On Leaving Your Day Job

Fantasizing about having your Jerry Maguire moment? My internet friend Austin Kleon would be the first to tell you to keep your day job. Then again, he quit his own day job a couple years ago to focus on promoting his new book, then write another one. He wrote about the reality of his situation on his blog yesterday, and I appreciated it so much:

Believe me, when I quit my day job almost two years ago, it was not an act of bravery, and if it was a risk, it was an extremely calculated one. Here were the factors involved:

I had a wife who was pregnant, yes, but who got good health insurance through the university where she was a student employee

I had no debt except for a cheap mortgage and my wife’s student loans

I had made half of my copywriter’s salary the previous year selling artwork while working my day job

I had a decent chunk of change in the bank thanks to the advance for the book I wrote while working my day job

I had a publisher willing to send me on a 20-city book tour to promote my book

the agency I worked at was up for sale

In the end, as Austin points out, if you can isolate your risks to the work you want to do, you’re in a pretty ideal place.

My own moment when I realized leaving my job wouldn’t be that risky on a practical/financial level was when — and this may have been obvious to most people — but was when it hit me that the money I had saved in the bank would be my income after taxes. To be specific, I had somewhere around $30,000 in a savings account. Yes, I was used to making a lot more than that from a salary, but when I divided that number by 24, into something resembling a biweekly paycheck, I realized that was more than I used to take home when I made $45,000 a year. No, that wasn’t accounting for all the benefits I got, but I figured I could live comfortably on less than that (and have), and reminded myself I would surely make *some* money here and there on freelance work, which I have.

Oh, and for more stories about “making the leap”, The Great Discontent is a site where I’ve spent many dreamy afternoons studying how other people cobble together a living doing the creative work they want to do.

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