“Quitting my job with no plan? That’s a one-way ticket to crazy town! Nobody does that!”
One year ago I was working stupid hours in a career I wasn’t sure I liked anymore.
I was so stressed and tired I couldn’t think what to have for breakfast, let alone decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
So, I saved up a chunk of money and decided I was going to quit…….with no idea what to do next.
Fast forward a year and it has been interesting, to say the least.
I honestly thought it my job was causing all the stress and once I left it would all be prosecco and roses.
This was not always the case, there have been many ‘Woohoo!’, ‘F*ck this’ and ‘What the hell have I done?!’ moments.
It’s only now that I see the process I needed to go through once I shut the office door.
So, here are my 12 honest insights from quitting my job with no plan
1. Have a financial cushion (COMPULSORY)
This is the absolute number 1, non-negotiable, thing you must have in place if you quit your job with no plan.
Bills need to get paid, food needs to be eaten. You do not want to be in a situation where you cannot cover your living expenses.
And it is important to really know exactly what you spend.
Not just a vague, yeah I probably spend about X a month. I promise you that you are lying to yourself.
Having a financial cushion means you can give yourself the time to explore ideas without them having to make any money.
It takes the pressure off and allows you space to play around. Take care of your finances, and then move onto the fun stuff.
I saved up a year’s worth of expenses before I left. How much you need is up to you but make sure you have this before you leave.
2. Everyone else will think you are crazy
- “You are doing what now?”
- “But what are you going to do instead?”
- “That’s ballsy!”
Be prepared that most of the people you talk to will think you are having a breakdown and need to be committed.
Quitting your job to ‘find yourself’ is perceived as very woohoo and reserved for those who have lost the plot.
In fact, the only people who got it were my parents.
After months of seeing me stressed to the point of exploding when I told them I had resigned they said ‘Great!’. Thanks, parents, you are awesome 🙂
In our society, there seem to be two things at play.
We are defined by our jobs, we can’t help ourselves asking, “so what do you do?”.
Turning up at parties and being asked what you do is a weird experience when you have taken time off to do, well, nothing.
Blank looks, smirks and confused facial expressions are par for the course. I’ve taken to calling it a grown-up gap year. That seems to be less confusing for all concerned.
We are conditioned to buy, not save.
Stashing large amounts of money away each month seems to be much less popular than buying a bigger house or car or whatever.
When telling people, I’m not working, the question is always ‘but how can you afford it??’. Replying with ‘I saved up’ seems like a very odd answer to most people.
I’m not going to say ‘hey, don’t worry about what others think!’ because that is way easier said than done. But, at the end of the day, it’s your life and you can do what you like with it.
3. Know what you want for your life, even if you don’t know what you want for a business
You may not know what business you want to set up, but you will have an idea of what you vaguely want your life to look like.
- Maybe you want to be location independent, or be your own boss. Perhaps you want to work at a smaller company with more autonomy.
- It could be you want a lifestyle business and aren’t concerned with making squillions.
- Or you want to stay at home with the kids a couple of days a week.
On the other hand, you might be so broken you can’t remember what day it is, let alone what you want your life to look like.
In which case, it may be easier to think about what you don’t want.
When you know what you don’t want, you can narrow down your choices when brainstorming business ideas.
When I quit my job with no plan, I knew I didn’t want a full-time corporate role ever again. And I didn’t want restrictions on when to take holidays and days off. Or to be tied to one location.
These ‘don’t wants’ can act as a checklist to help you decide whether business ideas are right for you or not.
4. You aren’t your job
When you quit your job with no plan, you stop being ‘an accountant’ or ‘an analyst’ or whatever your corporate title was.
This sounds obvious and not a big deal. But actually, it is quite unsettling.
Previously you identified yourself by your job title, and so did others around you.
I worked in retail as a merchandise planner so people would naturally assume I was good at maths and spreadsheets. I am reasonable at both, but that isn’t just who I am or what I can do.
We like to neatly box people into categories or types in order to make sense of everything. But people are too complex to be boxed.
Before I go off on a rather deep tangent I’ll pull it back. My point is when you quit your job you learn to ‘just be’ rather than ‘be something’.
5. De-stressing takes longer than you think
If you have curled yourself into a ball of whirling anxiety, don’t expect to wake up on your first day of freedom feeling like the female version of the Dalai Lama.
I was so used to running at great speed in my corporate role, that I found it very hard to slow down.
I bashed around the house, shuffling piles of papers, tidying the already straight cushions, and making numerous to do lists that contained mostly nothing.
It took me MONTHS to calm down and de-stress. If it took 14 years to wind yourself up, you’re not going be chanting Buddhist mantras 5 minutes after you leave.
What finally swung it for me was de-coupling the notion of ‘doing’ from ‘achieving something’.
We are so obsessed with goals, achievements, seeking approval and validation. Instagram and other social media allow us to post what we are doing for others to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on it, so everything ends up being done for something.
But sometimes the things that calm us down the most are the ones that don’t achieve anything. That we don’t post for others to see. And we don’t seek approval for.
The activities that relaxed me the most were the below. These won’t be right for everyone, do what works for you. Just don’t post it on social media!
- Sleep if you need to sleep.
- Draw a picture (this really helped me. My (un)artistic designs will never be seen by anyone except me, and that took the pressure off and made it a calming exercise)
- Write whatever comes into your head until you’ve run out of things to say
- Do yoga (my favourite pose is the lying down bit at the end)
- Read a fiction novel
- Hang out with family and friends
6. You will panic, this is normal
I spent the first few months totally freaking out.
“What the hell have I done?!”. “Who am I to think I can set up a business. I can’t do it, I’m too old. Maybe I should just back to a corporate job, what if I never earn money again……….” *head implodes*
It is very likely this will also happen to you. Be ready for it and it won’t be so bad. It’s just your lizard brain fighting to survive.
But if you have your cash cushion, you have time to explore. Get going on some of the relaxation activities above, and slowly your reptilian mind will start to relax.
7. Your savings will deplete
This one goes in the Captain Obvious box, but don’t underestimate the effect it will have on you.
Even when you know you have enough money, it doesn’t stop you checking your bank account and inhaling sharply each month as the total goes down.
I’d love to say ‘don’t worry about it, you’ve got the money!’ but that wouldn’t be representative of my eyebrows shooting up every time I looked at my bank account.
Instead, I have picked up a couple of consultancy roles, decluttered the flat and sold stuff on eBay to give my account a bit of a boost and lessen the panic.
I really didn’t need to do this BUT this is a process. I am not going to pretend to have all the answers, I am learning as I go.
Do what you need to do, pick up some paid work here and there if it sets your mind at ease.
Just don’t go back to a full-time role if you don’t want to (and have the money to), that would defeat the object of leaving in the first place.
8. Have a timeframe
This is largely dictated by how much money you have and whether your business idea starts to make money.
It’s a good idea to have a deadline in your head of how long you are going to give your idea before you try something else.
For this blog, I am giving it a year to make £1000. I am taking a course and am following all the steps. If I can’t make money after doing everything I’m supposed to, then it is probably time to do something else.
If you are thinking about starting a blog, I am an affiliate for the CreateandGo blog courses that I have taken so far.
The first one I took was Build and Launch Your Blog. It did what it said on the tin (although it took me longer than a month to launch due to some epic procrastination).
If you use my link, it costs you no extra but I will receive some money so that I can keep writing these posts.
If you are unsure whether to buy a course, you can read my article on it below:
9. Failing is learning
It is very easy to forget that you spent the last X number of years honing your skills in a corporate career.
It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to go back to the beginning and start failing again.
When you are used to knowing how to do everything, it is a jolt back to reality when you try and do something new.
You get everything wrong. Nothing works!! You are so SLOW.
What you must remember is that this is normal. Hospitals do not unleash 1styear medical students into neurosurgery for this exact reason.
You learn by building your skills from the ground up. Making mistakes is how you learn.
The more you work on your business, the easier it will get. Just keep failing and learning.
10. Don’t forget the fun stuff
It is very easy to get caught up in a new business idea and dive in head first.
You forget that you once dreamt of leaving work so you could spend more time with family or free up time for your hobbies.
Instead, you throw yourself back into working 80 hours weeks to get your business off the ground.
Before long you are back in an overwhelmed heap on the floor.
I found that once I started to get really into this blog, I wanted to work on it more and more. It was everything I thought about from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep.
Eventually, I had a word with myself. Although I really want this blog to be successful, I do not want to burn out like I did before.
I’m testing a few things to stop my life turning back into a giant hamster wheel again.
- Reading non-fiction before bed to stop the mind whirring.
- Leaving one day in the week to see friends, family or do something fun
- Trying to do 10,000 steps a day to make sure I get exercise and fresh air
Make sure you keep reminding yourself why you wanted to quit your corporate job in the first place.
List out at least 3 things that you enjoy doing and make sure you include this in your weekly calendar planning.
11. You need to re-learn how to structure your day
For years you’ve been told when to start work when to eat lunch, when to schedule meetings and when to go home.
When you leave work and take time to de-stress or start to set up a business, how the hell do you know when to do everything?
You do some googling and find that some entrepreneurs survive on 3 hours sleep a night. Others only work a 20 hour week. But what are they doing in that time you think. How do they know what to do first?
I’ve learned that the only way to work out how to structure your new day is through trial and error. Just try something and see what works.
- Get up at 6am for a week, then try 7am.
- Doing the hardest thing in the morning, or if you are a night owl, do it in the evening
- Do big tasks on a Monday, then try Wednesday.
I really wouldn’t stress about it too much. As your To Do list starts to grow, you will naturally start to structure your day based on what needs doing.
If you haven’t started on your business yet and are just taking some time to relax, just do what you feel like, when you feel like it! This feels very weird at first, but once you get into it, it’s awesome!
12. Your ideas will evolve
The first few months are about exploring, de-stressing and trying things out. The best way to see if something will work is just to try it.
If it doesn’t work out or you take a slightly different direction then that is fine.
This blog actually started out as a personal finance blog.
After a few months of writing articles just about money, I realized I wanted to help people like me to leave their corporate jobs and financial awareness was only a part of that.
I bought a new domain name and changed the site. I had to bin several articles I had already written as they didn’t quite fit (or were crap).
It took me ages to get everything set back up again but it wasn’t wasted time. I had to start the first site to get to the second. It was a necessary part of the process.
You need to allow the process to weave about rather than follow a straight line. If something feels right, follow it. If it feels wrong, stop and tweak it.
So, there are the 12 lessons I learned from quitting my job without a plan.
It’s been an amazing (overwhelming, frustrating, exciting, scary) process but I don’t regret it for a second.
Life was too short not to try something else.
I am not advocating you stand up right now, chuck your papers in the air and march out the office to the deafening sound of The Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the UK’ blaring from your iPhone.
You need to evaluate your own situation, and you must must must have the money to quit.
If quitting is too drastic, you could always explore going part-time to free up some time to explore your business ideas.
If you left your job to set up a business, what did you learn? Are you glad you made the leap?