New Years Resolution: Quit Your Day Job

Words by Laura Lawson Visconti
Photos by Laura Lawson Visconti

Happy New Year, explorers! 2019 is here and I couldn’t be more stoked to start the new year out strong. Who else makes a ton of goals this time of year? A few New Years ago, one of my goals was to quit my day job and transition into full-time freelance work.

Okay, first things first — to be fair, I’ve had a bit of a bohemian background and did not climb the figurative corporate ladder (I went to art school, am a personal trainer, have had more side hustles than fingers… you get the idea). My most traditional “day job” would probably be a tie between a copywriter for a company in the wedding industry, or a marketing stint for a startup in Lake Tahoe where my job largely consisted of flying in my boss’ private plane and hosting parties. It was this job I serendipitously said au revoir to in Fall of 2017 to start my own boutique creative agency. It was also during this same time my husband quit his job to launch our coffee roastery. In the same month, both of us went from full-time secure employment to full-time not-so-secure entrepreneurship.

We haven’t looked back since.

Now, a preface: I don’t necessarily recommend starting two businesses within the same month unless you really love stress. But that’s the way our story unraveled, and now that we’ve passed the one-year anniversary on both businesses and we’ve only undergone a couple panic attacks, two ER visits and one carbon monoxide scare and lived to tell the tale… well, as the kids these days say: YOLO. While I’m no expert, if you’re contemplating quitting your day job in 2019 to make your side hustle your main hustle, here are some things I’d recommend chewing on. Get out that journal and begin dreaming!

 

1. What’s in a name?

Naming your own business is NOT EASY. Some people will tell you that the name of your business doesn’t matter very much, but I’ve found it to be extremely important. The name should tell the story of your business. It’s wise to hire an attorney and do your homework ahead of time to ensure your business name isn’t infringing on other businesses already in existence. Also, the name shouldn’t be confusing or difficult to pronounce; you want it to be easy to remember. Carry a journal with you and jot down ideas when they hit. We ended up naming our coffee roastery our actual life motto and business slogan: DRINK COFFEE DO STUFF. No confusion there — we literally provide the fuel for people to drink coffee then go do stuff! While such an untraditional name was a little risky, it’s proven to be one of the biggest drivers behind our early success.

 

2. A business plan is great, but let’s focus on paying your bills first.

Money is obviously a big focus for any startup. If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, you know you need a strong business plan… but you’ll also want mentors and other entrepreneurs you admire to look it over. Listen to their feedback! Then as you launch, stay flexible, especially in the initial months. It might take longer than you realize for your long term business plan to come into play as you’ll initially focus on simply bringing in enough dough to cover your overhead. Need financial assistance? Consider if it would make more sense to work with investors or simply take out a bank loan — there are numerous options out there, and no blanket “right or wrong” as each situation is different.

 

3. Get legit, seek help, stay lean.

Do your research: what kind of business are you starting? What paperwork do you need to complete? Visit your local government offices and ask lots of questions. While you’re at it, contact your local Chamber of Commerce — they’ll likely have really great information for brand new businesses. There are also numerous nonprofits out there devoted to helping start-ups get on their feet, often providing free resources (again, your local Chamber of Commerce could point you in the right direction here depending on where you need help). It’s very possible you’ll run into unexpected permitting or delays so be wise where you spend your start-up budget: is paying that much for a logo really necessary, when your roommate is a Photoshop whiz and can whip up something just as good for a hundred bucks? Do you need a custom website, or will a Squarespace template work? Decide where you can reasonably cut corners while still staying true to yourself and your brand. Play to your strengths, and hire the right people when necessary: accountant, bookkeeper, attorney, social media manager, etc.

 

4. Have short-term and long-term vision.

Goals are vital, both for the short and long-term. Don’t get so caught up in short-term goals that you neglect long-term; and vice-versa. Stay flexible. Just as in any other aspect of #adulting, have mentors and people in your industry whom you respect checking in with you from time to time to help keep you on track. Surround yourself with people smarter than you so you continually think beyond your own perspective. And most of all: don’t be afraid to dream really big.

 

5. Be prepared for long days. Lots of them.

Working for yourself has become highly glamorized, but trust me, entrepreneurship is no joke. At the end of the day, the success of your business is directly relative to how much time and energy you invest into it. Nobody but you is gonna get shit done… so think long and hard if being your own boss is truly the right path for you. In my experience, the pros outweigh the cons, but be prepared for exhausting 12 and 14 hour workdays (wine helps). Bonus points if you can work from anywhere, but you might be surprised that “setting your own hours” isn’t entirely realistic — just because you want to work late at night or on the weekends doesn’t mean anyone else is checking their emails during that time.

 

6. Learn from your mistakes.

Mistakes happen — it’s a part of life and all new businesses. If you’re prone to any kind of depression or anxiety it will be tempting to let the success of your business dictate how you view yourself but remember: everyone makes mistakes. The key is learning from them. Keeping a journal to record your progress is helpful, as is talking things out with a close friend or family member. My husband is my forever sounding board, and I’m his — think about who your support system will be in your new journey.

 

7. It’s worth it.

Sure, going from secure health insurance to full-time entrepreneurship may be a little daunting, but at the end of the day, there is absolutely nothing like working for yourself and setting your own pace, goals, and income. Whether your dream is to be a freelance designer, musician, florist, writer or any host of other professions that exist (I’m always amazed by what people can do for a living!), I believe in you and your amazing ideas. 2019 is your year!

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