I Quit My Job to Start a Business – Wrong Decision?

black and white office building at night

Some time ago, I mentioned in passing that I planned to quit my job to branch out on my own. Well, I pulled the trigger in April. Right before we left for beautiful Europe, I said “so long” to my employer of five years. I felt a bit sad when I told my boss — I enjoyed her and our team — but it was time.

Time for countless reasons. Like corporate overlords become ever more corporate to “streamline” jobs and responsibilities.

Time because the friends I made there left voluntarily or “moved on” *wink* or were following me out the door shortly after.

Time because my mental health was deteriorating. Anxiety would wash over me as I rode the bus to work. Nausea was a close enemy on my daily commute. I believed I had developed movement sickness. But then I realized it also cropped up during our inane meetings. Or whenever another manager decided to pop in and micro-manage me to death. Even seemingly small things like a batch of fresh emails to pour over would knock me down until I wanted to curl up and die — or at the very least, vomit.

It strained my relationship with Mrs. Fi. It was soul-sucking. It was everything you hear about corporate jobs. 

So Why Would Anyone Continue Working in the Corporate World?

The reasons people continue on, from my limited experience, are many:

  • They actually enjoy their job (rare).
  • It provides stability.
  • It makes them feel important.
  • For the pay and benefits.
  • It let’s them buy shit that provide temporary solitude from their job.
    cartoonish business man laughing into a phone sitting at this desk in front of an old mac computer.; quit my job
    Susan, you are killing me with your stories! Literally, I’m dying inside.

Those are all valid reasons. But the last one is the CATCH 22. I need the job to buy the stuff to make me forget about that job I started to loathe. But since stuff only provides momentary joy, it never really ends.

Many who read this will agree. It’s why early retirement is so desirous. I’ve read countless blogs that tell the story of why people became early retirees. It was simply to escape their job. That was the initial driving force.

Many evolved to add nobler goals like spending more time with friends and family, globe-trotting, picking up hobbies they never had time for, helping others, etc.

But it was their desire for something else than their 9-5 that drove them.

It drove us. 

It still drives my wife (sorry, honey). Letting me quit was a risk for her dream, and mine, but she acknowledged my current job was hard on me and even though it would set our retirement timeline back, she let me try.

So I Quit My Job. Now What?

Embarking on a three-week European jaunt was a nice way to transition into self-employment. It was fun and relaxing and I didn’t need to worry about vacation time or how many emails I would face on my return. When we returned, however, I faced the question of “now what?”

I had a rough outline of what I needed to do to get my business going but once faced with the actual proposition of doing it, it felt a little daunting. 

I quit one marketing job for another. See, I do SEO and digital marketing for small businesses and non-profits. I took courses on SEO and already had a good marketing foundation from my previous position. But this isn’t exactly my dream job either. 

Don’t get me wrong, its neat being my own boss and it’s a lot more fun than marketing products you don’t believe in. But this is a stop-gap/eventual side income to something I really want to do-which is provide financial advice, like we do on this blog, to real people. Hands on stuff. Teach people how to budget, invest, create goals, pay down debt, and a detailed approach to their financial life. A sort of hybrid of financial advice and life coach.

I’m partnering with a good friend of mine I’ve known since high school to create a financial coaching business. He’ll have his Series 7 completed in the coming months and I will work to obtain a certification as well. We’re still working out the details, making sure we’re aware of our personality traits, thoughts on how it should work, who our target market is, etc.

So that part is exciting. In the meantime, I continue work on my SEO business which I hope will be a nice side-hustle to my financial coaching job. I approached this in a non-orthodox way, that’s for certain.

How’s All This Working Out So Far?

So far, it is okay. I wish I could report it’s great, but getting off the ground is tough stuff. Getting people to trust you, building a base, getting referrals, and all of that takes time. I am 6 months in now and I’ve had 4 clients with 3-4 more promised to start soon. The most frustrating part is having people seem interested and then later ignore you or keep pushing the timeline out.

Black lab sitting in room with sun shining on his face; quit my job
Please hire my dad.

I don’t mind if people say no to me. I don’t like being ignored or strung along but I don’t have much choice in the matter since I need any work I can get.

I’ve done some freelancing through Upwork. That is a good place to get a few clients and get something in your portfolio but Upwork takes a 20% cut of your earnings and you often have competition from places like India who charge a 1/5 of what I charge. It isn’t a long-term solution.

I built my website, made business cards, tried out networking groups, made connections with well-connected people, and it’s really had no effect–yet. I am optimistic more work will follow. And the clients I’ve done work for have all recommended me highly.

Self-Employment isn’t for Everyone

It may not even be for me ultimately. But I needed to find out. I still need to figure lots of things like how my taxes will work, decide if I need to create an LLC, etc. But since my income is so low now, I’m not terribly concerned about those things at the moment. The good news is I have made more money than I’ve spent in getting up and running and so most everything from here on out is net income.

Still, there are days of self-doubt. Of worry because things are much tighter financially. Guilt because my wife set aside her dreams for mine. It’s not a cake walk.

In the end, I left the corporate world to be my own boss instead of trying to stick it out until we could retire (roughly 8 more years at the time I quit). I don’t know if that’s the solution for us. There are good businesses that do good things who don’t crush your soul. I could see myself working in those places (if they’d have me). But the immediate solution was there. I wanted to take a risk. I wanted to see if I could actually start a business and succeed. Even if I ultimately fail, I don’t feel it was the wrong choice to quit my job. I know the knowledge I’ve already gained will be a great help in future endeavors. And I have lots of time to make this work.

But I think the hardest part is knowing our dream of retiring early, while still feasible, is further away. That’s difficult to deal with. I liked that we saved almost 60% of our income last year. This year, it will be more like 15%.

Questions, Feedback?

I wrote this post a bit hastily. I’ve sat on it for so long I just wanted to get it out there. If there’s anything I didn’t address that you’re curious about, please ask in the comments. I hope to write more going forward on different topics, but I felt this post had priority. Also, if you have any advice for me or know someone who could use SEO help (hint), I am open to that as well!

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