Recently I’ve had a few folks write me about when is it the right time to leave the day job.
When I started my business over a decade ago, I was terrified that I had no idea what I was doing. I’d been working at a small firm in DC that had its own office and multi-million dollar projects. I was worried that I couldn’t afford all the tools and office equipment to run a successful business.
After I got engaged, I knew I would be leaving DC and the development job I’d had for six years. This gave me several months to plan my exit strategy. I had an old computer, dial-up internet, Adobe Photoshop 2.0(!) and less than $2000 in the bank.
What I thought I needed:
- the latest version of the Adobe Creative Suite (more $$$ than I had in the bank at the time)
- fancy business cards
- an expensive new desktop (and laptop computer)
- to pretend that my company was larger than it was to impress clients (I used the term “we” and talked about my “team” before I actually had one)
- a legit office space where I could meet clients
What I actually needed:
- a working copy of Photoshop and Dreamweaver (this was the days before WordPress)
- a solid internet connection
- a willingness to talk to people
- confidence in my abilities
- a website that showcased my portfolio
- and most importantly… connections
The smartest thing I did BEFORE I left my 9-5 job was connect with a business coach who sent me my first clients. I told him “I’d love to assist you in anyway possible, just let me know how I can help you and your clients.” At the time, I just couldn’t understand why people who ran a business would hire a coach. (Now, a dozen year later, I completely get it!). That connection yielded my first two paying clients.
Simply putting up your website won’t immediately generate a ton of clients. The connections you make (both online and in-person) will be how you cultivate relationships and get more clients.
Then through another friend whose site I did for trade, I made another connection with a small design agency who started sending me freelance work. With those clients ready to go, I knew I had enough income to support myself for my first few months.
I started freelancing at night and on weekends, left my regular job at the start of the year (and cashed out those oh-so-nice vacation days) and officially started Minima Designs LLC from my studio apartment in DC. (And I started legit from the get-go – I formed an LLC and got business bank accounts BEFORE taking any checks…)
Looking back, there are few things I wish I’d invested in earlier:
- a better office chair (you’ll be spending hours in this thing – just like your bed, this is one place not to scrimp!)
- a course on how to effectively market my services and offerings
- a mentor (5 years in, I finally hired a coach – and I spent over 20k to get one of the best in the business)
I honestly thought I would freelance for a year, move, get married and find another job after the wedding.
Now I can’t imagine working for anyone else.