Ever since I left my full-time job, I’ve been getting emails from a lot of people who seem to be fed up with their day job and they are contemplating a leap to greener pastures. Greener pastures of what, I ask? Well, that is what is not very clear.
Having the chutzpah to quit a job or to initiate change is obviously a huge step, but if the only thing you have to offer the world on the other side of that pivot is energy and a desire to “chase your passions”, you might be tending a drought-ridden lot instead of rolling fields of green.
And this is coming from a guy who has – at times in life – blindly “chased his passions” without any professional foundations and thus paid the (literal) price for it. Like when I moved to Charleston, SC on a whim to start a film production business because I liked movies and could edit a little bit. Wait, people won’t pay me thousands of dollars just because I need the money?
If you’re going out on your own to earn – and there is a difference here. I am not writing about those who are merely taking a break, a big trip or a sabbatical – then you must have a skill or product that someone is willing to pay you for. Without that, you might as well be trying to rest your head on the curves of a cloud. Sure, it looks inviting but when you get up there, the laws of gravity and density have the upper hand.
- Starting a blog to write about food is not a business
- Traveling is not a business
- Wanting to work from home is not a business
- Wanting to walk in the park for an hour at 10AM is not a business
- Being passionate about something is not a business
A business is a business. And a business only works if the thing you are offering is monetarily valued by someone else. Period.
Here’s The Plan
Hate your job? Want to work for yourself? Go through this checklist first:
- Write down the skills you have that you think people would be willing to pay you for? Or write down the product you’re creating that you’re assuming people will buy
- Find out if your assumptions are true by testing, asking, and getting some sort of actionable feedback from the kind of people you hope to sell to. If your assumptions don’t hold water yet, don’t quit your job.
- Rinse and repeat
A Note On Feedback
Feedback is where reality is.
Feedback is where growth is.
Feedback is how your tool-belt gets furnished.
Feedback is how you find out what you think you know.
Feedback is where the little wins are.
So why is getting feedback from people a scary, nerve-racking, never-ending vulnerable rodeo that saps my confidence?!
Here’s how our brain works.
I can either:
- Get feedback and realize that what I’m creating isn’t needed or valued, or
- Don’t get feedback, launch my product/service and call everyone idiots for not buying it
The former, makes us vulnerable in the short run, but helps us grow in the long run. The latter helps us sleep at night in the short run but holds us down in the long run.
Our brains have a hard time looking past the short run. But you know better!
If you skip garnering feedback and instead, decide to jump into a new venture cold-turkey, you run the risk of getting a full-time Master’s Degree in “Delusions of Grandeur”.
Chances are, you are going to have to be damn good at that thing you want to monetize for someone to want to pay you for it. Don’t find that out because you were too scared to ask your potential customers if they wanted what you were making in the first place.
Turn your idea into a testable hypothesis as soon as possible and build from there.
The luxury you have while working a 9-5 is the time and the money to test your assumptions. Stop beating your chest talking about what you would do if you wereyour own boss and instead, see if those thoughts hold any merit at all without the pressures of having to solely earn as your own boss.
This post wasn’t meant to deflate you, it was meant to prepare you. Remember, just because you’re passionate about something, doesn’t mean someone is going to pay you for it. If you want to carve out a living for yourself, you’ll have to earn it – economically.
Don’t Just Take My Word For It
“A distressingly large fraction of these contrarians skipped over the part where they build a stable means to support their unconventional lifestyle. There is a hard truth to the real world: It’s really hard to convince people to give you money.” – Cal Newport
“Passion or skill + usefulness = success” – Chris Guillebeau
“I have this principle about money that overrides my other life rules. Do what people are willing to pay you for.” – Derek Sivers
On that note, I am going out on my vulnerability limb and am seeking more feedback from you. Tomorrow I am launching my goal-setting product but wanted to make sure it was going to help people in the best possible way. If you had 20 seconds, I’d greatly appreciate your feedback on the things holding you back in your life via this survey. It’s just two multiple choice questions.