Today I quit my job

Today I quit my job.

Or, more accurately, I chose not to renew my contract. I’ve been freelancing on and off there for the past four and a half years. I usually wait until they find a replacement or the work fizzles out before I leave.

But today I left on my own terms.

It’s a comfortable role. I work 3 days a week. I get paid the same as when I worked there full-time. There are loads of people at the company who would kill to work the days I do.

Why did I do this?

Because I want to work on my start-up.

This seems like a bizarre thing to do. It’s an app. I don’t have funding. I have no way to monetise the product for the next 6 months. And, after releasing it, there’s no guarantee anyone will use it, let alone pay for it.

So why would I give up my cushy job to do this?

I know that I have a safety net with my partner and my family. Even though a global recession looks like it’s looming, I hopefully have enough savings to see me through a year if I scrimped really hard.

And the best things I’ve done in my life have come when I took risks. The last time I had a few months off, I made an award-winning documentary, worked for an amazing charity and, well, came up with my start-up idea. I would have had none of those experiences if I stayed put in a 9-5.

Creativity always happens when you freefall.

But it also happens with people. This is one of the first times I don’t have have an idea of something to do such as a course. This feels like a risk.

And yet, I know these are just fears.

The last time I was unemployed and job-hunting, I found a job in two weeks. I know my current place would take me back, and they usually have projects I can help with in the future. I’ve always wanted the excuse to job-hunt. I have a much better idea of where I would want to be if I did decide to get a job full-time.

The fact is: I don’t have a good excuse.

But I’m still frightened. I’m frightened of how lucky I am to even be in this position where this is something I can do. I feel guilty about it. Shouldn’t I save up money? Shouldn’t I focus on adding up the pennies and eventually reaching the faraway vista of financial independence?

But I know I don’t earn enough for that to even be an option. The only way to earn more is to do something different.

But the dream isn’t to work for someone else: it’s to start my own business.

My partner says the way I can make myself most employable is to have my own start-up. I have no idea whether that applies to people in my circumstances. I don’t know how to code (he’s a coder). I don’t have heaps of confidence. I’m worried I’ll watch Netflix all day, drink beer at midday and do no exercise.

But I also feel relief. If they had come to me and said, ‘by the way, your contract has been renewed for another 3 months,’ how would I be feeling now?

When I close my eyes and let myself sink into my gut, I know it wouldn’t be right. I feel a lightness in me when I think about how my life will be in 3 weeks. I feel optimistic and excited.

For the past 2 months, I’ve actually been feeling grumpy and depressed when I go to work. This hasn’t got anything to do with the people or the role. It’s to do with the commute. I have no stamina for the 3 hours of my life wasted on a packed tube.

Now I feel I have a reason to go through with the commute each day.

Now I have made the decision, I’ve got the excitement of planning out the next four months. So stay tuned…

Sorting out my life: the key areas

So much is happening in my life, I need to write it all down. So here are the key areas I’m focusing on.

Wedding 

“Organising a wedding is like a second job,” my manager told me. I’ve known friends who disappeared for six months because they were too busy picking out linen, hand-crafting invites, setting up bespoke websites for relatives and guests. 

But I’ve barely spent any time on it. 

And it’s happening in 15 days. 

Even now, in spite of all this, I’m still pulled towards other projects (writing a secret blog?), getting a start-up off the ground, hanging out with friends and family.  It’s harder when your partner is equally busy and even less motivated to do the admin. 

But the vows and speeches have to be written, the restaurants booked, the invites and details sent. We’ve organised the venue, the flowers, the food, the music but neglected guests, loved ones and ourselves. 

The little touches that would make the day ours are being neglected. We don’t have an order of service or vows.

We are spending a lot of money on a day that both of us don’t want to think about. There is a lot of spending, sending emails, rushed communication with suppliers — but very little thinking and feeling. Thinking and feeling requires time, not getting through a to do list as efficiently as possible.

Right now, we just keeping our heads above water. I was very reluctant to have a Big Day to begin with. But it should be beautiful. 

Start up

On top of organising a wedding and working part-time, I’m also working on my own start-up. It’s on something I care about. A lot. But it’s also challenging me in ways that I’m struggling with: promoting myself, networking, public-speaking, using social media for self-promotion, and navigating the tricky balance between competition and collaboration. Not to mention just getting on with the work.

But having a start-up creates a lot of guilt in your “spare” time. I never feel as if working fast enough. I know that it’s only me working on this part-time: that I’m limited. Creating and designing an app from scratch, while also running workshops and maintaining a public profile through talks and social media are a lot. It’s only been a year and a bit since ‘launching’ – I know it’s going to be a long slog, but there’s always the anxiety and the pressure to feel I should be further along by now.

I also want to avoid burnout. My start-up is about wellbeing and resisting toxic productivity. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t look after myself. But I also need to accept that when I push myself, I grow. I have learnt more about myself professionally in the past year than my entire career. Anxiety, stress and constant self-doubt are part of the journey. 

Money

My sister has been obsessed with the financial independence movement for a while now, and took me along to the premiere of the FIRE documentary. That sent me on a mini rabbit hole or Mr. Money Moustache blogs and podcasts. The Compound Interest Calculator is now one of the websites I visit the most. It blows my mind that in 20 years, I could have over 100k saved by putting in £150 a month thanks to compound interest.

But I’m making good progress: I bought groceries worth £25 and have made all my lunches and dinners for myself and my partner this week so far. 

But I vow to save more. I’ve opened up a Vanguard account and putting in small monthly deposits. I’m also growing my pension, very slowly. Because I’m self-employed, I rely on my own (stingy) private contributions as a opposed to generous benefits from an employer.

Job Hunting

I freelance at a company with high churn. I’ve noticed that every time someone moves on, announces they’re leaving for another job, I feel a pang of… jealousy. 

I’ve never taken a deep plunge into job hunting. I tend to rely on former employers and contacts, and then settle for the first job offer. But this has left me in roles that feel stagnant. I’ve wanted to move away from digital marketing for a while now and go into product management and user research. 

I am under no pressure to find a new job soon. Even though my contract ends in September, I have a lot to do on my start up. I aim to get the app designed, developed, tested and ready to market by January – at the latest. 

But this is also an up-in-the-air time to do that. I need the time to work on my start-up. Even the risk of finding a full-time, satisfying job-of-my-dreams could put my start-up at risk.

Creativity and learning

Ahh, since starting this blog, I’ve been so excited about writing in it but struggled to find the time. Ironically it’s harder to find the time to write and meditate on the days I have off. People seem to fill this space. Something always comes up. As per my last blog, I use commuting time to write. It’s much harder doing creative work when surrounded by others.

But when it comes to creativity and learning, I’m at a cross roads. I feel like there are so many options open to me. Related to the FI point above, I need to earn more if I want to achieve FI. That potentially means retraining. I’m tempted to retrain as a UX researcher and get into product design. On the other hand, my start-up is the best way of doing this. Spending thousands on a course seems misguided and time-consuming, but it would give me the confidence to go for those roles.

Health and wellness

I seem to be unable to exercise and meditate at the same time. Right now, I’m in an exercise phase. I grew a pasta baby while in Italy. But thanks to intermittent fasting (8 hour window), HIIT exercise and making my own food, I’ve burnt most of it off in 10 days.

But I’ve stopped meditating again. While it’s easier to notice a flatter stomach, it’s much harder to trace the ebbs and flows of my mental state. Is my poor sleep down to hormones? Is my lack of resilience (especially on commutes) down to not meditating? I feel like I’m in a constant bad mood at work. But I’m not sure if this down to general exhaustion. I sometimes feel as I’ve forgotten how to do leisure.

As I blog, I hope to update you on the areas above.