April was a bit of a monumental month over here at Ambidextrous Brain HQ:
- I quit my full-time day job as a design project manager.
- My partner and I bought a house and moved to Vancouver, WA (a suburb of Portland).
- We launched a major update to forScore (the music reader app for iPad).
Quite honestly, it was a little hectic, a little stress-filled, and a little crazy for a while there. Leading up to the big leap a lot of people asked me, “What are you going to do with yourself all day?” and “Aren’t you worried about replacing your paycheck?” But most who know me are aware I usually wear more hats than I can handle all at once, so there is never a shortage of things to keep me busy. And you know what? I feel fine.
So let’s take a look at why it happened, how I’m making it work, what I’ve learned thus far, and what hurdles I have yet to overcome as the months come by.
On Quitting the Day Job
I’ve heard countless stories about people who quit their day jobs—some seem to gain instant success and fame in their new pursuits. Others swear it was the best decision they ever made, and still others (though less publicly) do so and fail miserably.
I’ll be the first to warn you that this is a serious decision not to be taken lightly, so what follows are my own personal experiences and reasons. Your mileage may vary because you are a unique and special snowflake with your own set of circumstances and responsibilities.
The Great Impetus
As I approached three years at my former employer, I began feeling that the time and energy that I was putting into work was far exceeding my ability to pursue some of my other projects and passions. That may be normal for the average day-job-worker, but increased pressure and expectations at work were starting to pull my after-hours mental state into blubber mode.
Despite setting some clear boundaries with my boss about only working 40 hours per week, I would typically work so hard during the day that the only thing I wanted to do when I came home was zone out to my favorite video games or watch TV shows. All of the things that I had become accustomed to doing around my work day—writing here on this blog, cooking, handling customer support requests for forScore, and further developing Maker’s Nation—were getting pared down to the bare necessities and pushed to the weekends.
But when the weekends rolled around, all I wanted, well, was a weekend! We all need a break from the grind, a time to rejuvenate ourselves and have some fun, so actually sitting down and taking care of business isn’t terribly appealing when you’ve been working exhaustedly all week (especially when the Northwest skies start to clear and the sun peeks out).
The invaluable professional experience I was gaining and amazing projects that I was working on were waning, and I realized more and more that I was sacrificing what I really wanted to do for a steady paycheck. Add to that the inability to move up in the organization and a systemic lack of respect and appreciation for its employees, and I was ready to move on.
I needed more than a few hours a day scattered throughout the week to work on all of these great projects. And I knew that if Maker’s Nation was every going to get off the ground, I needed to devote a lot of time and energy to making it happen.
But how would I do it?! Could I actually just quit and make it work? I had no savings to speak of and no immediate work lined up, so how could I justify walking away from my job? In Part Two, I’ll walk through budgeting, planning, and a few of the serendipitous things that facilitated my leap into full self-employment.