Today, I have some big news to share! If you are on my email list or in the Slow FI Facebook group, you heard this last week! For the rest of you, this is new.
I’m excited to publicly announce that I’ve decided to quit my part-time job and take the leap to “full-time” entrepreneurship. I put full-time in quotes because I don’t expect that I’ll work full-time hours.
For the last two years, I have been working part-time (24 hours/week) in a nonprofit organization. The organization’s mission is inspiring, and the work schedule was perfect for me. It allowed me to build up the blog, and earlier, this year, I launched my lifestyle design coaching work.
Since starting the blog two years ago, our ultimate goal has been to figure out how to become location independent before reaching FI. We want to travel a lot more than we have been able to as employees with traditional jobs.
There were a few options for this including remote employment, becoming semi-retired, or starting our own business.
I decided to take the entrepreneurship route. Originally, I thought it could enable semi-retirement. Now, I realize that running our own business could cover more than our living expenses, which would allow us to live a Coast FI lifestyle.
Within the last few months, I had gotten more comfortable with the idea of quitting my job and becoming a “full-time” entrepreneur by next summer.
Yet, I made the decision this week to quit my job by the end of November.
You might be wondering, “What changed?”
To be honest, I had a couple of frustrating weeks at work. Now, when I say frustrating, this was NOWHERE near as bad as the toxic job that I left in 2018. If I were to give my current job a ranking (even with the frustrations), I’d say it’s a 6/10. It’s not amazing but certainly not terrible.
After one particularly frustrating meeting, I decided to create projections for my business income for 2021. In the first projection, I created the most conservative projection. It only included the revenue I was already expecting to generate in 2021 (even if I continued to work part-time).
Surprisingly, this conservative projection more than covered the salary from my part-time job.
Until I had this frustrating week at work, I didn’t even consider making the income projections. Once I did, I realized that the frustrations at work gave me a gift.
This gift is the awareness of my options.
It’s amazing to realize that I created one spreadsheet, realized I could quit my job, and gave notice in a 4-day window.
Some of you probably think I’m crazy.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned so much and worked through many limiting beliefs. The work I’ve done over the past two years is what enabled me to make this scary decision within a matter of days. I’d love to share with you about mindset shifts that led me to this moment.
Overcoming My Scarcity Mindset Enabled Me to Quit My Job
Over the last few years, I’ve worked through a lot of my scarcity mindset. By scarcity mindset, I mean the fear that everything could fall apart or be taking away at any moment.
Having a scarcity mindset is a huge part of why I stayed in my last job until it wrecked my mental health. I held on to my high-paying, full-time job for way too long because of the fear that I could be back to where I started.
To overcome my scarcity mindset, I needed to do two things:
- Understand our actual financial situation and what the numbers mean.
- Believe that I have the ability, skills, tenacity, and creativity to generate income in the future.
Understanding the Numbers and What They Mean
I’m going to try to walk you through my thought process over the last two years, as I learned about what the numbers meant for my day-to-day life.
A little over two years ago, I was in a toxic work environment and started experiencing panic attacks and severe anxiety. Up to that point, I didn’t want anything to do with managing our money. As a result, I didn’t know how much money we had or what it meant for our lives.
When I was faced with the need to either take a leave of absence or to quit my job entirely, I began to understand the numbers differently. Before that, I assumed that people tried to save as much money as possible. Then, they could hopefully retire someday and cover emergency expenses. I had no idea how much money we had in retirement or in our emergency fund.
When I looked at the numbers, we had 9 months of expenses in our emergency fund. This meant that we could both quit (or lose) our jobs and that we would be fine for 9 months.
Then, I realized a couple of things. Corey was still working full-time. I would be receiving 60% of my income through disability insurance. Since we already saved around 50% of our income, we wouldn’t even need to dip into our emergency savings.
This was the first time that I actually understood the power of an emergency fund, or what some might call F-You money.
F-You money is the amount of money you need that makes you feel like you can get out of a bad situation or take advantage of an opportunity. Then, F-You money helped me to quit a toxic job. Now, it’s helping me to take advantage of an opportunity.
Another factor in shifting my mindset was realizing that there was more to retirement than only trying to save as much as you could. I now realize that there’s actual math behind how much you need to be able to retire. Generally, you’d need 25-33x your annual expenses invested in the stock market.
I also rediscovered the notion of compound interest and a concept called Coast FI. Coast FI is when you no longer need to contribute to your retirement accounts. As long as you don’t touch the money, it will continue to grow to provide you with a comfortable traditional retirement.
Because we have reached Coast FI, this means that we only need to cover our actual costs of living now. This still ensures we will have a comfortable traditional retirement later.
Even if the business totally flops (or doesn’t do as well as we hope), I’m still confident that we can collectively cover our full expenses. We no longer need to be concerned about maintaining a high savings rate.
Beyond these things, the revenue projections I created for 2021 gave me confidence in this decision.
To be clear, I have not yet replaced my current income. In 2020, I have replaced about half of my income through side hustles. Most of the income has come from my coaching and courses. A smaller part has come directly from the blog.
I started my coaching program in May of this year, and I completed another successful launch in September. I have confidence that this success will continue to grow over time.
The first revenue projection was fairly conservative. I only included the income that I expected to make in 2021 even if I was still working my current role. As I shared above, this projection was slightly higher than my current salary.
I believe that this (and more) could be possible for 2021.
There are a few reasons for my level of confidence:
- I will have more time to focus on writing, developing my current coaching programs, and creating new programs. Over the last few months, I have gotten to the point where I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on new ideas. I have many different things I’d like to try now that I’ll have more time.
- I have seen a track record of success for myself. During my first launch, I signed up 4 people for my program over the course of a two-week window. During September’s launch, I filled my program in 3 days and started pre-enrolling for January.
- I’m not the first person to take the leap to entrepreneurship. Many people have taken this path before me, and I’ve learned from their experiences, challenges, and successes.
Of course, there are no guarantees. That is why having emergency savings and having reached Coast FI are helpful. They provide additional runway in case the business is not as successful as I expect right away.
There is one more monetary factor that has gone into our decision-making – health insurance.
We are fortunate that Corey is still working full-time, so we have the option to get health insurance through his employer.
Knowing that we won’t need to factor in the full cost of health insurance premiums through the exchange makes it easier to take the leap.
If we didn’t have access to an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, we’d need to plan for higher expenses. We’d need to make sure our plan and our emergency fund were even more solid.
We hope that Corey will also be able to quit his job eventually and know that will require us to pay full insurance premiums. Right now, we appreciate having the flexibility to make this change without needing to worry about health insurance.
Building an Abundance Mindset
Overcoming a scarcity mindset involves more than just understanding the numbers. It also requires us to build an abundance mindset.
A scarcity mindset tells us to hold tight to what we have (even if it isn’t great) because the next thing might be worse or we could lose everything we’ve built.
An abundance mindset tells us that holding onto something that isn’t serving us closes us off to new (and better) opportunities.
This makes me think of a book I love called “Essentialism.” In the book, the author talks about how if we don’t make a choice for ourselves, we are actually saying yes to the default. By holding on, we are choosing the thing that is keeping us from building a more joyful and meaningful life.
When we let go of things that aren’t serving us and move in the direction of our goals, we actually open ourselves up to new opportunities.
Have you ever noticed how when someone quits a job that isn’t serving them, new opportunities seem to open up?
For example, when I was laid off in 2014, a company I was interviewing with offered me a contract job that would start the very next week. A friend of mine quit her job recently (without having something else lined up). She was contacted only a few days later about a part-time job she could do on the side while building her own business.
If either of us had held on tight to things that weren’t working for us, these opportunities wouldn’t have come our way.
It’s important to understand what motivates us to hold onto something that isn’t working in our lives (or even just something that could be better). Then, we can learn to trust that there are more options than we expect.
I was recently reminded of what it means to have an abundance mindset by Jannese of the Yo Quiero Dinero Podcast. She says,
An abundance mindset is not only based on trust in the numbers. It’s also a belief in my “power to produce – to think, to learn, to create, and to adapt… the power to produce wealth.”
I’m Working Through My Fears
Whenever we start a new project, so many fears come up. Luckily, I’ve worked through a lot of these fears when I started my business earlier this year. I’m sure many will continue to come up. Fortunately, I have built the skills (and the community) to work through them.
My biggest fears (or what-ifs) when making the decision to quit my job to pursue entrepreneurship are:
- What if I’m not successful?
- What if it doesn’t make me happy?
- What if there are things that I miss from being traditionally employed?
Fear #1: What if I’m not successful?
Luckily, I feel like I worked through this one earlier this year when I was launching my coaching program for the first time. When I didn’t have a track record of success (yet), this feeling was much more acute. I needed to have a lot of trust in my expertise and my ability to run a transformational program without actually having experience. I had facilitated a similar group as a beta and used many of the same skills in a work setting, but it wasn’t the same.
One thing that helps is remembering that I’ve seen a track record of success. I’m also seeing growth in the inputs (blog readership, workshop attendees, email subscribers, etc.) which bodes well for the future.
I’ve also learned to view new things as experiments and to know that not everything will be “successful.” The most important thing is that I try something. I can then learn, adapt, and move forward.
Also, because I have a belief in my ability to generate income, the worst-case scenario is that I need to find other ways to generate income. I could build up other side hustles, do contract or temporary work, or even go back to work part-time if I needed to.
As I was thinking through this, it was surprising to learn that my worst-case scenario doesn’t include going back to work full-time. I feel extremely fortunate to be in a position where this is the case.
Fear #2: What if it doesn’t make me happy?
This is a limiting belief that I often hear from people who are worried about making a shift. It’s often paired with the potential of scarcity as well.
What if I take a pay-cut but it doesn’t actually make me any happier?
There are a few ways I’ve worked through this one.
One important thing to recognize is that nothing will ever make us 100% happy. I don’t expect this decision to do this for me. I expect that it’ll make me happier, but that it won’t be perfect.
You might be wondering how I know that it will make me happier.
The main reason is experimentation. I’ve been writing on the side for 2 years and coaching in this way for 6 months. Plus, individual and small group coaching is my favorite part of my role as an HR professional. This is what led me to try out this work in the first place.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone quit a job to try something they haven’t experimented with before. It’s important to make sure that you enjoy it before taking a big leap.
I also know that this may not make me happy forever. I will continue to evolve as a person. This is what I’m planning to focus on for the next 1-2 years. After that, we’ll see how I want to adjust.
Fear #3: What if there are things I miss from being traditionally employed?
This one is a little different. I am sure there are things I will miss from being traditionally employed.
I know that I will miss working toward a mission that impacts my local community on a daily basis. As much as I’m looking forward to owning my own schedule, I know that I will miss some aspects of the structure. I also have so many amazing, passionate people who I work with. I know I will miss interacting with them on a daily basis.
It’s okay that there will be things I will miss. What I’ve been focusing on is how I can make sure I can get these same things while being self-employed.
I’ve already started brainstorming ideas, such as:
- Mindfully testing out different daily schedules to see which works best for me.
- Setting up more lunch/coffee dates with other bloggers and entrepreneurs. Joining other networks that enabled me to connect with more people in this space.
- Volunteering with an organization that focuses on financial literacy and economic mobility.
I’m Realizing that I Can Be Happy, Wealthy, and a Good Person
I used to have a skewed perspective on both happiness and wealth. To be honest, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be happy or wealthy. When other people in the world were suffering, I thought I should be suffering with them.
My religious upbringing taught me that I should self-sacrifice my own happiness and money to support others.
I now realize how toxic this perspective is.
I used to push myself beyond my limits for other people. When I played team sports, I’d keep pushing myself until I couldn’t take another step. Then, I’d be out with an injury for the rest of the season.
In my last nonprofit, I took on too much responsibility for improving the culture of the organization. I became completely burned out, starting experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks, and was out of work on disability for 6 months.
For my entire life, I’ve vacillated between periods where I’ve felt okay and periods of severe depression and burnout. I’d get treatment to get back to my baseline (which wasn’t actually a great place). But, I didn’t change my approach so I’d backslide into depression and burnout several months or years down the road.
It wasn’t until this most recent bout with severe anxiety in 2018 that I realized I needed to radically shift my perspective.
During my recovery process, I felt a lot of cognitive dissonance because I knew there were people in the world who were suffering more than me. Shouldn’t I be getting back to work?
At the same time, I knew that my anxiety was so severe that I needed to make a big change. I eliminated almost everything from my life. I mindfully decided what I wanted to add back in. I prioritized my health and well-being.
After about a year, I felt like I had completely recovered from the burnout that I had experienced, and it felt amazing! This was the first time in my life, I was putting my needs first.
A really surprising thing happened.
I realized that I was actually able to do so much more to support the people around me. I was filling up my own cup and allowing it to overflow to the people around me. I was no longer trying to just give the last drop I had.
I’ve come to a similar realization about wealth. I know there is not a limited amount of wealth in the world (because humans have the ability to generate value out of almost nothing). I know this statement is overly simplified. If you’d like to hear more, I’ve written about the nuance more extensively in my post on debunking the scarcity mindset.
I now realize that having wealth doesn’t make me a bad person. It amplifies who I already am. Having money and managing it well, helps me to be able to bring even more value to the world around me.
The Benefits of Quitting My Job Outweigh the Risks
As I work through these challenges, I realize that it’s important to weigh the opportunities and benefits against the risks.
There are so many opportunities that I will have by taking this leap to entrepreneurship. I will get to:
- Set my own schedule and take time off whenever I want
- Work on projects that I enjoy and decide what is most important to work on
- Explore new and exciting projects. I have some project ideas that I haven’t had time to consider or execute. These include new programs on a variety of topics, writing a book (someday), and creating a lifestyle design weekly planner.
- Spend more time doing things I enjoy that contribute to my well-being. These include exercise, rest and recovery time, spending time with friends and family, and cultivating new hobbies.
In reality, the risks are quite low.
There is virtually no way this could go very wrong financially. The worst-case scenario would require me to find another part-time job.
My fears are important to consider, even though I know they won’t hold me back. I want to understand my fears so that I can work through them and know how I would respond in different scenarios. I know everything won’t be perfect, and I may get my ego bruised every once in a while. I expect this, and I know how I want to respond when it happens.
When weighing the potential benefits against the risks, it feels like this should have been a really easy decision.
Yet, it was made easier by the financial stability we’ve built and the mindset shifts we’ve made over time.
I can’t wait to see what’s to come! Cheers!
This is awesome! My wife and I are in the middle of getting our own business up and running. We are hoping that within 24 months it can support both of us leaving our W-2 jobs, if we choose to do so. Within 24 months we should also be coastfi, so we are in pretty similar paths ?
That’s amazing! I’ll look forward to hearing more about your store as it unfolds!
You rock, Jess! You came a long way and boy did you take massive steps towards your dream life. And you are sobrave to pursue your heart’s desire and refusing to settle. So many of us do that.
Ps: Maybe one day you can share how you do the income projection – I dont quite understand the math.
Thank you Liz! I appreciate the encouragement.
I’d be happy to share more about income projection. Honestly, it was quite easy. I created an excel spreadsheet and mapped out the year, and made a calendar of the things I’d do throughout the year and how much I might expect to make from each thing in each month. It’s hard to do before you don’t have a good idea of where your business is headed, but once you know that, it’s not so hard.
I’m living vicariously through you!! I hope to become a full time entrepreneur by next year. Everything you wrote resonated with me. So so happy for you! Congratulations!
I’m so glad this resonated with you! Also excited to connect next week. You can 100% do it.
Congratulations on a big decision! I love that you went from thinking about it to doing it relatively quickly – though that’s all backed up by several years of reflection and growing. I’ve been thinking very similar thoughts about full-time work and our financial situation, though I haven’t decided to make any moves yet. Like you, my biggest realization is that whatever I decide, things can’t go catastrophically wrong. I still wrestle with my financial insecurity mindset from time to time.
Good luck – I look forward to hearing about your great 2021!
Thank you so much for the comment. Yeah, many people were pretty surprised that I made the decision so quickly. Honestly, part of the reason why it happened so quickly was that I had been considering it for awhile and was basing my original timeline (next summer) on when I thought Corey would feel comfortable with it. Then, when we chatted and I realized he was comfortable with it now, I had to do some thinking to make sure it’s what I wanted, but after I did that, it felt like an easy decision. 🙂
It’s nice to be in a position where not much can go catastrophically wrong.
Congratulations! What an awesome leap. Well thought out plan and strategy, you got this. I kinda feel I might be in a similar position soon so seeing people like you take the leap gives me some inspiration ?
I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you! It’s really an amazing place to be, and I have no doubt you’ll be there soon!
Congratulations Jess! I’m so happy for you and can’t wait to follow your journey on the blog & on Twitter!!
I am glad that you made this difficult and very important decision. I agree with you that sometimes the benefits of being fired outweigh the risks, but few people think about it. I wish you the best in your entrepreneurial journey and that 2021 is a success for you.
Thank you Milos! All the best to you too.
Good luck in your tradition to full-time entrepreneur! I think it’s awesome.
Just saw your tweet and now I have to ask – Did you quit your job or are you working 10/hr week ? Happy for you either way!!
Thanks for asking. I quit. I’m just ramping down over the next couple of months. I offered to work 10 hours/week to wrap up a few things for the month of December and the first 1-2 weeks of January. If I really enjoy doing it, it might leave the door open for contract projects in the future. At this point, I’m not planning on that.
I enjoyed reading your story and appreciate how thoroughly you’ve written about mindset. I recently started my own side hustle and am working towards the FI-coast point. Breaking through the mindset barriers has made me realize the biggest roadblocks to FI are all mental.
I look forward to reading and exploring more on your blog!!
I’m so glad to hear that this resonated with you. I agree with you. Having a good financial foundation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll break through the mindset barriers. We need to work on both simultaneously.
Jessica, thanks so much for this post! I’ve been struggling with this very topic. We’re Coast FI and our side business is now more than covering our expenses, but the thought of retiring from corporate life is scary and freezing me with indecision. I understand the numbers so your post has made it clear to me that it’s the scarcity vs. abundance mindset that I’m struggling with. I’ve had “Essentialism” in my TBR pile for well over a year so I make it the first book I read in 2021.
Congratulations on being in such an awesome place – coast FI with a side business covering your expenses! That’s amazing. I wish you all the best in 2021 as you decide what you want to do!
I’ve been dealing with a lot of similar issues such as panic attacks, anxiety and depression. However, I have not yet begun to seek treatment with a professional. I’m wondering in your case if you applied for short-term disability through your employer before or after you began seeing a professional for your symptoms. I am worried because I know it takes a long time to get in with the doctor let alone a mental health specialist.
Any insight would be appreciated.
PS I love your interviews and podcasts and the blog
I had already been seeing a therapist at the time. I’d definitely encourage you to look for one. Also though, you can get a doctor’s note from your regular doctor to take time off work for this. I’ve also known people to go to psychiatric urgent care as well,
I wish you all the best,
Hey, Jess! I came across this post again after reading this week’s post on location independence! It is so crazy awesome to see how far you’ve come since this post 🙂 One thing stuck out to me, and it was one of the things you said you were thinking about doing in the future: “creating a lifestyle design weekly planner”. Is this something you’re still considering/is still on your mind? I only ask out of curiosity because it sounds really awesome!
Anyway, love your stuff, as always 🙂
Thanks, Liana, for your note! That is something I’ve considered but I haven’t done it yet. I’ve actually created a lot of these resources and use them with clients. But, your note make me think that I could probably create something that could benefit people beyond my coaching community.
Thank you for this thought!