I quit my job in June of 2017. No, I didn’t have a plan. No, I didn’t have enough savings. No, I wasn’t entirely prepared for reality on the other side.
Because of my — let’s call it hastily and ill-advised departure — I put myself and my family $26,000 in debt, I had a complete breakdown, I tried making it as a YouTuber by daily vlogging for 40 straight weeks, and I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
And yet, leaving my job was also the best decision I’ve ever made.
So, what’s the point of this article? Well, it’s two-fold.
First, I want to motivate those who are antsy to kick their cubicles goodbye to make a decision, a well-informed decision (unlike what I did).
Second, I want those who feel stuck but are too afraid to make the leap to think more realistically about their options, because there are options.
Let’s look at why quitting your job will be the best and worst decision of your life.
Quitting your job is the best idea
Let’s start with the perks. Quitting your job gives you a lot of freedom. No more boss. No more time tracking. Just you, your ideas, and unlimited potential.
It’s annoying to wake up, put on your big-boy pants, commute to the office, and spend 8 to 9 hours focused entirely on your spreadsheets. All of your other personal business has to be left behind at home.
When I worked in Corporate America, I hated dropping my son off at daycare. It felt so pointless. It was before he could speak but I always wondered what was going through his little brain. Why do you leave me here? What’s so important that you have to do at work?
It stung even more as I sat at my desk and tinkered with Macros and Excel formulas all day. I hated the artificial work-life balance.
When you quit your job, work-life balance is in your control. You decide when it’s “work time” and when it’s “life-time” and make it convenient for you.
After I quit my job, I hired a babysitter to play with my son while I worked from home or sometimes at the local coffee shop. It was a nice, flexible arrangement. My son was nearby when I needed a break and taken care of when I needed to focus.
A better way to put it: when you work for yourself, work and life become fluid.
The other nice thing about quitting your job: you become your own boss. Which means you get to decide what to work on.
This freedom means finding work, projects, and clients that bring you fulfillment. Tired of working on spreadsheets all day? Now you don’t have to!
You’re in control now of what shows up on your desk. You get to shape your career trajectory.
You also get to take risks. When I quit my job I was working on a few things. I was building websites for clients, acting as a career mentor for young adults, and even trying to build my own business around a habit accountability program.
None of these things worked out beside the web development work, but I learned a lot along the way. Knowing what you’re not good at doing is a skill that’s under-appreciated in Corporateland because failure is not an option there.
Over time, through trial and error, you’ll settle into a healthy balance of working on things that challenge you but still bring about great joy.
Can’t say that happens too often sitting in a cubicle.
Income isn’t fixed
When you work at a traditional job, what’s the best you can hope for at your year-end review? A 2-percent raise? Hardly enough to keep up with inflation.
When you quit your job and set off on your own, there’s no limit to what you can earn.
This is only true to some extent. If you attempt to simply trade your time for money, you will hit a wall. There is only so much you can do in a day.
However, if you’re able to replace your services with a product or software, then you no longer become your biggest obstacle. And if you keep your operation small (like Paul JarvisCompany of One small) most of that becomes your own profit.
If you still worked in a cubicle, your big ideas become their big ideas.
Quitting your job is the worst idea
Okay, let’s get to the bad news. Quitting your job is a risk. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. Quitting your job is like being a fortune-teller and still boarding the RMS Titanic.
If you spend most of your working hours ruminating over how you’ll quit your job, allow me to disappoint you: it’s not as magical and thrilling as you think.
And if you’re not prepared, it might just be the worst decision of your life.
No work-life balance
As many people found out during the early days of pandemic lockdown, creating some semblance of a work-life balance is difficult when your home is both your office and living space.
The problem isn’t only physical. Time for work and time for life become entwined and blurred. What do you do if you’re tracking your time for a client but your dog want’s to go on a quick walk around the block? What happens when the kids interrupt you for a snack?
You left a well-defined 9-to-5 for a what? A constant state of working?
The lack of balance caused a lot of stress and anxiety in my early days of self-employment. I tried juggling clients, a toddler, and a newborn. At one point a client even told me to “put the baby down and get my head in the game.” I never fully recovered from that remark.
Before leaving your job, it would be best to make necessary arrangements (child care, workspace designation, etc.) so that you don’t have to adjust on the fly.
And keep in mind, you’ll never have the same boundaries as before. The best you can do is manage everyone’s expectations, including yours.
No fulfilling work
I get the sentiment, I really do, all that follow your passion stuff gurus like to spew online. But here’s the reality: leaving your job is just another rat race.
Without a full-time job to support yourself (and pay for health insurance and stuff like that), you’ll quickly see why following your passion doesn’t always pay and why chasing the next buck becomes your new norm.
Not having a dependable income is scary. So what do you do after leaving your job? You find the simplest work that’ll pay. Sometimes this often comes in the form of client work.
Client work is fine, however, instead of having one boss you now have twenty. And not all clients are fun to work with. Most of the time you’re just another line on their balance sheet. Before long you start questioning why you left your job in the first place.
I’m not saying you’ll never find fulfilling and meaningful work, it’s just that once you’re on your own everything becomes transactional.
No fixed income
I’ve already touched a bit on this in the article. Without a steady paycheck, you will constantly live in a state of how-will-I-earn-my-next-dollar? It’s not a great feeling.
Even when you have a strong cast of clients or digital products that are selling well, there’s always that thought in the back of your mind that you’re one email or one technical glitch away from losing it all.
The goal, of course, is to eventually have multiple streams of income to lessen this worry. But multiple successful streams take time to develop. And when you’re just starting out on your own, this fear takes a toll.
To quit or not to quit, that is the question
My goal was to show both sides of the coin. Obviously, there are too many unique factors in everyone’s lives to take into account. Quitting your job might work out in your favor, it might also bring you financial ruin.
In any case, it’s worth taking a good hard look and understanding if your current position is worth holding onto (for a bit while longer) or letting go.
Life’s too short to hate your job. Just make sure you’ve thought things over.