More and more working professionals are looking to give up the monotony of the 9-to-5. Men and women who have spent years ingrained in the corporate world are now asking themselves the same set of familiar questions: “How did I end up here? Isn’t there a better way? How do I escape my 9-5?”
Does this sound like you? Do you find yourself dreaming of enhanced flexibility, greater control, and a real work/life balance? Chances are, if you are reading this blog post, the answer is yes.
Maybe you are Millennial chasing your digital nomad dreams, or a Generation Xer looking to start the next multinational conglomerate. It doesn’t matter. If you are here, you need an escape plan, and you need it now. It should be clearly defined, goal-oriented, and, perhaps most importantly, empowering. The following are some no-frills, practical steps to help in your quest to quit the 9-to-5 and achieve the creative, professional, and personal freedom you desire.
Let’s take a look…
1) Redefine Your Fears
With 75% of entrepreneurial ventures failing within a matter of 10 years, it may not come as a shock that “fear” is a recurring theme throughout the entrepreneurial world. And yet, would you be surprised to learn that nearly one-third of Americans are more afraid of starting a business than jumping out of an airplane? Or how about the fact that new business creation is down 65% since the 1980s even though roughly 65% of Americans say they aren’t “stimulated” by their work?
Simply put, there is no greater barrier to entrepreneurial success than the paralyzing fear of failure. That being said, all is not lost for nervous 9-to-5ers looking to leave the office life behind. A critical fact that many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to recognize is that fear (and in turn, success and failure) is merely a matter of interpretation. It may sound like an oversimplification, but in fact, recent research from the Journal of Business Venturing tells us that fear is entirely neutral – i.e., it produces no specific bodily response other than to focus our attention to its source. How we choose to react to a fear-inducing stimulus, however, does has the potential to impact how we define and respond to fear in the future.
To further illustrate, let’s quickly inspect what the Harvard Business Review identifies as the seven most common causes of entrepreneurial fear:
- Financial security
- Ability to fund the venture
- Personal ability/self-esteem
- Potential of the idea
- Threats to social esteem
- The venture’s ability to execute
- Opportunity costs
Each cause relates in some capacity to the fear of failure, and each one is likely to elicit “worst-case scenario” cold-sweats from nervous 9-to-5ers. And yet, it is essential to understand that no outcome is 100% certain. Bit by a dog today doesn’t necessarily mean bit by a dog tomorrow. Your ability to rationalize your thoughts, to read “financial security” and think “financial opportunity,” to truly redefine your fears.
2) Develop a Side Hustle
As you have now redefined your entrepreneurial fears, we can move forward to the second necessary component of your plan to ditch the 9-to-5: The side hustle.
Also known as the “thing that you do to complement your traditional day job,” around 44 million American workers reported having a side hustle in 2017, with 36% earning $500 a month or more. Not only can a side hustle provide you with some extra income, but, with time, effort, and some patience, it can eventually transition from “side hustle” to “life hustle.” The tough question that most aspiring entrepreneurs must ask themselves (and sooner rather than later) is this: What exactly is my side hustle going to be?
These fours steps should help you figure it out:
- Identify your interests
- Identify your skills (i.e., within those interests)
- Define your goals
- Validate your hustle with a paying customer
Think hard and think critically about each step, especially your interests and your skills. At the end of the day, you should be planning for the long haul. There’s no strict set of “side hustle rules” that say you can’t sell items on eBay or drive for Lyft while you figure things out. Check out these 50 side hustle ideas and get the process started.
3) Integrate “Work” With “Life”
Integration refers to the seamless union of your side hustle with your professional/personal life. Full disclosure – integration is hard. It will test your patience, time-management, make you question your interests and your passions, and require you to squeeze every ounce of leverage possible out of your current network of professional and personal contacts. BUT, it’s possible. With a little bit of pragmatism and a dash of prudence, you will very soon be “life hustling” where you want, how you want, and when you want.
Here are four additional steps you should incorporate into your plan:
- Follow the 80-20 Rule
- Update your LinkedIn, portfolio, website, etc.
- Ethically imitate your peers
- Find a mentor
One of the most important aspects of integration is proper time management. The 80-20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle), dictates that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. The key to integration is to identify the tiny fraction of your overall effort that is leading to your biggest results. This is achieved through effective time management and planning, and, as you will likely be seeking a delicate balance between your 9-to-5 and your personal obligations, it is the first and most crucial step in the integration process.
Once you have identified the characteristics that define your 20%, are ready to proceed with the final phases of integration. Start by updating your website/LinkedIn to reflect your newly acquired skill-set. Next, search for individual success stories from your industry. Try to figure out what exactly defined their 20% (i.e., presentation, marketing, copy, etc.), and then look to replicate it. Skill-levels being equal, success typically occurs for a finite number of reasons. More often than not, the “why” is clearly on display for ethical imitation. Finally, join a community (online or otherwise) of like-minded freelancers, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, side hustlers, etc. and get yourself a mentor. Most individuals who have “made it” are more than willing to lend a hand.
Ask for help and the results may surprise you.
Here’s another important part of starting and running your side-hustle… If you want to grow it into a full-time venture, then don’t treat it like a part-time job. Developing the right financial model to grow your side-hustle around will help guide the way so that you are reminded of what the main goal is.
Lastly, it’ll take time. Even when you start generating revenue, you’ll find that certain processes and results are out of your control so make sure you are realistic about what you want to achieve, how you want to get there, and what it’ll take to win.
To your success!