Dear Danielle: Should I Quit My Day Job to Start My Business?

Dear Danielle:

I, too, am a single mother. I currently work full time, but am actively (and as quickly as possible) working towards becoming a legitimate business. The question (or dilemma) I have is that I am reluctant to just leave my job and go full force into my own business. I have considered a small business loan to help with the transition, but I would rather not go there. Do you have any suggestions or pointers on softening the blow? —Nicole Barton

Thanks for writing, Nicole, and I do have some feedback and advice for ya!

You are smart to be reluctant about starting your business by going into debt. That’s your intuition telling you not to do that. It’s a really, really, really bad idea.

Although, contrary to popular belief, business loans for start-ups aren’t handed out like candy. In all honesty, you probably wouldn’t get one even if you wanted one. New small businesses are one of the highest risk groups there are (90% of new first time businesses fail, and it generally takes a good 3-5 years for those who stick around to really start gaining any kind of traction and financial solvency). You’d have to have all your ducks in such a fantatic row to even remotely qualify. And if you got yourself to the kind of level they require in order to qualify, you wouldn’t need the loan by that time anyway, lol.

So first, here’s what you want to have realistic expectations about:  It takes most people many months (sometimes even more than a year!) before they get their first client. And those first clients are more often project clients (as opposed to retainer clients), and odds and ends project work simply is not going to give you enough of an income on which to support yourself and quit your job.

Now, that may end up not being the case for you, which would be great, but it’s better to have realistic expectations so that you are better equipped and prepared for the long haul than to dive in eyes closed, hoping for the best and walking away discouraged, disappointed and broke (and worse, in debt).

While you are employed (and earning an income) is actually a great time to lay the foundations for your new business. And what I mean by foundations are things like:

  • Getting all your initial business learning, studying and planning in;
  • This includes getting intention and clarity around what your pricing and income needs.
  • Taking care of business legalities (e.g., registrations, etc.)
  • Figuring out your target market;
  • Coming up with your biz name;
  • Securing a domain name, creating your website and drafting your marketing message;
  • Getting your starting policies and documents in place
  • Purchasing your most important essential business tools/equipment and other necessities (a state of the art computer system and the best Internet service you can find is the best investment you can make!)

While you are employed is also a good time to start socking away some money to live on and sustain the business for the time when you decide it’s right to finally make the leap.

The good news is that our kind of business is one of the easiest and most affordable to start! There’s no travel involved, you work from your own home office, the start-up costs and investments are minimal (compared to other kinds of businesses), and it costs hardly anything beyond some basic services in overhead to run your business.

When I started my business, I actually did it for many years on the side while still working my day job. Then an opportunity came up during another round of company-wide layoffs where I was able to volunteer for lay-off. I received a very nice severance package which I used to fund my new business. Of course, by that time, I already had my all my equipment and foundations in place so all I really had to focus on at that point was marketing and networking and getting those retained clients as a full-time business.

So don’t be eager to take the leap too quickly, particularly if you aren’t well-prepared for success (you didn’t say where you are at in the process so I’m not sure what that is for you). Then again, at some point, there will be a time when you have to make the leap in the interests of your business and those of your clients.

Get your foundations in place while employed, perhaps begin to take on some projects and ongoing clients on the side during that time, and then once you’re ready to make the leap and quit your day job, make sure you have some other form of income or savings to live on (e.g., savings, a spouse’s income, unemployment, severance pay, side jobs and project work) while your business is in the early years and you are focused on gaining those first retained clients.

Hope that helps! Be sure to also check out the free ACA Start Your Biz! guide as well.

2 Comments Posted in Best Biz Practices, Business Management, Dear Danielle, Starting Your Biz. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses

  1. I agree with Danielle. I too am a single mom and I started my “home-based” secretarial business back in the 90s as a part-time way of earning extra money. I started in NY and in 93 relocated to NC and continued. At the time I never intended to go into business for myself and was happy with word of mouth referrals. What I really wanted was to land a job with a large company that had great benefits and work there till retirement. Unfortunately between downsizing, mergers and company relocations, every couple of years I found myself looking for yet another job.

    I continued to network and run my business, which at this time had grown more into a full-time business venture. In 2006 when the last company I ever worked for said they were relocating to Omaha, NE, I decided to stay put and instead of looking for yet another job, I notified all my clients I would be available more hours, and started running my business full-time. It just so happened that one of my clients wanted me to work on a contract with them that was about 80 per month.

    All this to say that personally I had a lot of fear when it came to going into business for myself, but I also believe I was not ready. I have learned a lot over the years and running a business is more than just doing work, invoicing, and getting paid. The checks don’t always come on time, well back then they didn’t, and unless you have a large nest egg saved up, it’s best to wait till the time is right. When it’s right you’ll know it.

    Build your client base, focus on retainer clients, find one or two groups that offer networking in the evening or during lunch. You can also network online. Set a goal for yourself or a timeline like by this month I’ll have this done, and when I have “blank” amount of clients I’ll quit my job. Like Danielle I was offered a severance package and that did help with the transition. I have a friend who started her own VA business when she was laid off. She knew the layoff was coming and spent the months prior getting herself prepared. While on unemployment she built her business.

    I know this is long, but I hope it helps. There is plenty of work out there so I’m sure you will do fine.

    Good luck.

    Odetta Taylor
    Alternate Office Solutions

  2. Stacey Ramke says:

    Thanks, great advice. I’m in a similar situation.

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