07 Apr When to Leave Your Full-Time Job
It’s one of the most common questions people ask me. How do you know when it’s the right time to leave your full-time job? Last year, I got to speak on this very topic at Cincinnati Design Week, organized by AIGA Cincinnati. And because I thought you might be interested, I also snuck in some tips on how to be successful once you are freelancing (see Part 1: 3 Strategies for Freelance Success).
Now for the juicy stuff….
5 YEARS AT A BIGCO.
2 SMALL AGENCIES.
STARTED MANMAN STUDIOS 6 YEARS AGO.
While in college, I did 5 co-ops at 5 different agencies: Cincinnati Art Museum, FRCH Architecture, LPK, Landor and Haile Digital Planetarium (@NKU). After graduation, I worked at LPK, a large corporate design agency, for 5 years, which gave me lots of valuable experience working on print and packaging design and learning how to be a professional in the design world.
Eventually I knew it was time to move on when I felt like I’d soaked up everything I could at that job and my portfolio was filled to the brim with packaging and branding experience, which was the main thing they did at the time. I also wanted more leadership opportunities and I knew it would take too long for me to move up to the level I was really craving.
No matter where you work—whether you like it, don’t like, hate your boss, plan to leave, whatever—soak up EVERYTHING you can learn from the job and the people while you’re there. You can use that knowledge and those skills to help you in your dream job (or get you there).
PEOPLE WHO WORK AT A BIGCO FIRST ARE MORE LIKELY
TO SUCCEED AT STARTING THEIR OWN COMPANY.
(idk who said this, I heard it so long ago, but it stuck with me)
Next, I worked at two smaller agencies, which is where I realized that I had the knowledge and skills to run my own small business someday. The dream of going full-time freelance was born, and I started working toward this as a goal.
I STARTED MY FREELANCE CAREER.
I started taking freelance clients on the side, and I made a plan. I promised myself that if I could maintain a steady pace of 20 freelance hours per week for one year, I would leave my full-time job.
6 months later, I was slammed all the time, working 80 hours/week, my sister was mad at me because she hadn’t seen me in 2 months, and I didn’t have a life 🙁 But I knew it would all be worth it and I was almost there! Only 6 more months to go!
AND THEN I GOT LAID OFF.
And so did one of my friends. As soon as the doors shut on the elevator, my friend and I both started laughing and hugging. Then we went and saw Horrible Bosses 2 in the theater. We were ecstatic…our freelance careers could finally begin!
WHAT I DID NEXT…
When I got home later that day, the first thing I did was tell my husband and we agreed to try to make this full-time freelance gig work. Overnight, I put together a website to showcase my portfolio and send to potential clients. Then I sent an email to everyone I knew that could possibly give me work. I asked my current clients to give me a monthly retainer so I’d have some steady income, and I set a low goal and a high goal for what I wanted to make.
And here’s the thing. The skills I learned at the bigco and the connections I made throughout all of my jobs—all the way back to my college co-ops—paid off. People came out of the woodwork to help me get on my feet, and they STILL do.
Why you might ask? Here’s my best guess: 3 Strategies for Freelance Success.
6 YEARS LATER
I have been blessed beyond measure since I became a full-time freelancer. I’ve hit my high goal (or exceeded it) every single month. I’ve doubled/tripled my business. I’ve hired amazing interns and contractors that help me on so many different kinds of projects. I’ve branched out into interior design and web design and started another company, Mock Party, with a client-turned-friend! And I started this blog to share what I’ve learned and help others achieve their dreams too!
I love being able to look back and see how much my little biz has grown in just a few short years but even more, I like looking to the future and thinking of what it could become, who we could help and what more we can do as we grow. The possibilities are endless!
Hustle with heart,