About two years ago, I was working at a preschool in Japan. I’d like to tell you that it was an enjoyable experience, but if we’re being honest, it was one of the most miserable jobs I’ve ever had. I love kids — their sincerity and silliness have always drawn me close to them, but tending to screaming toddlers for nine hours a day left me feeling a bit like screaming myself. But being a foreigner in Japan, I realized I didn’t have the language skills or experience to do much else than be an English teacher. I was stuck.
I’m sure you’ve heard this cliche enough, but I’ll say it again: if you’d have told me that one year later, I’d have created my own dream job, I’m not sure I would have believed you. But it was true. And it happened. And so, too, can it happen to you. One of the questions I get asked most often is, “how did you go from your day job to being a full-time business owner?” I know why people are so curious about this. I scoured the internet myself at many points, hoping to find some answers of my own. But more than anything, I was searching for hope and encouragement — something that would make this impossible thing seem a helluva lot more doable. Today, I’d like to share a bit about how I was able to quit my day job to pursue my dream job, along with a few tips on how you can, too.
Like I mentioned, a couple years ago I was working as a preschool teacher in the heart of Tokyo. Many aspects of the job didn’t seem to suit me, but I remember one day when my boss asked me to design a flyer for our small (and very new) school. I’d never worked professionally as a designer and she likely only chose me for the task because I had brought my computer with me to work that day, rather than for any obvious skill I bore. When I handed her the finished product, she was delighted. She began to hand me more and more items to design — brochures, posters, and the school’s blog, among other things. It was thrilling to finally put my hobby practice into actual use. It was also around the time when I decided to start a creative outlet of my own, The Nectar Collective.
I ended up leaving that job for another teaching position in Tokyo, all while working on my blog during any free moment I had. I’ve admittedly been obsessed with blogging since about the time I started this blog. It began as a creative release from my stressful school days and ended up becoming an even larger and more prominent part of my life than I ever could have expected. But even with all the hours I put into it, I didn’t start making much money until I decided to put some of my design skills into virtual practice.
I’d seen plenty of bloggers run graphic design businesses on the side and thought that I could join in, too, as a fun little hobby. I never ever expected blogging or designing to take me anywhere other than something fun to do on weeknights. All I knew was that I was following the direction of what I loved, which I’ve realized is perhaps the most important rule in finding a career that makes you look forward to Mondays. In July, 2013, I launched “Bumble + Buzz Design” (now “The Nectar Collective Design“) — a lengthy play on words of the “nectar” theme. My first month in business, I made about $900, — which, albeit small, — as an accidental business owner, was unbelievably exciting. It was hardly enough to pay my rent, but I knew it could be much more, if I took a greater leap.
The next two months, I continued to work as a high school English teacher in Tokyo, while also writing on The Nectar Collective and designing blogs and websites every free chance I had. I worked constantly, but the thrill of building my own business was enough to keep me going. Within three months of becoming an accidental freelance web designer, I was making enough of an income to quit my job as a teacher in order to pursue blogging and design full-time. Now, I don’t want you to think I was raking in the dough during those first three months. I most certainly was not. I think I made around $1,800 during my third month in business — not an insignificant amount, but certainly not livable in Tokyo, or California where I would soon return to. Despite my arguably mediocre paycheck, I felt compelled to pursue this gig full time. Somewhere in my heart, I knew that if I put in the work, especially without a day job eating up my time, I’d be able to do it.
Now, after freelancing for about a year, I can safely say it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Aside from reaching monetary goals I never really would have thought possible, I’ve also cultivated a sense of inner-happiness, independence, and success that are deeply meaningful to my life. Before I go, I want to leave you with a few pieces of advice that have undoubtedly helped me along the way. If you have any questions, I’m also happy to answer them in the comments. 🙂
1. Hustle your butt off.
Oh, you’re not starting that business you always dreamed of because you already have a demanding job? Then work on it at night. Or on weekends. Or on your lunch break. It will be one part overwhelming, one part how-in-the-hell-do-I-even-have-time-for-this and two parts WHOA I’M ACTUALLY DOING IT. The hustle will be worth it, you just have to make the time.
2. Start a blog. (Or at least a website). (No, on second thought: Start a blog).
I should (and probably will) write an entire post dedicated to why you NEED a blog if you want to start any kind of business, but I was lucky in that I happened to start my blog without ever realizing I needed it. Blogs are incredible marketing tools, and while you may not see a huge, direct monetary return from writing daily posts, you will absolutely receive new visitors and potential clients. Think of it this way: if you only build a website for your business, you’re offering about five pages of content to search engines, hoping your shiz will stand out against about a zillion other sites with nearly the exact same info. Blogs can add an enormous amount of authority to your site, not to mention hundreds of other posts and pages that will lead search engine visitors straight to your services page. Plus, blogs are crazy fun. You should get one.
3. Take the leap just before you think you can.
So you’ve followed steps 1 and 2 — you’re hustling and have a sweet blog to boot. But when do you take that final jump? When do you quit your day job to pursue this new gig full-time? I can’t really tell you that there’s a precise formula for this, and everyone’s situation is different. What I can tell you is that you’ll probably never be ready. I don’t say that to discourage you. What I actually mean is that if you keep waiting for a time when you feel like you’ve got this in the bag, you’ll probably never begin. Make the leap just before you think you can. It might be scary. But it will probably also be totally awesome.
4. Invest. In. Yo. Self.
One thing I almost never held back on was investing in my budding business. I was keen to invest in anything from learning tools to software — anything that would help my business or myself. I encourage you to do the same. It’s easy to trap ourselves beneath the excuse of, “I’ll start investing in my blog/business when it starts to earn more money,” but it’s a catch 22 and will likely only hold you back. Your business deserves it, and really, so do you.
I’d love to answer any questions you have in the comments. And if you’re looking to start a business of your own, I encourage you wholeheartedly to try. You’d be amazed what you’re capable of. Have a beautiful day! 🙂