Leaving your corporate job can be scary, especially when you don’t have a safety net of funds in place for if things go out of control in a bad way.
That’s what I was afraid of.
That and not being able to pay my mortgage— or any of the other bills I had for that matter.
Recently, one of my email subscribers (and future escape artist) asked:
“What would you suggest to anyone who doesn’t have this safety net, who doesn’t have a house to sell, who is not in a position to give it all he’s got, who cannot afford to invest everything in himself? There are many who are just like that. I suppose it’s a bit tougher then..”
You see, I started my business on the side almost 2 years before I sold my house. Selling my house was a huge asset I had that I was able to leverage to pay off my debt and invest in myself. I even wrote about how I got engaged, sold my house and quit my job.
So, why didn’t I sell my house earlier?
Well, there were a lot of reasons but, the two main reasons were:
- I didn’t have the mindset in place to view my house as an asset that would allow me to invest in myself.
- I hadn’t reached the point at which my momentum from Mobile Mixed was high enough that I couldn’t tolerate doing both jobs. Basically, I wasn’t desperate enough yet.
I’m going to share the 10 steps I took to leaving my corporate job on my own terms—which took about 2 years.
Now, you may be asking yourself similar questions like…
“How can I leave my job without some sort of safety net?”
“What if I don’t feel like I’m in a position to give it my all?”
“What if I can’t afford to invest everything in myself?”
Here is the deal. When it comes to leaving your corporate job on your own terms, there will always be risk.
At the same time—staying in your corporate job is just as risky but, the circumstances for you to leave on your own terms is entirely up to you.
Hence, leaving on your own terms.
Do you really want to look back and say you never gave your dream a chance?
While we’re being honest with ourselves—ask yourself…”what’s the worst that can happen?”
The reality is when I asked myself this question, my answer was, “I’d just go find another full-time job”.
I’d basically be going back to where I was before I left—so why not just give it a shot?
I think sometimes we feel like if we leave our corporate job we automatically become damaged goods.
If you’re good at what you do for your full-time job, you’ll be able to find another one if you really have to.
Leaving your corporate job on your terms takes a plan, hard work and a bridge.
The bridge you create is how you’ll manage your risk.
Here are 10 steps to leaving your corporate job on your own terms even if you have no savings, no house to sell and think you are not in a position to give all you’ve got.
1. Mindset – Get Cho’ Mind Right!
Have you ever heard the saying, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”?
Well, this is something I started saying to myself about 2 years ago.
If you don’t have a little though love in your life, you should try and find some. – Tweet this.
Listen, nobody else is going to get your head in the right place—it’s up to you.
If you THINK you are not in a position to give it your all, what do you really think you’re going to give it? (That’s a trick question, the answer is not enough)
I had a full-time job, a mortgage, a car payment and I was in a long distance relationship—all while building my business on the side.
I couldn’t give it my all either, that’s why it was a side business, BUT I did give it all that was left of me after those things.
Your “all” is relative.
Just because you can’t quit your job now doesn’t mean you can’t give it your all. It just means you can give it every hour of every day like you really want.
Believe me, I wanted to do that too but it wasn’t realistic.
When I got home after work at about 6pm, I worked out, ate dinner, spoke to my girlfriend and then worked my butt off into the early hours of the morning every single day of the week. That means mostly weekends too.
If all of my other responsibilities added up to 80% of my time and energy, I’d give the 20% to my side business.
If you’re just giving 10% to your side business—well, then you’re not giving it all you’ve got.
And when your dream is at stake—you’ll find a way to give 30% to your side business because you can give it more than you think, if you push yourself hard enough.
Say it with me:
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me”. – Tweet this
2. Define Your Leaving Criteria & Deadline (AKA Goals)
I’m confident I would have been able to leave my corporate job sooner if I had any idea what I was doing. – Tweet this
Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing when I got started. I just started.
I knew mobile marketing but I didn’t know a thing about starting an online business, building an audience, launching a podcast, getting speaking gig etc.
I was able to start because I had goals.
Ask yourself, why do you want to leave your corporate job?
Why do you want to start your own business?
I wanted to start my own online business so that I could work from anywhere.
Not “anywhere” like I wanted to be a digital nomad ( because I have no interest in that) but, I wanted to be able to work from anywhere because my fiancé was in medical school and could have been placed anywhere in the country when matching for her residency.
I started Mobile Mixed about two years before that day would come. I had work to do.
What is the project you want to work on?
Why do you want to work on it?
What is your end goal with this project?
Is it financial freedom?
If so what does that mean to you? Give it a dollar amount.
Is it more time to travel?
Great, how often do you want to travel and where do you want to travel to? Be specific.
Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time=specific. (Those are called S.M.A.R.T goals).
My goal (or leaving criteria) consisted of:
- Paying off all my debt (about $25k)
- Generating at least 60% of my full-time pay check ( I did that through services, consulting and my own training product)
- Having enough savings to last a year not making a single dollar (I sold my house which helped me with this and number 1 as well)
- Achieving this in no longer than 24 months (I left almost 6 months earlier than that date)
If you don’t know why you want to leave and don’t have specific goals in place, leaving corporate will just be a wish you keep sharing to others vs an epic story of truth, courage and action.
3. Productivity Audit
We all have the same 24 hours each day. That won’t change.
You can change or modify how you spend those 24 hours so that you are the most productive towards reaching your goals that you just defined in step 2.
The biggest obstacle when trying to leave your job—time.
“I only have so many hours to work on my side business after work”.
“I have a family and have no energy in the evening after work to put to my side business”.
Yes, these are all things you could be saying to yourself. Heck, I was saying them too.
At the end of the day you have to make time to work on your side business.
In order to find that time, you need to understand where your time goes now. Most of us don’t realize how much time we lose to little tasks (or just time wasted. Damn you Facebook!).
For the next 7 days (Ideally Monday-Sunday) monitor every hour and where you’re spending your time and what you’re doing.
For example, this could be what your Monday looks like:
- 7am-8am: wake up shower, and eat breakfast
- 8-8:30am: drive to work
- 8:30am-12pm: full time job duties
- 12pm-1pm: lunch with coworkers
- 1pm-5pm: full time job duties
- 5pm-5:30pm: drive home
- 5:30-7pm: Play with kids, make dinner, clean dishes
- 7pm-8:30pm: watch tv and hang out with family
- 8:30pm-9:30pm: Put kids to bed
- 9:30pm-10:30pm: relax, hang out with spouse and go to bed.
Now, I’d go a bit more specific if you can and include things like:
- Time on Facebook (or other social media)
- Time on the phone
- Happy Hours, dinners and drinks with friends
- Working out
Start identifying where you may be able to squeeze in an hour of work on your side business.
Looking at the above I see a few opportunities.
- Wake up an hour earlier and work from 6-7am.
- Work during your lunch break.
- Work from 10:30pm-midnight a few times a week.
Everyone is different when it comes to being a night owel or morning person.
I didn’t become a morning person until after I left my corporate job. I imagine I would have been way more productive from 5am to 8am when I had to leave for work but I ended up being a night owl and getting a lot done when everyone else was asleep.
Figure out what works for you.
4. Lifestyle audit
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend your most time with – Jim Rohn”
Well, do you like your average?
When it comes to being productive, getting the right things done and hitting your goals, a lot comes to how you life your life.
- Who do you spend your most time with?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you being healthy?
- Are you spending too much money going out to eat?
- Is your car payment too high?
- Is your rent(or mortgage) too high?
- Do you buy too many toys (think electronics if you’re a dude or clothes if you’re a woman)
By doing a lifestyle audit, I identified:
- Bills I could lower or eliminate
- That I could sell my house and have lower rent
- That I spend too much time out with people that don’t motivate me to reach my goals
- I’d go out too much thus spending too much money on food and drinks
- I wasn’t working out enough which resulted in less energy
- I could sell some things I didn’t really use and pay off some of my debt (every little bit helps)
The key in this step is to make sure that your actions align with your goals.
If selling your house can help you achieve two goals in your leaving criteria, what is stopping you from making a few changes?
If cutting back on going out 3 nights a week with friends means working on generating side income or building an audience, why haven’t you done that yet?
After interviewing successful escape artists each week, I’ve found that every one of them has made some sort of sacrifice to make their corporate escape a reality.
Download the Escape Artist Worksheet to follow this 9 step process now.
Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t. So that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.
5. Identify Your Key Influencers
There is a lot of content out there. A lot of great content and a lot of “not so great content”.
It’s very easy to want to consume, consume, consume, thinking we need to learn as much as possible to build our blog, grow our email list, validate our business etc.
I’ve been there. I’ve consumed a lot of content in the last few years.
Too much to be honest.
That’s why I only really follow 3-5 influencers and look for the principles in what they are doing.
Yes, I read content from other people but when it comes to modeling my actions or game plan after certain people, I’m really only looking at 3-5 people.
Those are the email newsletters that I subscribe to and I even have them in a Gmail label called “crosshairs”.
I also have them on a twitter list in tweet deck so I can stay on top of what they are doing there so I can see how they engage, and what type of content they are putting out there.
Focusing on a small number of people will reduce the amount of content you consume leaving more time to work on your own projects.
Reading every blog post on how to start a blog won’t actually make you sit down and write the first post. Start writing.
Try consuming content during otherwise wasted time – like in the bathroom or driving. – Tweet this.
Listen to podcasts during your commute.
Read a blog post while you’re sitting on the toilet. Yup, I went there and it’s one of the best places to catch up on a good blog post.
6. Daily Routine
There are tons of resources out there that say having a daily routine is critical to success.
I’ve experimented with a variety of daily routines to see what works for me and finally settled on one which I shared here. It seems to be working pretty well thus far.
I’ve found the key elements include:
- Working on your creative projects such as writing, recording podcasts and creating your products should come first.
- Having a system to organize your day and tasks. You can’t use too many different apps to store different things in different places because you’ll never stick to it. I use a few which I talk about here.
- Leaving less energy/brain power dependent tasks to the afternoon
- Consuming content during otherwise wasted times and/or the evening.
- Knowing what you’ll work on when.
The key part of this whole routine is blocking off time to work on specific tasks.
While you’re planning your corporate escape it’s important you maximize the few hours you have to work on your business. Using a zero-based calendar allows me to identify blocks of time that are dedicated to certain activities.
As a corporate escape artist in training, try adopting this method to stay focused.
7. Identify Tasks To Reach Goals
With your goals defined in step one above, identifying the important tasks for each day should become easier.
Ask yourself: Does this task get me closer to my goal?
If not, you probably shouldn’t be working on it.
Create a list of all the little tasks that make up meeting your goal.
For example: if you want to write a book, you’ll need to have a goal of writing a certain number of words or for a certain amount of time each day.
When I determine a big goal, I break it down into mini-milestones that include smaller tasks that help me get a few steps closer each milestone.
I start with my desired end date in mind and work backwards to identify when each little task needs to be completed that will help me achieve the mini milestones.
Back to the book example.
If I want to write a book in 6 months some mini milestones might include:
- Outline the chapters of the book
- Complete chapter 1
- Complete chapter 2
- Submit to editor
So what is your big goal? Can you break it down into mini steps?
8. Build Your Bridge
Your bridge is how you’ll make the transition into working for yourself.
You can build your escape bridge in many ways and the previous 7 steps are all important pieces to the bridge that works for you.
Meeting your goals/leaving corporate criteria for example will allow you to leave on your own terms but, one thing that might speed up that process is transitioning into a part time role.
I’ve found that a lot of escape artists asked their employer to either work from home or reduce their hours so they can spend more time on their side business.
I wish I had thought of this because it’s a great way to ease the transition into working for yourself.
Other escape artists locked down two consulting clients for either 6-12 month contracts so they’d know they could pay their bills.
If you do amazing work and your employer values your contribution, this becomes a whole lot easier to ask for because they don’t want to lose you.
Many employers will agree to part time or working from home if you’re truly a key piece to the companies success.
Also read as: be awesome at your job so that your company won’t want to lose you. That’s creating leverage.
9.Leave With Class
This should go without saying but you don’t want to burn any bridges. At least you shouldn’t want to.
Remember earlier we said the worst that could happen is you go back to working full-time?
Well, if things don’t work out like you imagined, having an open invitation from your employer to come back ain’t a bad thing to have in your back pocket, so leaving with class can be to your advantage.
Some employers will make you leave right when you give your notice but, if you’ve been awesome like we mentioned in step 8, they may want you to stick around a bit.
I gave my employer a one month notice AND even found my replacement.
Other escape artists have done as little as two weeks to three months.
For some entrepreneurs their previous full time employer ended up being their first consulting client so don’t rule that out either as that can be an option for your bridge.
If you’re classy about it, that may be something you can present to them as an opportunity.
Keep it classy corporate escape artists.
I know we covered a lot so I went ahead and created a worksheet that you can complete to help you step-by-step through this path.
Download the free worksheet by clicking the button below.