How to be an entrepreneur without quitting your day job

Ignore the noise. Don’t quit your job prematurely.

I’ve told you my story about how I quit my job as an auditor for one of the Big Four professional services firms, you can read here and here.

To keep it all the way real, I was only able to quit when I did because at 22, I had limited financial responsibilities. I also had the added comfort of parental support which meant that I would never really hit rock bottom even if things didn’t go as planned.

Getting caught up in the ‘chase your dreams’ and ‘decade of the entrepreneur’ hype, can lead to irresponsible decisions. As frustrating and upsetting as it can be to show up everyday to a job that you know in your heart is not for you, especially when you know what is for you, it is character building and your time there will have benefited you when you come round to eventually jumping ship.

The discipline it takes to deliver great results even when you aren’t fully invested in your job, will make you a more successful entrepreneur. I don’t really buy into the whole ‘I’m not a 9 to 5 person’ thing. I mean, it is valid, but only to an extent. Because when you become an entrepreneur, you will sometimes work round the clock and your job will most likely involve some admin tasks similar to those you hated at your old job. If you can’t find the discipline to work even when you don’t like the task, you might struggle to run your own business.

I think that life is about seasons. I believe that there is a season to put in the work and be uncomfortable, learn painful lessons and build your character, and then there is a season to take control and make sure you never work one more day of your life on a job that is not ultimately going to fulfill your spirit.

I also strongly believe that you can start to chase your dreams while you are still working your 9-5 job and earning a monthly pay cheque. I believe that that is one of the best ways to start building the life of your dreams- without adding on financial constraints that hinder you and your creativity. There are steps that you should take before you finally quit your job, but we can cover that in another post. Let’s focus on how to keep your dream and your day job.

People overestimate how long it will take them to deplete their savings, even when they have lots of savings before quitting their job. It is also important to establish before you leave your job that you can actually build a customer base- that there is demand for whatever product or service you are offering, and that there is sufficient demand to make a living off of. It is also best to acquire some of your important assets while you still have a job. In my case, I had a camera and all my lenses before I left my job. Your workplace might also have discounts on certain items. I definitely miss my 20% phone bill discount and Virgin Atlantic silver card! The major problem that you will face in being an entrepreneur without giving up your day job, is time. This is crazy but I actually published more content before I left my job, than the months immediately after I left. So, time will be a challenge, but it definitely is possible. My tunnel vision coupled with all the time pressure fueled a determination to use every spare moment efficiently. It also meant that I lost a lot of my social life but when you really want it, you get it by all means necessary. The financial freedom you have from your day job allows you to still maintain your creativity and not accept work that stifles your creative freedom just because you’re worried that rent might not get paid.

So, how do you keep your dream and your day job?

Become a Time Management Genius: The most important factor is time. It is much easier if you have a job that is an actual 9-5. My job was longer hours, especially between the months of January and April when I could be working until midnight. Evenings and weekends are no longer free time. But when you’re working your passion, especially during the early days, you’ll get a lot more satisfaction from working, than watching a TV show or whatever else. Of course, balance is important in life. I don’t have as much balance as I should- I’m happy to stay home to blog and miss a party. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make sure you aren’t wasting your time. Things like who the DJ at the club is on a particular night started to matter to me- I’m not sacrificing scheduling two blog posts, for a night struggling to vibe to a DJ playing music that isn’t hip-hop! Lol. Depending on your type of job, you might also be able to take a break from your day job during your hour long lunch break, and work your passion. I’ve been known to sprint to fashion week brunches and make it back before the hour was up. Obviously, the less demanding your job is, the easier this will be. If you work a 60 hour job or something like that, you might need to consider transitioning to a less demanding job or department.

Stay Motivated: If your passion really ignites a fire within you, you’ll need very little extra to stay motivated. Seeing people begin to believe in and buy into your hustle is an exhilarating feeling. Each interaction gets you closer to the day that you can actually chase your dreams full-time. That thought alone, will motivate you more than you can imagine. Having targets for your side hustle that you’re working hard to meet and setting a leaving date also helps to keep you going even when it gets very tough!

Stay Inspired: Read literature related to your passion field and study the stories, habits and practices of people who have been successful at it. This is just to inspire you, not to intimidate you. Do not compare yourself to them. Everyone has a different path, focus on growing yours. I read a lot of fashion and travel magazines and followed my favourite blogs religiously. This was also important to inspire creative ideas even though I spent most of my time in a conservative environment.

Consider a Transition Job: Another way to work your passion is to learn the skills that you will need when you go full-time, while you are still employed. After I left finance, I moved on to Buying & Merchandising and learnt some of the most important lessons about the fashion industry. For example, how few people actually buy £500 tops and the volume of clothing that gets returned to designers every season. I wanted to work in a more creative space and learn more about the fashion industry, but wasn’t quite ready to go out on my own yet. You might want to consider moving to the marketing department of your firm, or something better suited to your passion where you can pick up more skills necessary for the day you throw up the peace sign.

Start to View Your Job Differently: Start to view your job through the lens of your dream. For example, if you’re an accountant, make sure that you’re focused enough on your job to ensure that you’ll have the skills necessary to complete your own company accounts when you leave. That will save your start-up some good money. Start to read more meaning into the protocol and processes that exist in your current workplace and note how they can best be applied to your new company. I’m assuming the company that you’re working at actually works, so pick up tips that will help within your own company. Try not to view it as simply mundane. My finance job had a wealth of free online training which I should have been more proactive about- everything from excel training to HR training. Don’t be the person that ends up having to pay for skills that you could have gained for free. You’ll need to save every possible penny when you venture out on your own.

Stay Mentally Switched On: Your current employer deserves full commitment to the job you are being paid to do. So make sure that you stay mentally switched on while acquiring all these skills and working your passion. It is so important not to give up until 5pm on your last day or whenever the work day ends. You want your current colleagues to remain part of your network and to always have you in mind as someone who delivered great results. They might bring you invaluable future opportunities. Admittedly, I wish I paid a lot more attention to this. You also have to remember that being an entrepreneur means that you will one day employ staff of your own. Treat your job how you want your own staff to treat your company.

You Might Never Need To Leave: You might never need to leave your day job to chase your dreams! Take Sheryl Sandberg for example, she lives a pretty dreamy life to me (and she seems very happy with her career too!). She is the COO of Facebook and a New York Times best-selling author, amongst other things. Because you have other goals and dreams doesn’t mean that you have to leave a job that you enjoy.

Needless to say, there are people who have their dream day jobs and would never face these issues- that is beautiful too! At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to be happy.

It takes time to get paid for doing what you love. I get many more emails asking me to work for free, than those wanting to pay for my services. Ofcourse, I just ignore a lot of them now. But, it most likely is going to be difficult and there is no easy way to do it. Don’t dismiss chasing your dreams because it gets too tough or you’re sometimes sleep deprived. If you take the necessary steps to make the transition as financially convenient as possible, you will thank yourself.

And if the Monday after that Friday when you walked out of your office for good, you’re actually able to earn money, you will not regret all the sleepless nights and the fact that you don’t have to deal with a new case of severe anxiety.

It’s all about making it easiest for yourself through a gradual transition.

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