciding to pursue your dream! Looks like you’ve made all the right preparations and are ready to go. It’s OK to be scared – I’ve been a freelancer all my working life, and whenever things slow down, I still get gripped by fear that I’d never get another assignment. You just learn to live with it, really.

Say, whatever happened to Casey Serin?

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

Reading through this for the millionth time (I’ve proofed this post dozens of times over the past couple weeks), I realized that it might not be clear why I’m phasing out slowly instead of making the leap outright. Though Get Rich Slowly is generating $5,000/month now, I worry that it cannot maintain this level. I know that it can maintain $3,000/month, but that’s not quite enough to live on. By giving myself a year to make the transition, I’m freeing up some time to do the things I need to do, while also allowing time for the income to stabilize… Read more »

Jennic
Jennic
12 years ago

Congratulations!! The plan is great. I wish you the best – which I’m sure you will achieve!!

We recently jumped in with both feet into achieving our dream as well, launching the business 3 weeks ago, at http://www.KangarooBoo.com YIKES is about all I can say right now. 🙂 I believe we will succeed, but the ride there is scary.

Strap in for the fun ride!

SJean
SJean
12 years ago

Congratulations, I’m glad to hear it!!

It is apparent you have thought about it a lot and I wish you luck as you move towards your dream!

Amy
Amy
12 years ago

Wow, amazing news! I’ve been following your blog for about a year now, and it’s been inspiring. Congratulations and good luck pursuing your dreams. I’ll be reading and rooting!

Seth
Seth
12 years ago

Congratulations JD. Your blog has been instrumental in my journey as a recovering spendaholic. I hope your new career brings you joy, and blessings.

GL
GL
12 years ago

Good luck! I’ve always likened these moves to clinging to a rock in a river, and letting go…and trusting that what is downstream is better than where you were…always a few bumps, but always worth it!

Matt Haughey
Matt Haughey
12 years ago

Congrats JD! I took the plunge a little over two years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. I remember being really scared when I finally did it, but I had several years of good experience leading up to it and I should have known it’d work out.

Andrea >> Start a consulting business
Andrea >> Start a consulting business
12 years ago

JD, congratulations! In time, you’ll find a way to generate more per hour. I make around $125-150/hour from working on my blog. However, I have several other revenue streams that pay around the same and so I can mitigate risk.

Guy
Guy
12 years ago

Good luck, JD.

mark
mark
12 years ago

Hey man, go for it. I did it 4 years ago and never looked back. You know, the time spend with loved ones and doing the things you love is more important than having loads of money and it’s also where real security comes from — from the people that love you and are willing to be there for you when you need them. If you insulate yourself with loads of money, you might never find that out. Good luck!

Charlie Park
Charlie Park
12 years ago

HUGE news, JD. Congratulations! And welcome aboard!

(And, fwiw, I think you were clear that it’s a transition out.)

Wiktor
Wiktor
12 years ago

From Poland, from beneath 3 feet of snow – congratulations! I’ll keep my fingers crossed and follow the news eagerly – as ever.

fathersez
fathersez
12 years ago

Well done.

Thank you for documenting your plans for “mental freedom”.

I have long wanted to be free, but the fear of losing my crutch of the monthly salary has kept me back.

You have given me and, I am sure, many others renewed inspiration.

I shall continue to follow your blog avidly.

My very best wishes as you work towards your self laid milestones.

Justin
Justin
12 years ago

Spectacular, J.D.!

That’s really excellent news. I wish you good fortune for the transition, and beyond.

Konrad
Konrad
12 years ago

Wonderful story, JD! I’ve been a long time reader of you blog and I think it’s awesome that you decide to take the risk!
I hope you will make it big and inspire more people to follow suit and pursuit their own dreams. Cheers!

Daniel Yokomizo
Daniel Yokomizo
12 years ago

Congrats and good luck. I know it take a leap of faith and lots of gut to do it, coincidentally I’m doing it myself right now.

The Portland Writer
The Portland Writer
12 years ago

A couple of years back my husband took a leap of faith and quit his job as an office furniture installer so he could work from home as a computer consultant. He had recently finished earning two Associates degrees in computers and had been doing computer repair and troubleshooting on the side for a couple years, so it made sense. Although it was the scariest decision we had ever made, we look back now and are so glad we did it. Not only does he make a lot more money (he’s making $25-$100 an hour vs. $12 an hour), but… Read more »

Amy
Amy
12 years ago

Congrats and good luck! One potential way to both build the emergency fund and transition to a single income could be to throw all $ from the box company into your emergency fund. Or do it gradually, hopefully offset by an increase in $ from this site as you have more time for it – as you drop a day at work, try to put 25% more of each paycheck toward the emergency fund (i.e. Jan ’08 put 25% of each away, Apr ’08 put 50% of each away, et cetera). However you choose to manage it, best of luck… Read more »

Skellie
Skellie
12 years ago

A lot of people make the snap decision to try and go pro, but you’ve put in the necessary work and preparation beforehand and based the decision on maths. I think you’re going to have heaps of success, and it’ll be great for us (and your family) to see more of you.

Josh
Josh
12 years ago

Awesome. And you have a great opportunity to slowly phase out the old job — I’m glad you can do that.

Also, with the whole ‘going solo’ comes a possible future series — the mechanics of establishing your own business, taxes, filings, etc. I’m thinking of creating my own business, but I’m at a loss for details to do it legitimately.

Best of luck going forward, you’ve done a fantastic job.

YC
YC
12 years ago

J.D., very sensible planning and also advice to others who are looking to jump into pro blogging. You’ve broken it down into very detailed structures and reasons to help realize your aim and I wish you all the best! If I had known more about this before I started, it’d have been a tremendous help!

Pat
Pat
12 years ago

Great news, JD! Thanks for such an inspiring site–it has helped me through the dark days of credit-card phone calls, the possibility of bankruptcy, and much stress. I’m not out of the woods, but at least I am on a path now instead of wandering lost in the wilderness.

Be sure to check out Yaro at http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com –lots of great advice for the multiple-stream blogger!

Ron
Ron
12 years ago

Congratulations! I’m hoping to start a blog in January and parlay it into a similar situation over the course of a few years. You, my friend, are an inspiration.

I really enjoy your content and point of view.

Keep up the good work!

B Carter
B Carter
12 years ago

Congratulations on making the decision to go pro. This is my first visit to your blog, but I’ll be adding it to my favorites. What you’re doing is what I dream of doing, so thanks for writing this and letting everyone know that it can be done.

John
John
12 years ago

I had a long talk with some fellow comickers at a convention recently and one of the busier ones made that “one big income stream” vs. “having lots of small- to medium-sized clients/projects” comparison to a few of us w/ a full-time job. Sure, having a bunch of clients/projects took more fancy footwork, networking, and innovation than having your typical day job, and you had to get your own insurance and put together your own retirement plan, but that’s the price you pay for security. That conversation has stuck with me since then, and I’m now more focused on finding… Read more »

TorbenGB
TorbenGB
12 years ago

First of all: Congratulations with your success so far. That hard work paid off. Congratulations also with your Big Decision! Lots of “box factory” workers envy you because they’re afraid to take the leap themselves.

Then: I am curious how you get that kind of revenue off of a (any) blog. I can’t believe it’s just from ads/referral links? It would be interesting to learn what works.

Rock on!

Sandy J
Sandy J
12 years ago

Go JD! And definitely start up Get Fit Slowly… I’d be a dedicated reader!

Tari Akpodiete
Tari Akpodiete
12 years ago

Huge congrats, JD.

It’s great to see someone with a serious and professionally thought out transition plan. I wish you continued and progressive success. Hopefully many more will watch and learn from you, not just about finances, but about the realities of blogging for a living.

Right now, so many people seem to be quitting their day jobs left and right with stars in their eyes about getting rich immediately from blogging. It doesn’t help that there are so many ‘net marketers’ out there making unrealistic promises to the gullible about striking the motherlode.

Colleen in MA
Colleen in MA
12 years ago

I’m so happy for you! I learn something every time I come to this site. Thank you for sharing not only your goal but your step-by-step business plan. It’s interesting to hear inspirational stories about how people pursued their dreams, but it’s even more interesting to get to see the business plan and the pros and cons and the “real life” of it all. And let me tell you, there are risks involved with everything. I suppose you could lose my thumbs in a blogging accident :0) but it’s also true that accepting a full-time corporate job is not a… Read more »

TheWebmastersCafe.net
TheWebmastersCafe.net
12 years ago

Good J.D.

I am pursuing more or less the same goal. I want to generate most of my income from affiliate marketing but I’d also like to generate some from my blog.

I’ve got to your website from a post made on problogger.com

Keep on the good work! I’ll subscribe to your feed!

Him
Him
12 years ago

Awesome! How about getting those precious thumbs of yours insured?

Like Nickel said, if you’re looking for any help, shoot us an email.

JerichoHill
JerichoHill
12 years ago

JD,

Yeah, thanks for letting me be a little part of your dream.

As for the offers of helping out, GRS readers, one way you can help is to continue to provide feedback on the site and let the mod staff know what else you’d like to see.

Sandy
Sandy
12 years ago

You’ve taken a very sensible approach to everything. My view is if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything, so burning the candle at both ends isn’t wise. That will catch up with anybody. If worse comes to worse, which I doubt it will, can you get your old job back? I’m sure they would rehire you, as would many other places. Meanwhile, go for it. This is your reward for all the efforts you’ve made re getting out of debt & becoming responsible for your spending. Now you can follow your passions. The climbing the rock wall… Read more »

Jason Lewin
Jason Lewin
12 years ago

Thanks for sharing, I hope one day I can follow you lead.

Jay

guinness416
guinness416
12 years ago

Seems like you’ve been puzzling over this one for a while, congratulations for making the leap!

FinanceAndFat
FinanceAndFat
12 years ago

Wow! Congratulations! I’m so jealous- but in a good way. 🙂

I’m sure your blogging income will increase exponentially as you have more time to devote to it. Best of luck!

Debo Hobo
Debo Hobo
12 years ago

How exciting I think with this well thought out plan your ‘hop of faith’ into the pro-blogger field will be a smooth transition.

Mrs. Micah
Mrs. Micah
12 years ago

Good luck with this! Since the box factory is a family business, will it still be an option if the blogging doesn’t work out in the long run?

The Financial Philosopher
The Financial Philosopher
12 years ago

“Life is not about making money — money is about making a life…” Those words from author, Mitch Anthony, rang in my ears as I started my own investment advisory firm last year… Don’t forget that finances are just part of “life planning.” When I stopped “working for the man” I found my creativity exploded and stress was tremendously reduced. My income has not yet reached peak levels but the “returns” I receive from self-fulfillment go far beyond monetary measure. Gettting rich slowly is prudent only when money takes a back seat to your dream. Be happy and the money… Read more »

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
12 years ago

My advice is to have plans for how to use that extra time, or it will just evaporate. Don’t just say, “Well, I’ll work on GRS more then,” because you’ll find yourself doing the same amount of work on GRS and filling the rest of the time with other, random things.

Cindy
Cindy
12 years ago

Congrats!!!! I wish you the best of luck and I am sure this will work out wonderfully for you.

Be careful of those thumbs, though. 😉

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