I Quit My Job And Lived To Tell

By Nacie Carson
52 Comments

I’d like to introduce you to Nacie Carson, who a few years ago took the leap, leaving the perceived safety of full time employment to become an entrepreneur. She has since built up a client base and worked hard to establish an online brand that has paid dividends. Like many of us, Nacie has strived to establish online income streams as close to passive when possible, derived from her abilities as a writer.

In this new column Nacie is going to reveal what she has learned and how she established herself transitioning from employee to online entrepreneur. - Yaro

I was surprised to find myself a little nervous, hesitant even, as I walked into my manager’s office to give him my official notice. For weeks I had planned, strategized, and laid the foundation to walk away from my 9-5 as an analyst at a financial software company to start my own entrepreneur’s journey as a freelance writer. Yet for some reason as the words tumbled out of my mouth – “I’m leaving…quitting…I’m leaving to start writing full-time” – I felt suddenly freaked.

What if it didn’t work? What if I failed miserably? What if my bank accounts slowly shriveled into empty shells and I was thrown out of my apartment and I had to live in the park under a newspaper covered in words that someone else wrote?!

As my manager looked me over (partially confused, partially amused), I focused on taking deep breaths. In the few moments of silence that followed my awkwardly delivered statement, I was able to regain my composure with a simple thought: “I’m ready for this.”

And I was. For the previous four months I had worked, plotted, and planned to make the transition from full-time employee to freelance entrepreneur as smooth and seamless as possible. I had built up a small writing client base on nights and weekends, scrimped and saved every penny I could from my salary into a “buffer fund,” and set up a home office all tricked out in a writer’s must haves (computer, printer, chocolate stash). I was ready to make the move, and a quick mental review of all I’d done to prepare put the wind back in my sails and gave me the confidence I needed to complete the “I’m quitting” meeting with a little grace.

Two weeks later, I stepped out of the office building for the last time and stepped directly into life as a self-employed individual.

From Employee To Entrepreneur

My transition from employee to entrepreneur started in November of 2007. About six months into my “big city” job after college it hit me that finance, a long commute, and working for someone else just wasn’t what I wanted from a career or for my lifestyle. Sure, the money was great and the people were very nice, but as the days and weeks passed I started to feel a persistent and nagging sense of dissatisfaction. Something just wasn’t right, and when I finally did identify the issue as my distaste for the rat race and a desire to write, a whole new crop of emotional hurdles popped up.

The nagging, doubtful part of my mind kept poking at my entrepreneurial will with scary questions:

After months of subjecting myself to such internal interrogation, I realized my passion for writing and entrepreneurship wasn’t going to be scared away by mental bullying. So I sat down and figured out the worst case scenario:

“The worst case scenario is that I can’t pay my bills as an entrepreneur and I will have to go out and get a new full-time job.”

Not “making it” as an entrepreneur was totally correctable – never giving it a shot was irreversible.

Emboldened with this new-found simplicity, I sat myself down one afternoon and started thinking about how to practically and actionably make my desire a reality.

Focusing On Finances

The first concern was money. I’m not going to lie, I’m a creature who likes her comforts, and making sure I had enough to pay my basic living expenses and enjoy my lifestyle was a concern for me. The first thing I had to do was build up a “buffer savings account” to cover my needs in the first few months of the transition. I wanted to know that I had a set amount of time to get used to the transition, grow my client base, and get a business plan in place.

With my bills, calculator, and spreadsheet in front of me I spent a perfectly gorgeous Sunday afternoon crunching numbers:

I’m not going to lie – when the “grand total” number came out I was really disheartened and felt like it would take 100 years to save up that amount (and I want to quit now!).

But I looked at my salary, looked at my “fun money,” and made some sacrifices in the moment to give me some extra wiggle room for savings. I established a livable savings plan and had the money automatically transferred out of my salary into a savings account designated as the “buffer fund” and barely gave it another thought.

When I calculated it out, I would be able to make the transition to entrepreneur in six months based on how much I could save per month.

The delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise – during those six months of building my “buffer fund” I was able to start building a modest freelance writing client base, set up my website, and write/start to sell my first eBook.

Life After 9-5

In September of 2008, I started my journey as an entrepreneur and have never looked back. Over the years, there have been struggles, challenges, failures, and times of frustration. But there has also been euphoria, happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction. I have been able to earn a nice living pursuing my passion for writing – and thanks to affiliate sales, product launches, and a little Adsense have had months where I earned well beyond my corporate salary.

There is no doubt that an entrepreneur’s life is an exercise in adventure – but that’s what happens when you remove the strangling safety net of 9-5 security. I quit my job and lived to tell, but more importantly I’ve created and embraced a career and lifestyle that are fulfilling to me. And I’m confident that – with a little planning and a sprinkling of passion – anyone else can do the same.

Here’s to your Entrepreneur’s Journey,

Nacie

About Nacie Carson

Nacie Carson is a freelance writer and founder of The Life Uncommon, a career evolution and entrepreneurship community.
Her work on careers and authenticity have been featured in over 200 media outlets, including Portfolio.com, WalletPop, and two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Nacie's first book on career "fitness" will be in stores in April 2012. You can contact her via nacie(@)TheLifeUncommon.Net

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52 Comments

  • Great post, I’m aspiring the same route. My story is much different than yours however the spriit of entreprenuership is still there. My big concern is the steady paycheck and losing the health benefits as I have myself and 3 other mouths to feed. Nevertheless I will let the dream and hope keep me moving. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • @Nixon Press – I hear your concerns, it is def. scary, and I was on my own (no kids to worry about). But what I learned through that phase of my journey is that you might be surprised at the amount of options you have (and just never knew about!) – check out the national entrepreneur’s association in your country (could also be called the self-employment association), they often offer affordable health care solutions to independent contractors, etc.

      Best of luck!

    • I’m in the same boat as you. I’m a freelance software tester and long dreamed of being my own boss. I have a wife & two kids, and part of my strategy was to move to somewhere less expensive to bootstrap.

      In my case it was South America, but it could be the Midwest, or 30 minutes further outside your commute if you still need to meet with clients & customers in the city. (When you don’t commute at 8am-5pm the drive is much nicer.) If you’re underwater on a mortgage, this might not be something you can do though.

      Similarly with health insurance — we decided to do without. Health care is cheap & high quality here in Ecuador. Despite health & dental problems, injured children, and pre-natal visits (we’re expecting our third), we’ve still saved money over paying US premiums. Doing without health insurance may not be a problem (and may not be legal soon) as well.

      But the persistance, setting a goal, keeping a budget, and finding time nights & weekends to not just work, but network, and learn your craft (and general business skills that employees don’t need to worry about) help — and having deadlines is crucial.

      I tried it once before, same strategy, without kids, and didn’t make it work before. Part of it might have been immaturity, and part necessary learning curve, but the biggest part was probably knowing I’d run out of money soon that got me to put my butt in gear.

      I’m headed back to the USA soon to have the baby, and will probably go back to the 8-5 for a couple more years, but I now know it can be done.

  • Nacie,

    “The worst case scenario is that I can’t pay my bills as an entrepreneur and I will have to go out and get a new full-time job.” – It is the truth.

    Entrepreneurship is all about being able to take risks. If it plays out well, fine and if not, great. Accepting circumstances as they come is failure in itself.

    Thanks for the post

    • @ Manuel – You’re absolutely right. You can’t take risk out of being an entrepreneur, but you *can* plan, back-up plan, and prepare thoroughly to minimize risk wherever possible. Thanks for commenting!

  • […] original here: I Quit My Job And Lived To Tell – Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by … Share and […]

  • Nacie, nice premier here on EJ and I look forward to more of your writing.

    I think though that many people fool themselves when they quit full-time employment to start a business. They think that they’ve escaped the rat race.

    You still have to run through the maze to find your piece of cheese. In your case Nacie if you don’t write you don’t get paid though if you are a published author there is the possibility of royalty payments. Instead of having a manager as your boss, your clients are your bosses.

    As an entrepreneur the rat race is just of a different variety.

    • @Dennis – thanks for your comment, and I think you’ve brought up an insightful point. The question I would raise is whether the rat race is a state of being or a state of mind. For me, it’s a state of mind – you’re absolutely right that my clients are my bosses in a sense, but it *feels* different…what do you think about the being/mind thought?

      • People are all different and all of life’s situations can be factored down to a state of mind or at least a state of perception. What *feels* like a prison may be a prison to some and may not be to others.

        One blind man described what he was touching as a tree, another blind man described it as a rock and a third described it as a snake. They were all touching an elephant but they all had a different perception.

        You’ve probably found a better use of your time or a better state of mind as you say Nacie. You’ve probably eliminated a long and frustrating commute to work on overcrowded public transportation and you now have more control over the work that you do.

        You’re not obligated to a boss at work and you have more freedom since ultimately you are your own boss unless you allow your clients to fill that role.

  • Hope that all people that are looking for an online entrepreneurship will be as luckly as Nacie. Congratulations Nacie..

  • I have always liked these stories of quitting the 9-5. They are inspiring and motivational. They make me realize that there are thousands upon thousands that make the jump each year (and live to tell about it).
    If they can do it, why not me?

    Thanks,
    Brandon

  • Nacie’s story is really inspirational for me, I am freelancer web designer and trying to develop myself a brand on the web, i consider only marketing but in this article I got some more important points. i must consider them and I hope I will do same as Nacie has done.

  • Inspiring article Nacie. I’m yet to make the transition, hopefully soon. “Not “making it” as an entrepreneur was totally correctable – never giving it a shot was irreversible.” That about sums up everything. I couldn’t have said it better.

    • @Lisa – Glad this resonated with you! I think one of the things that Yaro has done so well on this site is to emphasize that while some of our strategies and tactics might be similar, the entrepreneur’s journey is a unique and individual one for all of us. Best of luck to you in your own journey!

  • Taking the initial step is always the difficult one, and sometimes if you throw you self into the deep end, you have no choice to make it work, and will make sure that it was the best move you did.

    • @ Wasim – Thanks for the comment, Wasim – and while throwing yourself in the deep end can be scary (and I might not recommend it!) I would recommend doing your best to prepare and then taking the plunge – set yourself up for success, not failure, and then (once there is no more fussing to do), just go for it.

  • Majora1991

    How do you get your start as an entrepreneur, talking about freelancing and self-employment without having done so before. Kind-of like if I did a review on a game without actually playing it first

  • Your About page at your website says: “Nacie Carson is the Director of Learning and Development at Cleaver Company, a boutique consulting firm in Boston. She is also the author of numerous articles on career transition and entrepreneurialism.”

    Not trying to be negative here but does that mean you’ve since gone back to working in “the rat race”.. while running your own side stuff as well? Director of Learning and Development doesn’t sound like a part-time or freelance kind of position. Just curious. The story is definitely inspiring. I’m just hoping it paid off for you and you didn’t need to go back to a corporate gig.

  • I also started my self-employed journey in 2008.. and I have to say, working for myself has been the hardest job I’ve ever had.

    And I’ve had a lot of jobs!

    Definitely wish I had a “buffer” savings account back then… would have saved myself all sorts of trouble down the road!

    • @Elijah – I can’t emphasize a buffer account enough! I worked for months to save for mine, and of course once you’re out there you always wish you had a bit more…but I think to Wasim’s point above, at some point you’ve just got to take the plunge…if we could all save up $1 million before taking the leap then entrepreneurship in and of itself would be a different animal! Best of luck, and thanks for commenting!

  • Very good article Nacie.

    I too quit my job in September 2008 and, although it was the best decision I ever made, the journey would have been a bit easier if I had followed some of your “preparational” ideas.

    ~ Rory

    • @ Rory – Congrats on making the switch, and sorry to hear it’s been a bit rough…but I’m sure you’ve learned SO much from the less than easy parts, and are a better entrepreneur in the end for it. Thanks for commenting!

  • Most people realize after a while if they are an ‘employee’ or an entrepreneur.I chose the path of the entrepreneur as you did. It’s o.k. when you are new to the workforce to be an employee, but it is more fun and rewarding to be an entrepreneur.

    • @Justin – Definitely harder in some senses to be an entrepreneur, but you’re right – so much more rewarding! Thanks for commenting, and luck to you as you keep on your own E-J!

  • Nacie, nicely-written article that will be an inspiration to others! Congratulations on finding a way to create a career that makes the most of your talents!

  • Nacie rocks. Thanks so much for sharing your story and here’s to your continued success! I hope to learn from you!!

  • It can be frightening to take the leap of quitting your job and staring the journey of working for yourself. Congratulations on becoming an entrepreneur Nacie.

    – Robert

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  • Awesome story. I had a similar transition, yet I did NOT plan my finances and took a risk of investing in coaching and hoping it would bring me enough results in short enough time, so I can jump start my business quickly. Dangerous strategy I agree, but it was that or probably longer struggle. I like to take risks and follow my intuition sometimes :).

  • As a fellow job quitter, I really enjoyed your article Nacie. It was definately a transition for me. I went back to school, got a Master’s Degree and then off I went to launch my business. That was 7 years ago. Today I am managing TWO successful coaching practices and am so thankful that I took the plunge.

    It isn’t always easy. Yet because I am definitely an adventure lover, can’t image going back to the old 9 – 5… EVER.

    Susan

  • Amazing story! Inspired me a lot and there’s many things to learn.

  • Nacie, your story is really good I hope it would serve as an inspiration to others. In business you should be aware about the risk that will come in your way. I really loved your confident and good spirit.

  • If you don’t take risks life’s boring. Why do we have to work 9-5? Live your dreams whilst you can. Inspirational.

  • This is a very inspiring story Nacie. You have taken a huge risk and emerge triumphant. I admire you and your courage. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Excellent Post and inspiring story Nacie

    When entrepereurs face frustration, some times take more time to recover than usual, becasue we spend too much time looking for answers like Why we fail?, Which were my mistakes? and so on, and some times it´s better to keep going intead of doing this in deep.

  • Nacie,

    Your worst case scenario sounds like it comes straight out of the book “The 4-Hour Work Week.” I think saying out loud, or writing down your worst case scenario is very empowering, and makes one realize that even if the worst comes to pass it isn’t all that bad.

    However, there could be even worse case scenarios than what you stated of being an unsuccessful entrepreneur. Homeless, destitute etc.

    Did you not already have a written budget before you started crunching numbers? Having a written budget, which includes allocating a specific amount of entertainment money every two weeks in cash, has enabled my family to save much more and not overspend on fun stuff. Hopefully your example of creating a realistic budget will inspire some to do the same.

    Do you plan on building enough affiliate passive income that you will no longer have to take freelance writing jobs, or do you foresee continuing to write, regardless of additional ongoing income you build up?

    – Andrew

  • I hope to quit my job but I’ve got a lot of work to do before I’m able to do that. Your story is inspiring to say the least. Nacie is an inspiration.

  • Thanks for sharing a very inspiring story. :) It takes a lot of courage and guts to quit your job and get going with your own business, so I hope this post inspires a lot more people to do so as well.

    Cheers,
    Allen

  • Great post, Nacie! I really liked your point that you could always find a new job, but giving up on your dream was forever. How many times have we hit the snooze button on life? There is a joke that this is something that grad students do, but I think that the real snooze button of life is “the man in the gray flannel suit” who lives a life of quiet desperation and boredom, and is seen as disposable.

    • Cassandra

      You and Nacie hit the nail on the head! Okay, that was cliche. I currently work a 9-5 and am considering the risk of venturing off for several reasons. One being, I feel I spend more time justifying my existance here and having to continually quanitfy earned-value added. Anything can be quanitfied, so am I really adding value???

      Great post!

  • Nacie, congratulations on your successful transition!

    I really enjoyed this article, and I think the practical-meets-dreamer approach clearly is the way to go. Obviously there is some element of risk in leaving a good job, but with a few hours of really breaking down the economics of it, you can mitigate a lot of that risk.

    Continued success with your endeavors!

    – Devin

  • Nacie,

    Wow, what an inspiration you are. You are so real and I love your writing style. It’s great you had the courage to follow your heart and make it work for you and now you pave the way for others to believe they can do it too.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story!!!

    Karen

  • Hi Nacie,

    Great first post. Really enjoyed reading about your brave steps out of the street of rat races and into the house of entrepreneurship. You really planned everything as well as one could too and executed just as well the first forays into doing what you love for a living. Hope this encourages many more to do the same!

  • Hi Nacie,

    Wonderful post to which many can relate. While a lot of people have taken the road to full-time entrepreneurship, so many are contemplating leaving the safety of the 9-5 schedule. Your story definitely is one that inspires.

    Much appreciation for your sharing. Thanks.

    Nelly

  • Hi Nacie,
    Great story about the American Dream… Bringing Back The American Dream… and yes Nacie, you are living the American Dream. People with small dreams have big excuses, but people with Big Dreams don’t have excuses, they find solutions to obstacles… and you did.

    Coach Freddie

  • I am glad that I read this article. I feel that I am going through the same process you went. It is hard to quit the job that you have and then start a journey that you are uncertain , but what you said is true. Planning is very important and some sacrifices are worthy.
    Thanks for share your story Nacie.
    Julie Linares
    Bloggeate.com

  • You have taken an excellent decision of leaving the job as an employee. This is an excellent post Nacie.

  • That is definitely a success story, I want to be one day be able to fire my own boss and be a successful Internet entrepreneur!

  • It is really a tough decision to quit your job and try to work on your own not only as a freelance writer but opening an online or offline business too, you should really believe in your self and be motivated to succeed

  • Karabo Sizakele Hlongwane

    I am in the process of this too. I LOVE WRITING. Your story is freakishly familiar to mine. Only difference is that I moved back to my mothers. She is not impressed that I am planning on leaving my well paid job. But one day, I trust I will get to tell a similar testimony! Great job. You give me hope that I am not alone! Hala!

  • Irwin

    What a great post! I felt the same way that you did when you were at your 9 to 5 (a feeling of dissatisfaction although you worked with great people and made good money).

    I’m close to making the leap myself – thanks so much for this post!

  • It took me some time before I gathered the strength to quit my job but I always believed life is too precious to let the time go by without doing what we are really passionate about. It was a difficult path and I hesitated a lot. Now two years down the track I started my own company, I earn enough money to be financially independent AND I have a lot more time form myself and family. The only advice I could give is do-not-give-up. Startups are always difficult at first but not impossible.

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