“I feel trapped by my responsibilities.”
I’m guessing this phrase has come across your mind at some point.
I get it. You have this vision in your mind of creating a thriving livlihood, but where you are right in this very moment feels really far from that dream.
You have done everything you should do up until this point to become a responsible, successful member of society, but something is missing. You have a good job, a loving family, and you are able to support yourself, but something is missing.
You want to be your own boss.
You know that you can do something amazing. You just don’t know where to start or how to let go of the responsibilities that feel like a weight holding you down.
I’ve been right where you are now: the excitement of a new idea followed by the overwhelm of actually achieving it. You realize that you have to let something else go. But how?
A few years ago, I started a new business. I was finally creating art and selling it. Business was picking up, but I was feeling completely crushed under the weight of a day job that I hated. I knew I needed to devote more time to my business in order for it to grow, but I was so afraid to compromise that steady paycheck. That security.
My agony over sitting at a job I was unhappy with all day grew, and I was reaching a point of panic.
“What if this never happens? What if I never pursue this dream, for real?”
I almost hate to admit this, but I was having disaster fantasies.
"If I was in a car accident, I would have a legitimate excuse to not go to work today."
That? Is when you know you have to make some serious changes. That...is fucking crazy.
As I usually do when I’m facing life’s challenges, I turned to my mom.
We were having breakfast one morning and I was lamenting (again) over my dread of returning to my job. Then my mom said four words that changed everything for me:
"You need a plan.”
That was my aha moment.
We proceeded to put together an exit strategy that included turning in my notice at my architecture job and offering to work remotely as a freelance consultant. I’d be able to work from home when my boss needed me and use all of my free down time to nurture the business that I was building. I would also be free to take on other freelance jobs in town if I needed more work to get me through when money was extra tight.
Now, the kicker was that I had to be prepared to walk if the arrangement didn’t work for my boss or he let me go. But he didn’t. And the freedom that I gained from the new plan allowed me to eventually move out of that job completely.
Since then, I’ve played around with going full time on my business and working part time with other day jobs. It hasn’t always been the perfect balance, but I’ve learned that I have control over my schedule. I also know that I can make my dream a reality when I start taking the right steps.
It's the most empowering feeling.
It takes time. And it takes a plan.
If you are struggling to take the next step, below are a few ways to make your own plan of action.
1. Figure out what is holding you back. For me, nine times out of ten, it comes down to money. I always worry if I can make it work financially. Maybe you are afraid of what people will think. Either way, take out a sheet of paper and write down any and every fear that comes to mind.
2. Think of three steps you can take to move past your fear and closer to your goal. There is a ton of cheerleading on the internet for quitting your day job. But when you are starting out with a new business, it's not the smartest idea to start burning bridges before your dream has started to take shape. Maybe you can go freelance, like I did. Maybe you need to find another day job that is more flexible. Maybe it's as simple as learning to set boundaries with your loved ones, or letting go of other, less important, responsibilities that eat up your time. The point is to start carving out more and more time to focus on your dream.
3. Be prepared to stand behind your new plan. You will be challenged. Your boss may try to renegotiate the terms of your plan--mine did. Or you might pressure yourself into taking on more than you really want to. You have to stand strong and make it clear to others (and yourself) that this is what you want to do, and this is something you are committed to.
4. Use your newfound freedom wisely. In other words, be prepared to work hard. Your time is precious, so once you have devoted more of it to your dream, don't squander it on anything that doesn't further your cause. I'm serious about this one.
5. Plan ahead for the days that you have to work on your business. I use Google Calendar to create task lists for each day. Keep your lists manageable (I try to stick to 3-4 tasks per day).
6. Enjoy your newfound freedom. You have already taken a huge step to achieving big goals for your business. That's something to be proud of!