Ditch the bridge job!
Starting a new business takes a boatload of energy. When you are running it on the side, with a day job (and the rest of your life)?
But, when is it time to up and quit your bridge job and go all in? How will you know when you’re ready? Will that day ever come?
Yes, but not without some planning. Let’s get started. Now. Notebook, journal or MacBook at the ready. Here we go;
Why do you want to quit your day job?
Nope, this is not a trick question. Self-awareness is your most powerful asset in business.
People run businesses as a side hustle and are perfectly happy. There’s nothing wrong with creating art for arts sakes and enjoying a lovely windfall when something sells. Nothing at all. It’s about intention.
o What’s true for you? Why?
o Pause and imagine you’ve left your job. How does it feel? What emotion comes up first?
o Is this something you want to do or something you think you should do?
o Is pulling the plug on your job going to suck the joy out of the creative process?
o If you only did your coaching/art would you be happy and fulfilled in yourself? Or would something be off? What?
o Do a mini-inventory of your bridge job. Money aside, what else does it give you? Do you love working side by side with others? After work drinks with the girls? Getting you out of your pyjamas and into a routine? That vacay with your honey? Monthly mani-pedi with no guilt?
This is about looking at the whole picture so give it some thought. There’s a lot more to a bridge job than just the paycheck. Before you jump, know all of what you are letting go of. You might be surprised. Reframing it by looking at what it does for you instead of what it takes from you, may be all it you need for it to not suck quite so much.
Know what it costs
There is no hiding your head in the sand on this one. You have to know your numbers. The exact numbers. Money is no place to guestimate.
If your money is mingled with your honey’s, this is a discussion you need to have together. Don’t make assumptions. Get it out on the table and invite an open conversation around it. Doesn’t mean you are asking permission; it does mean you are taking financial responsibility. You just might be surprised how people react when you are open about where things stand and why this is important to you.
You will need copies of your business budget and your personal (or household) budget. They need to be up-to-date. If you don’t know your numbers, you’re not ready. In business, the buck stops with you so you need to know the route it travels.
How much does the business cost to run?
Is it covering the running costs now?
How much money do you need to break even on running costs?
How much to run the business and meet normal living expenses?
How much to run the business and live the life you actually want to?
What’s coming up in the next 6-12 months?
What is the tax situation? Get professional advice on this one.
What other money do you have? Savings? Credit cards? No, I’m not saying you need to use them I’m saying awareness is power. You need to know, in advance, where you can get emergency cash if you need it.
Insurances? Where do you stand? Not sure, get professional advice.
Where can you trim your business or household expenses?
How much does it cost you to be in your bridge job? (Commute? Starbucks? Dog walker? Purchases that attach themselves to you as if by magic?)
These are all logical and sensible questions you need to ask about finances. Think too about what it’s costing you in life terms by trying do both.
How is your stress level?
Are you happy?
Do you have time for the people you love?
Do you have time to take care of you?
Are you enjoying your life or hanging on for dear life?
This about having financial awareness but also understanding opportunity cost of decisions (e.g. staying in your bridge job may mean you have extra income to spend on your business or it might mean that in practice you are too tired to give you business the attention required to get it fully off the ground).
There is not a magic number that makes everything ok. Business is always going to have an element of risk – that’s business. Knowing where you stand means you are better equipped to navigate.
For some, they quit when they have thousands in savings as a cushion, some quit when the business profit is consistently higher than their living expenses and some quit on day 1 and throw their heart and soul into the hustle. All are valid. It depends on who you are and what you’re comfortable with. Which brings us nicely to….
Risks and fears, oh my.
Imagine you’ve just quit. You are now fully out on your own and in business full time.
What does it look like? How do you feel? What’s freaking you out?
Write it out. No judgement. No editing. Get it out of your head and out of your system. Write ‘til there is nothing left. Sounds silly? Write it down. Probably never happen? Write it down. Heard this thing happened to someone on Facebook? Write it down.
Leave it alone for a few hours and come back to it. Anything else pop into your head to be added? Get it down.
Ok, now sleep on it.
This next bit is kinda tricky. What we want to do to pull apart the fears from the risks.
We’re going to define a risk as an uncertainty. It might happen, it might not type of thing. Tricky part? Uncertainty creates fear. Chicken meet Egg.
This is where I’m going to pull out a lovely little project management tool for you. Wait, for it ….. it’s a sexy little matrix!
Bring out your list and review.
How likely is each statement to happen? If it did happen how serious would it be?
Find it on the matrix. Do you agree with the risk level?
If it falls into: acceptable:
Either super unlikely to happen or if on the off chance it did, it’s no biggie. No drama. Nothing to recover from. An irritation.
If it falls into “with mitigation”
Mitigation. Deeply unsexy word, hugely helpful concept. Essentially, it’s asking you what you can wrap around the risk to minimise the impact (or likelihood). Think of it like a seatbelt in a car, doesn’t stop a crash but it does minimise the injury. Proceed with caution, kind of deal.
If it falls into “unacceptable”
Uncommon to have a whole bunch of risks in this section. A ton of things with a little thought, can be downgraded to “with mitigation”. First of all, take another look (and if possible talk it out with someone you trust). Don’t downgrade it because you don’t want it to be true. Be realistic. If you starting messing with it, the exercise loses its value because you won’t trust in it. You can’t hide from you.
If it is still “unacceptable” don’t despair, do go back to the beginning. Do you have clarity around your dream? Running your own business involves having skin in the game, it involves making decisions that give you butterflies in your tummy, it involves a lot more uncertainty than we’d like. For sure. But an almost certain risk that you and your kids will be homeless in 3 months? That’s not an entrepreneurial baptism of fire, that’s other stuff. Follow the other stuff until you find it’s root.
My personal rule of thumb with this one: anything that puts me in danger, compromises my integrity, negatively impacts my health/wellbeing, is unethical or immoral or hurts someone else is a no. Just not worth it.
Note on risk: the matrix is a guideline, you have to decide what’s real for you. I can’t tell you what is and isn’t acceptable for you.
The benefit of this exercise is that it invites you to bring out any lurking fears and look them in the face. Simple awareness can be huge in releasing fears.
If the fear has some substance behind it? Confronting the likelihood of it actually happening and how big an impact it would have in your life, puts you back in control. You can decide it that’s an acceptable level of risk; you get to choose. Doesn’t that feel better? Much more powerful.
Business does not come with guarantees, ever. You need to know what you’re comfortable with. This is different for everyone and that’s ok.
Big, bold Technicolor Dreaming. What does you new life look look? Details, please.
This one is easy to miss. Why? Because being your own boss is the dream, right?
How much do you want this?
Why does it matter that you go all in?
Does it matter that you go all in?
Who else is impacted by this decision?
List out everyone who has any kind of stake in the decision; Honey, kids, parents, roomies, business partner, employer…everyone. You are not (necessarily) going to give them a say in the decision but you do need to be clear in your own mind how different situations could play out.
Who absolutely needs to be onboard? Are they right now?
What are their fears, concerns, hesitations?
How can you work through them together?
Simple, old fashioned Pros and Cons list for both situations. From their point of view.
How does it benefit them for you to stay in your bridge job?
How does it benefit them for you to be fully invested in your business?
What’s the challenge for them for you to stay in your bridge job?
What’s the challenge for them for you to be fully invested in your business?
Note about employers: it’s worth exploring if there is a part-time option.
Choose a date.
Gather up your notes. Re-read. Sum up what you discovered.
Answer 2 questions
Q1: Knowing everything you now - are you ready to leave?
If you’re not, that’s totally fine. Make a note on your calendar to check in in 3 months and see how things are feeling then.
If you are, onto question 2.
Q2: Close your eyes. Breathe deeply in and out a few times. Ask yourself, when feels like a good timeframe to leave. Listen and note down the first answer. Does that feel good for you? Exciting and a little scary? Not “I’m being dangled off Trump Tower” scary but enough to make you catch your breath? No fear? Bring forward the exit date. Too scary push it back a notch and take another look.
But, Amy that’s so….touchy feely/woo-woo/finger in the air/fill in-the-blank I need a date. Yes, you do and it would be easy but irresponsible of me to give you one.
You are a bright woman, the last few days of this challenge have been about making sure that you have your eyes open and that you know what you’re getting into.
In short, my intention has been to get you to a point where you can make an informed decision for yourself. You know why this needs to happen, you know the financial implications, you know the risks, you know the effects this decision will have on others and you’re clear on what your life will look like once you are in all on your dream.
You are now sitting smack in the middle of your power. Own it. You can do this.
You’ve already done the hardest part. And you’re ahead of most people in the game. Ignorance in not bliss is business, it’s expensive.
So choose you date. And stick to it.
Simplest plan ever
Before we dive in. Recognise how much work you’ve already done. This is not the fluffy stuff. This is deep work and real world activity. This is you stepping into your Boss shoes. And, gorgeous? They look damn good on you.
Alright already! The best advice I can give you is this:
Don’t sit back and expect the floodgates of clients to come pouring in, just because. Action and intention = results.
Plan out your first 90 days post-bridge job. Know where going headed and how you are going to get there.
Factor in some transition time (trust me, it’s an adjustment)
Have a set start date at your new job working for you (vacay’s gotta end)
Set your intentions for the first 6 months (longer if you want to but it's difficult to see too far out clearly – a lot will settle and shift in first 6 months)
Grab your financials and feed them into your business plan
Know that in the early days (even if you have an existing client load) marketing is going to be a key factor in how you spend your time
Some practical considerations….
Don’t burn any bridges. You biggest source of clients in the early days will be from people you know either directly or indirectly. Get your boss and your colleagues on your side. Leave nice.
Everyone living in a 5 mile radius should know what you are doing, why you’re passionate about it and how they can help support you. Think global AND local.
Tell everyone possible what you do and how they can support you.
Do not just tell people what you do. Give them a call to action.
If you’re a coach, tell them who you coach and ask them if they know anybody who’d be a good fit. Ask for the referral.
Creative type? Tell people what kind of work you are look for and in which industry group. Fed up with working for corporate clients? Tell people you’re a graphic designer for small business owners/new businesses/start-ups/entrepreneurs. Whatever and whoever gets your creativity flowing but get specific.
Make it easy for people to help you.
What did you decide? Ditch the job? Keep the job? Keep the job with a shiny new exit plan?