I’d be lying if I said quitting my corporate job to go out on my own was a walk in the park. Unless, of course, that walk included no shoes, rocky terrain and wild animals that hadn’t yet eaten their meal of the day. The good news is that the rough terrain can be totally worth it for anyone seeking a very different life from what the 9-to-5 working world can offer. And while there’s no such thing as getting rid of all the challenges entrepreneurship poses, there are definitely things you can do to hopefully lessen the blows.
In my case, here are the things I did before quitting my corporate job that helped me once I was out:
When I walked into my first corporate job and knew immediately that I had to get out, I didn’t know what was going to get me out. I couldn’t think of a particular skill I had that I could make a business out of. I didn’t even know if I needed to start a business. I started reading business and investing books like my life depended on it. For five years, I researched, explored, and tried various things (without making any crazy-big financial investments yet) until something began to stick. The more trial and error I got out of the way before I lost that steady paycheck, the better!
In all of those books I was reading, it wasn’t just the logistics or technical knowledge I needed. Arguably the one thing that carried me farther than any of that was the mindset knowledge I gained from reading. Knowing what mental hurdles were in store for me as an entrepreneur proved critical. Numerous times, I faced a new challenge and I would be able to say to myself: “Ahh, this is what they warned me about.” It didn’t lessen the impact of the problem, but it helped me to know that it was a typical problem. And because I knew that, I knew it was okay to keep going. If I had not known any of my challenges were normal, I likely would’ve thrown in the towel.
I always say that I’ve had 173 business ideas and only one of them worked. Had I left my corporate job before that one started working, I would’ve been in for a world of hurt. A million business ideas can sound good on paper, but I never knew which one is going to click. Better to figure out that click while I could still afford to feed myself.
Speaking of being able to feed myself… I didn’t do that very well in my first year of being an entrepreneur. Looking back, here are two things that might have kept me a little less hungry had I done them before I left my corporate job:
If I had been more aware of some of the logistical challenges I was going to face, I might’ve been able to have plans in place to help with those ahead of time. Take the financial challenge, for example. I didn’t realize I qualified for food stamps until a few months in. I could’ve started that much earlier. I could’ve researched things like food stamps, health insurance subsidies and loans so I’d have them in my arsenal before I needed them. Then, take the mental challenges. I didn’t realize I was going to lose every ounce of sanity I had at least every couple months for the first year. Had I known I’d lose my mind that often, I could’ve set up regular meetings with my business mentor so I would talk to him before I lost mind my rather than waiting until I was dangling from the cliff.
I needed to be completely panicked about not having enough income to keep the fire under me lit and to push as hard as I did. However, I would believe that my panic over being broke hindered my productivity and effectiveness in getting my business off the ground. I know going broke for a couple of years is kind of a rite of passage, and I do consider myself to be adventurous and a risk-taker, but I do think there would’ve been some room for me to drain my bank accounts a little more gracefully.
If you wait in hopes that you’ll be set up perfectly to transition smoothly from your corporate paycheck into your entrepreneur paycheck, you’ll likely never make the leap. The key is to consider what you can do — while you can still afford to pay your bills — that will help lessen the blows of the first years of entrepreneurship. And in addition to whatever those things are, be sure to add mentor into the mix!