Tom: Today’s guest post is courtesy of Charlotte Kingston — once of the BBC, now an adventurer winging her way to India. You can follow her exotic wanderings and wonderings at chakakant.com. Charlotte’s story is utterly compelling and I am sure it will strike home with many of you, which is why I was so keen to publish it here on Leaving Work Behind. Enjoy!
Last week, I left my job at the most venerable of institutions: the British Broadcasting Corporation. In some ways the hardest thing about leaving was the perception of others — I’d love to work there, why would you want to leave?
When working for a large organisation with such a haloed reputation, it can be great to revel in the connection people have to the brand. Contributing to making something that people love can be kudos-tastic and tough to take an objective view on.
I had a brilliant job in theory, but the day-to-day feeling of working there didn’t reflect the dream. Working on live events and broadcasting was extraordinarily stressful — the never-ending hamster wheel of production kept turning, with me powerlessly scrabbling within it, trying to keep up.
I wasn’t getting anywhere fast and felt frazzled all the time. Something had to give, but indecision held me back. In this article I will describe how I eventually overcame my decision and gained the courage to take the leap into the unknown.
I had invested five years of my life in the BBC and had so many brilliant experiences, and as such, found myself asking questions like:
- Could I really give my job up?
- Could there still be amazing opportunities for me within the organisation if I hustled just a little more?
- Could I hang on in there for redundancy, a new opportunity or for things to change?”
Throughout this time I spoke to many people about the situation and my colleagues and friends were so supportive. I had such a variety of responses — from yes, you must leave! and no, you’re silly, what are you doing? It was especially tough when you knew there were plenty of people out there who would love to have my job. Feelings of confusion and guilt mingled in with everything.
I was so busy worrying about what people thought. Would I be letting people down? Am I throwing away a huge opportunity forever? I’d gone to the big city with such high hopes — would I be sheepishly crawling back home with my tail between my legs, having tried and not quite made it?
Usually I find talking things through helps everything, but in this case, more talking meant more indecision. Why? Because I was waiting for someone to give me answer, to tell me what to do. But ultimately only one person could make a decision — me.
At times the pressure of indecision got too much. I had to take a step back and think.
Switching off from it all, I was flicking round Netflix and caught a National Geographic documentary about stress which led me to the wonderfully titled Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by primatologist Robert M Sapolsky.
Animals — including us humanoids — are not meant to live in a constant state of stress. Our body’s fight or flight mechanism is made for three minutes on the savannah escaping a lion, not forever worrying about a sent email or deadline or whether a spreadsheet was filled in. Sapolsky’s research also revealed that even within primate hierarchies, those in lower ranking positions were prone to stress and depression — in fact, it was inevitable.
This book provided the pivot point I needed to change my mindset. So used to ceding autonomy to the organisation, I felt powerless, like Sam Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. My years of working within such a hierarchical structure made me consider only my limitations (what I couldn’t do) rather than the limitless opportunities available to me (what I could do).
Thinking about the impact my job was having on my body and mind was a real eye-opener. I realised that it didn’t have to be like it was. If I wanted to and was willing to make a change, I could feel more in control — better.
Instead of seeing my amazing past experiences at the organisation as a reason to stay, I realised that they were a reason for me to have the confidence that I could leave and would be alright. I realised that I could achieve such great things and have other equally or even more spectacular experiences again.
Once I made that key mental shift, the decision was easy. It took a combination of four factors:
- Rejecting constant stress as an acceptable way of life
- Ceasing to worry about others
- Taking control of my own decisions
- Reminding myself of what I am capable of achieving
It all came down to choice. As Morrissey sang, “It’s my life to ruin, my own way.” Whether good or bad, I had to make a decision. My decision.
Take a risk; or as my friend elegantly put it, “throw the deck up in the air and see how the cards land.”
That’s what I did, and I can’t wait to discover what adventures await.
Tom: My thanks go out to Charlotte for sharing her wonderful story! We’d both love to know what you think of her decision and whether you think her story will help you overcome your own indecision. Share with us in the comments section below!
Photo Credit: Emma Davenport, Big Bouquet Photography
This article is a chapter from one of my upcoming books. If you’re interested in paying what you want (from just $1) for the series of books I will be publishing in the coming months, join the Leaving Work Behind Book Club!
You almost certainly cannot quit your job tomorrow without some repercussions. You’re probably not there yet. And that is why you need to come to terms with your job before you do anything else.
The first step is to understand that your job is temporary. It is a means to an end. You may currently need the benefits that your employment contract offers – medical insurance, paid maternity leave, a pension – but those needs will not be permanent. A job is a safety net that allows you to get in a position where it is no longer needed. If you cannot bring yourself to like it, appreciate it for that fact.
Even if you absolutely hate your job, considering it as a placeholder position rather than a terminal illness can make all the difference to your attitude.
Believe it or not, your job gives you freedom. It enables you to work on your fledgling online business without fear of failure, because failure will not mean that the bills will go unpaid. It enables you to create a vicarious business, free of the concerns that cloud many entrepreneurs’ minds. Remember that whenever you feel negatively about your work.
One of your immediate goals will be to quit your job, but that is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. If you do not conduct yourself appropriately you may find the perceived nightmare that is your job hides much bigger monsters when you finally quit.
Leaving work behind isn’t just about quitting your job – it’s about building a life that allows you the freedom you desire. If by quitting your job you are jumping from the frying pan into the fire, you have not really taken a step closer to your goals. You may have taken a step away.
Ultimately, your job is a factor that must be taken into consideration. You may be indifferent towards it, you may dislike it, or you may even hate it. But it is a part of your life – not forever, but for the time being. It provides you with a relative level of security and enables you to work on your fledgling business without fear of the possible repercussions.
Learn to appreciate your job for the above reasons and you will benefit from a more productive outlook.
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo
For those of you who don’t know, back in May 2011 I decided that I wanted to quit my job. In June of the same year I set a target to do exactly that by May 23rd 2012.
My plan was to establish one or more semi-passive income streams, most likely in the form of niche and/or authority sites. I spent five months working extremely hard and getting exactly nowhere (the failures of two projects being indicative of my efforts). I was losing money.
But in October, everything changed. I decided to approach my objective from a completely different angle. And three months later, in December 2011, I quit my job — five months ahead of schedule.
I didn’t pull off a miracle — far from it. I just took some very practical and realistic steps in an attempt to achieve my goal. I strongly believe that there is no reason why you can’t do the same, and in this post, I intend to explain how.
For the purposes of this post, I am going to imagine that your approach to making money online is very similar to what mine was, going back thirteen months or so. I am making this assumption because it appears to be a very common approach (and one with an extremely high failure rate).
In a nutshell, the reason why you are failing to make a considerable amount of money online is because you are chasing the passive income dream. You’re looking for the big win — a comfortable living with minimal work input. The Four Hour Workweek, or at least something similar.
This dream has been popularized by a number of successful online entrepreneurs such as Pat Flynn and Spencer Hawes. These guys are inspirational, and fill us all with a “we can do it too” attitude. Which is great — but that attitude will only take you so far.
Pat and Spencer — both extremely successful (and great guys). But it wasn’t easy…
The fact is that building a considerable passive income stream is extremely tough. It requires a lot of patience and persistence. One has to fail great deal on the journey to hitting the winning formula. And it takes time. All of these factors combine to toss most passive income dreamers by the wayside.
I am not saying that passive income is a pipe dream, because it isn’t. After all, I am working on establishing semi-passive income streams with my freelance blogging guide, my authority site project, and this blog. But it takes a lot of time and persistence to get right, and working on passive income projects can be really tough when you have a full time job. It can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and it can be really difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel (if it actually there).
So what’s the answer?
Sleeping with the Enemy
I was able to quit my job by choosing to trade my time for money — the mortal enemy of passive income advocates.
More specifically, I started freelance blogging. I quickly discovered that it was a potentially lucrative area in which to work, and made the decision to quit my job pretty soon after starting.
As you can see from my income reports summary, I was able to develop a relatively substantial income within a few months, and I have made more than $4,000 from freelance writing in each of the last three months. After tax, that’s about the same as I was paid in my previous job.
And here’s the kicker — I have reached that milestone by working less than half the amount of hours that I did when I was in my job. I spend around 3-4 hours per day working for my freelance clients. That leaves me free and clear to dedicate however many hours I please to my passive income projects.
But It’s Still a Job…Right?
Some people will tell you that freelancing is still like having a job — you’re still working for a “wage”. Well, it’s like no job I’ve ever had. For instance, here are four attributes of freelancing that you can’t typically get from a job:
- No boss
- Flexible hours
- Pick and choose your work
- Pick and choose your working location
- You’re in control of your earnings
I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes — freelancing isn’t passive income. Quite the opposite. But it is, in my humble opinion, a far superior alternative to a full time job — not only is your earning potential increased dramatically, but you can afford yourself more time to concentrate on your passive income projects. I don’t know where I would be right now if it weren’t for me finding freelance writing, but I’m extremely happy that I did.
You may feel like you don’t have the necessary attributes with which to start freelancing, but let me tell you something — either your boss has got you all wrong, or you can make it work.
Here’s my logic, as first published in Why You Can Quit Your Job Today:
Let’s consider an assessment of your worth. Ultimately, you are employed because your employer profits from you. He assesses your skills and worth, and is happy that the income generated will exceed the cost of employing you. That cost is your wage, taxes, overheads, training, and so on. Why can’t you cut out the middle man and extract that income direct from source?
Let’s look at a simple example. Your basic wage is $25,000 per annum. The employer has to pay additional taxes of $2,500 to the government every year. It will cost $5,000 in total to train you up, which amortized over 5 years employment (which is the company’s average employment period) equals $1,000 p.a. It costs an additional $5,000 p.a. in overheads to simply sit you in your chair. And on top of that, they are in business, so they want to make a profit from your services! So let’s add a 15% profit margin onto the total.
( $25,000 + $2,500 + $1,000 + $5,000 ) * 1.15 = $38,525
I’ve kept this real simple – I haven’t even mentioned health insurance or any other potential perks. Notwithstanding that, your employer hopes to generate an income of $38,525 p.a. with your skills whilst they pay you just $25,000 p.a.
You can draw one of two conclusions from this:
- Your employer is an idiot, and you are not worth the cost
- Your employer is making money out of you that you could ultimately be making for yourself
Everyone has expertise. You probably massively undervalue your own abilities — I know I did. Right up until the point I was making a healthy full time income from freelance writing, I didn’t really believe that I could do so. It just seemed too good to be true.
The key is to find people who are in search of your assets. It can be anything — writing, graphic design, bookkeeping, administration, photography, web design — the list goes on and on. These people will pay you much more than your boss did, because they don’t have to worry about any of the overheads mentioned above (nor a permanent commitment to employ you).
If you are paralyzed by the idea of actually making this happen, start off simple with a freelance broker site like Elance or oDesk (if appropriate). You probably won’t find great paying jobs with your limited experience, but if nothing else it can demonstrate to you that your services are actually worth something.
And as soon as you can, establish a quality online brand (i.e. a blog and social media profiles). In my opinion, this is by far the best way to market yourself.
The Time is Now
In a nutshell, just get yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to start from the bottom and work your way up! For 90% of the passive income dreamers reading this, you can probably be earning more from freelancing within a couple of weeks than you are right now from your passive income projects.
So if you’re in a job that you hate, what is holding you back from dedicating say two (or more) hours per day to building a side income from freelancing work? Because as I have demonstrated, that’s all you need in order to make a genuine attempt to open up a completely new opportunity in life.
From nowhere to quitting your job in 90 days — I have proven that it is possible. I am sure that some of you can easily exceed my achievements too. All it takes is a change of approach and a concerted and practical effort. Why wouldn’t you try this?
Creative Commons image courtesy of snofla