Q & A: Quitting Your Job

August 31, 2011

I am frequently asked questions, online and off, about the details surrounding how I quit my job. Before January 2010, when I did it myself, I never realized how many of you amazing folks had similar goals and dreams. Or, I should say that I never realized how many people not only wanted to quit their jobs, but really were willing to learn about their options and actually take action towards making it happen some day. Go, you! Because you guys? You all rock.

Easily, the question I get most often is, “How did you do it?”

When asked, I usually end up answering with something intelligent like, “It’s comprised of, umm…a lot, umm, of stuff.”

To finally answer the question completely and to gather all the details in one place, I’m posting a Question & Answer session on the very subject. I hope that this helps clarify the real details surrounding what it took for me to comfortably quit my day job to do what I loved, and how you can learn to do the same.

This is how it happened for me.

I hope you find it useful when making it happen for yourself.

What business did you build that allowed you to be ok financially with quitting your full-time job?

I built a business with a company called Vemma Nutrition, that pays independent distributors to market their product and build a network of people doing the same thing via a network marketing model. The company is based in Scottsdale, Arizona and I was introduced to it by a good friend of mine, who also happened to be my boss’s wife. I launched the business in July of 2007 alongside my full-time job.

Can I still build a business and eventually quit my job, even if network marketing isn’t a fit for me?

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Networking was what I chose, because it was the best fit for me and my lifestyle and my experience at the time. And it worked brilliantly. Now that I’ve been out of corporate for 18+ months I’m working on not only growing my Vemma business, but generating additional streams of income, too. Eventually, on top of generally advising people how to generate a stream of income in their own unique ways, I’ll be able to specifically teach people how to generate a streams of incomes via network marketing, freelance writing, or real estate investing.

Networking was best for me, and I used it (and continue to) as an amazing vehicle to launch me and Hubz into entirely different levels with our other businesses and our lives.

I wouldn’t be able to be at home, spending time every day writing and blogging if it weren’t for my Vemma business.
I wouldn’t be able to be at home, helping Hubz find and remodel and rent out investment properties with a newly obtained real estate license if it weren’t for my Vemma business.

It was a vehicle for me to get from point A to point B, and I will forever be in debt to the company and its leadership for what it has allowed me to do.

The rest of the answers are general, and I hope you find that they will apply to your situation no matter what unique business you choose to develop.

Why didn’t you quit your job and then launch a business? Wouldn’t that have been easier?

That depends on your definition of easier. For me, I didn’t want to quit my job until I had already successfully built a business that, once I quit, could easily replace the salary I was earning in the corporate world. I was willing to sacrifice my time for a little while when trying to do both more so than I was willing to sacrifice my finances and my lifestyle. This is also the reason that I didn’t quit my full-time job the moment my business earnings equaled, and then surpassed my salary.

I’m young. I have many, many years ahead of me in financial planning and in life. I wasn’t just about to jump off the cliff at the first sign of success. I was going to jump, but I was going to be prepared. I was going to be ahead financially, not just even, I was going to be ready.

And plus, talk about, umm…SCARY. Please don’t quit your job and then launch a business. Please please please. Pretty please.

Well, do it if you must, I suppose. But please don’t mind me watching with my hands over my eyes while you do it. Yikes!

How did you build it around your schedule?

There are many one-word answers that would brilliantly satisfy this question; Prioritization. Sacrifice. Determination. Commitment. Nooks-and-crannies-ness.

I built it around my life, around my full-time job, the best I could. During certain periods, I also built it around planning my wedding and remodeling our personal home. Doing so requires discipline and a determination the likes of which you have never experienced before. You have to be sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a) this is something you want to be doing, and b) that it will be worth it in the end.

I was sure of both.

I knew the vision of what I wanted (read: time freedom) and was willing to do whatever it took in the short term to make that vision come true for the long term.

I made phone calls while driving to and from work in the mornings and the evenings. I scheduled phone appointments during the lunch hour, often skipping lunch to do so. I communicated as many things as I could via text message, so I could respond to something on the way back to my desk from a meeting, or on the way down to the cafe to get coffee. I worked almost every evening for a couple hours, and at least one day every weekend. I all but gave up television, aside from the occasional weekend DVR session. I resigned myself to the fact that the laundry wouldn’t always be done on time and the dishes would sometimes pile up in the sink. I was ok with it. It was a short term thing.

Many days I made a list while laying down to go to sleep the night before of 4 to 5 things that, if I did nothing else, had to be completed the following day. If I completed them, even if life got in the way of everything else, I considered the day a success.

I lived by the 80/20 rule. Nothing was going to be perfect for a little bit, and my life became so much easier and less stressful when I decided that I would be ok with that.

I made sure I had a spouse who was on board before I started. I wasn’t the only one sacrificing.

Long story short: I decided it was going to happen, and I didn’t let any excuse get in my way. Short term sacrifice for long term gain.

No one has extra time just sitting around, hoping to be filled. You have to make it, and that only happens with everything I mentioned above: prioritization, determination, sacrifice, and commitment. And repurposing the formerly wasted nooks and crannies of your day!

What did you struggle with?

I struggled with the continual self-motivation. Over long periods of time, it’s exhausting. I went through a few (very short) burn-outs.

How did you get past those?

Making sure that the burn-out moments only lasted a day. Two at the most.

I also scheduled “times off” where I gave myself permission to not feel guilty about laxing and not working as hard as I usually did. Vacations, occasional weekends with family, etc. They were infrequent, but when they arrived I let myself completely off the hook for a couple days. There was no way to allow the time off to refresh me and recharge my batteries unless I unplugged 1000%.

It worked. It still works. Every time.

Did you have to save to start the business? How did you do that?

Due to the nature of networking, I had no start-up costs. My costs to run the business were limited to about $150 a month in product that I personally consumed and the value of my time.

That’s partly why I choose the business I did, no start-up investment. If I launched another type of business that required up front moola, I would have incorporated that into my plans, and the process would have been the same, just extended a bit to accommodate for that saving time.

Did you work on your business at all while you were at work?

Yes. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I worked on my business while I was at my full-time job. Was that a big reason for my success? No. But it helped, no doubt about it.

I think everyone, to a certain degree, does a little bit of personal work while at their work work. Whether it’s calling your child’s school or making a doctor’s appointment or sending two emails to prospects, it happens.

Most days I would limit my outside work to a few minutes here and there throughout my day. Other days it would be…worse.

I struggled early on with personal guilt over this subject. For a while, I thought I would quit early and get a part-time hourly job somewhere so that I could have more time to build my business and not feel guilty about it. However, after months and months of contemplation, I realized a couple things:

1) Corporate is corporate. Even if you have close, professional relationships with several of the people you work for, it’s still corporate. In the end, the company doesn’t care about you, they care about their business. If they didn’t care about me, I realized, I wasn’t going to care too much about them.

2) If I was doing my job and completing my projects as assigned, I wasn’t going to feel guilty. I shouldn’t feel guilty. My Type A personality raged for a long time that I wasn’t doing my best and wasn’t going above and beyond, but I made the decision to ignore that and drowned that Type A chica in my hard work.

I walked a fine line between doing my job yet not caring one bit about my job. I completed it, but didn’t care about it. I took risks. I realize that not everyone might not be able to be as risky. I had a spouse with a salary just as great as mine, we didn’t have children to support, and we were financially stable. However, even if I wasn’t able to be as risky, I still could have done what I did. I would have adjusted and worked harder and longer after hours than I personally had to.

It still would have worked, just required a bit of extra time.

What did you do at that corporate job again?

I was a software designer for a large healthcare software company based locally in Kansas City. I was a computer geek.

Wait. I still am.

Moving on.

How did you keep your employer from finding out about your outside venture?

I didn’t. Sort of.

I didn’t talk about it directly online, yet I didn’t hide it either. I didn’t openly talk about it at work, either, but if someone happened to ask something specific about it, I wouldn’t lie. I didn’t try to hide it. I did, however, downplay the significance of my business on my life, my finances, and my future plans.

How did they react when you finally resigned?

They were surprised. Not that I resigned, but by the timing of it. As I sat in a conference room, too early on a Friday morning to be considered normal, and slid my resignation letter across the table to my manager, he said, “Yeah, I knew you had plans to do this someday, but, man, I never realized it would happen so soon.”

How did you finally decide to pull the plug?

When it became clear that, financially, it was becoming more and more real that I was earning beyond just a part-time income with my business, we set a bunch of goals. In my journal, I think it was titled something like Annie’s Retirement List. It was the list of items that had to be achieved, completed, or set into place before we could even think about pulling the plug.

The list included things like, the business must be profiting 25% more than your current corporate salary, add however much to our savings account, purchase a new car, purchase a new computer and get it all set up, etc. We tried to come up with any and all big financial hurdles and add them to the list to be completely taken care of before we even set a date for resignation. I drove a beat-up car and we knew that purchasing a new one was in the near future, so we made sure to accomplish that first and get past it financially. The computer I used was my corporate computer, so buying a new laptop, copying all my personal files over, and getting my own home office set-up was a must.

We didn’t want to be stuck with any surprises after I resigned.

We don’t have any revolving debt (read: credit card balances), but if we did, paying ALL of those off would have been on the list. I was already covered under Hubz’s insurance, but if I wasn’t and my employer was providing it for me, taking care of that would have also been added to the list.

In mid December 2009, we were sitting in the living room and I flipped open my notebook to review the list. We realized with a start that all of them had been met, looked at each other from across the room with wide eyes, and then Hubz said, “Well, let’s get past the holidays a couple weeks, then…go for it. Set your date.”

And then I died of happiness. Then I came back to life, threw my arms into the air, exhaled the largest breath I’ve ever taken in my life, and opened up my calendar.

Did you involve any of your co-workers in your business?

Nope. It wasn’t worth it. I was already being risky enough, I didn’t need to add accusations of using co-workers for outside ventures to my list of Things To Feel Guilty About.

Not involving them was just…easier. However, it did make for some interesting conversations once I announced my resignation. Because I didn’t involve them, most had no clue how or what or why I was doing what I was doing. It was a whole other part of me I had to introduce to them. It was interesting. And fun. And interesting.

How did you mentally handle separating your two drastically different “lives” – one by day, one by night?

Very carefully. And with a lot of determination and discipline and lack of emotion.

As I’ve mentioned, I had to care just enough to get my work done, but not care so much that I was bothered by the fact that I was working harder for myself than for my employer. Once I taught myself how to let go the emotion surrounding my full-time job, leaving it behind the moment I stepped out of my cubicle became easy. My mind immediately switched from employer mode to Annie mode, and I was off to the races.

How long did all of this take you?

I decided in the spring of 2005 that I wanted to find something to build that could help me get out of corporate. I was 24 at the time. I worked with two network marketing companies in two years and, despite my hard work, failed miserably. I launched my Vemma business in July 2007, replaced my full-time salary with the profit Vemma was earning me by the end of 2008, and had met all of my goals and resigned by January 2010 at the age of 29.

So, it took me almost 5 years from the first realization that this was what I wanted, and then two and a half years with Vemma, the vehicle that got me there.

What’s your main piece of advice for someone who wants to do what you did?

You have to be determined and committed. You have to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it will happen. That it’s simply a matter of time. I knew the first day I started work at 22 years old that I wouldn’t be there forever, and it was barely two years later that I realized I was ready to start working towards that goal. I had no idea how it would happen, it just knew that it would. Someday somehow.

That’s the type of mentality you have to have.

You will have setbacks, you will fail, you will do things wrong. The trick to making it happen is that you keep moving forward anyway, regardless of all of that stuff. Let the failures and the mistakes stop you and it will never happen.

I also think that a little bit of faith helps. Faith in whatever you have faith in. A belief that when it’s supposed to happen, it will, and if it’s not time yet, then it’s not time yet.

And that’s all she wrote, folks! What other questions do you have about my story of how I quit my job?¬†What questions may I help with regarding you quitting your job? If that’s your cup of tea, of course.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, share it in the comments below and I’ll update the post with your question.

Happy job-quitting. Wohooo!

Life is so grand, isn’t it?

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