Welcome to Out on Their Own, where brave women share the nitty gritty stories of how they kicked their 9-5 jobs to the curb and began living the One Woman Shop lifestyle. If you want to share your story, email us!
Meet Kelly Gurnett. She runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.
What prompted you to quit your job? Was it one moment or was it simmering for awhile?
It had been simmering for a long time. I never really wanted to enter the 9-to-5 office world after graduation, but I just kind of fell into it due to some health issues in college that left me ill-prepared for the writer/editor/journalist career I always dreamed I'd have. With each year that passed, my frustration and depression over how much I hated my circumstances (and how unlikely it seemed I'd ever get out of them) built until finally, I'd had enough. It was one of those "I've got nothing to lose, so why not try?" moments. I was so incredibly miserable where I was, I was willing to do anything to change things. And to be honest? It's embarrassing, but the one "tipping point" moment, if I had to pinpoint it, was when I was home on a "mental health" day (a.k.a. I hated my job so much I couldn't get out of bed in the morning) and Julie & Julia happened to be on TV. I thought, "Well, blogging worked for her, so what the hell?" And the next day, I started brainstorming ideas for CCIQ. It's kind of silly, the things that can "inspire" you when you're desperate for inspiration, but it worked!
What (if anything) did you do to prepare for the transition?
Quitting my job to freelance was a careful, deliberate process that took 2.5 years from start to finish. I started blogging and guest blogging to get my name out and to build credibility--I had no writing "portfolio" or experience after college, so blogging allowed me to show the world (and myself!) that I really did have the chops to be a professional writer. When I got my first regular freelance client and had a little side income coming in, I asked for Fridays off at work (unpaid). This gave me a little more room to get other clients and continue to build my brand. Once I had enough of a side hustle to feel comfortable with another leap, I went down to part-time at my day job. Then, once I had enough of a business to believe I could quit and not end up homeless on the street, I made the final leap and quit altogether. I sold my car, paid off some debt, and had a little money saved up to cover the initial transition period, knowing that having the extra time now would let me find new clients to make up any gap in income. I made sure each step of the way that I'd be able to provide for my family and that I wasn't doing anything rash (even though every fiber of my being is to be rash and just jump without looking).
Let's get real: how did you feel the day you quit? Liberated, scared sh*tless, nauseous?
It felt surreal, to be honest. I'd spent 2.5 years longing for that day, dreaming about it, envisioning it, and when it finally came, it just felt like another day--like the next logical step in my plan. The scared sh*tless feeling didn't come until a few weeks later when I realized I really was all-in, for better or worse. 🙂 Now, I find myself having days where I'll suddenly stop and realize just how awesome it is that I've "made it," but when it actually happened, I think I was in a fog. Some things are too big and too meaningful for you to digest until after the fact.
Tell us about the days and months following quitting your job- were you overwhelmed with work? Eating Ramen? Networking your butt off?
It's been about 3 months now since I quit, and it's taken me this long to start to feel like I'm on somewhat firm footing. Learning how to work with my natural rhythms and create a schedule that gets everything done on time, how to balance my work with my life (still working on that) and how to budget when you don't have that steady paycheck coming in every 2 weeks takes some time and is a constant learning and tweaking process. I thought when I had all the time in the world, I'd have a lot more "work-life balance," but the truth is I've probably hustled my tail off more in these last 3 months than I ever did when I was working the day job and the side hustle simultaneously. It's a big lifestyle change and also scary to know that you're all you've got now in terms of generating income, so it's taken me a while to figure out how I work best, how to keep all the balls in the air, and also to get my biz to the point where I don't feel like I have to work on it 24/7 to keep it going.
How do you feel now? Do you wish you transitioned earlier? Do you wish you didn't go out on your own at all?
There are days when I wish I still had the security of that 2-week paycheck, or the ability to turn off my "work" brain at 5:00, but now that I'm "free," there is no way I could go back to a regular job. Even if it were writing-related, if it were a typical 9-to-5, I still think I'd be miserable. For all its uncertainty and all the work you have to put into it, freelancing is the only life I think I could ever really be happy in. Any job will have stress, but if it's a job you love, it's worth it. (I recently saw a tweet that said "Your worst day doing work you love is better than your best day doing work you hate." So true!) Working for yourself isn't a lifestyle for the faint of heart, but if you're made for it, you'll know, and it will be worth all of it. As for the transition timing, I'm glad I did it the way I did. It was exhausting doing the side hustle thing, but it allowed me to build my biz the way I wanted it to be, taking on only the projects I loved and focusing on polishing my skills at my own pace. If I'd just quit without laying that groundwork first, I would have been stuck taking on any gig that paid, and I would have been just as miserable as I'd been in the office. Patience and a deliberate plan (while they can be frustrating as hell at the time) are definitely worth it in the long-run.
Do you have any advice for others considering going out on their own? Words of warning? Caveats?
I am all about the side hustle. It gives you a chance to build your biz the way you want it without the panic of "how am I going to pay the bills" from the get-go. It also gives you a chance to try out this new career and decide if it's really right for you, before you make that leap and commit yourself 100%. And if you can pull off a side hustle with a day job, then you've definitely got what it takes to work for yourself. You need a lot of discipline, passion, and determination to run your own biz, and side hustling is a great trial-by-fire way to make sure you're really ready. Also, pay absolutely zero attention to the naysayers, skeptics, and "realists" who will try to tell you (and they will) that you're working too hard, that you've already got a good thing with your day job, that you're taking a big risk, or that it will never work. You've only got this one life, and you deserve to be happy in it.
Questions for Kelly? Ask them in the comments!
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