Last year, I decided to quit my very stable, yet very stressful, teaching job. Yes, in this economy. After 6 years in the classroom, it just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. I wanted to write. But these days–with newspapers and print magazines collapsing left and right–I couldn’t figure out a way to follow my passion without starving to death.

Then, I picked up Barbara J. Winter’s book, How to Make A Living Without A Job, and my mind opened completely up. Halfway through the book I realized that I was holding myself back, not the economy or the fact that glossies are folding. Me.

My mindset–that I could never make a living from writing–was not only completely limiting and keeping me trapped in a job I disliked, it was also wrong. Once I adjusted my thinking, I realized that writing could very well be my escape hatch, and since I pulled the lever…I haven’t looked back once yet.

Here are 5 tips that helped me quit my job, follow my dreams, and still be able to live normally (no starving artist b.s. for me!).

Step 1: Pick…

Many of us have dreams of grandeur. We want to write the next great novel. We want to travel around the world. We want to learn underwater basket-weaving. Whatever. One of the first steps to breaking out of a job you hate is to pick something you LOVE doing. Think about something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid for it. For me, that was writing. For you, it might be totally different.

Step 2: Work with what you got…

Once you’ve picked your niche, assess your skills. What are you good at? What talents do you have? List them all out, now search for ways you can turn those into money makers. For writers, we can churn out press releases, write website copy, work for news organizations, and basically do anything relating to the written word. Perhaps you are very tech savvy. The market for graphic designers, coders, and tech consultants is booming. If cooking is your thing, perhaps explore the idea of selling baked good or becoming a personal chef. The point is: figure out your talents and exploit them for YOUR benefit, not someone else’s.

Step 3: Think outside of the box…

In her book, Barbara Winter says we need to ditch the idea of a “good” job versus a “bad” job. Many will see teaching as a good job because of its relative stability and benefits, while others might view tutoring, or working at Starbucks, or being a plumber as a “bad” job. Winter reminds us there are no such things as good and bad jobs. If you love what you do–despite the money you make–it is a good job and you’ll feel more fulfilled doing it.

Step 4: Run the numbers…

Before you quit your job, you need to figure out JUST how much money you need to get by. In my case, I taught full time and freelanced on the side, so I was generating a healthy amount of extra income. However, at the end of the month I was still scrounging around in my purse looking for change. Why? The more money I made, the more I spent on random things. I thought I couldn’t quit my job because I’d be broke. I felt trapped and hopeless.  After reading Winter’s book I decided to actually run the numbers and list out all of my obligations (rent, bills, son’s tuition, car payment, savings, etc.). What I found was that I didn’t need NEARLY as much money as I thought I did. This gave me hope and helped me to realize that I could easily make it on my freelance income if I just cut back on frivolous spending. By knowing exactly what I needed I no longer felt trapped, I felt empowered.

{Note: I ended up quitting without any money saved up because I just couldn’t take it anymore and felt like leaving the classroom was a now or never proposition. Wrong move. If you’re thinking about quitting your job, run the number, see how much you can survive on and SAVE EVERY EXTRA PENNY. You’ll need it while you get your hustle off the ground.}

Step 5: Generate multiple streams of income…

This step is  key. Many time we think we want to do one thing and one thing only, but don’t know how we’ll make ends meet. As I mentioned before, freelancing writing is notoriously unpredictable. So, if I was going to quit my job, I knew I needed to supplement my income with other things. Because I’m I was a teacher, tutoring is an easy way for me to make extra money while I write. If you have a college degree, or better yet, a teaching credential, you can make upward of $30-$45 an hour tutoring. So, even though I’ll have to get out of my PJs and leave my desk, it won’t be for the entire day. While I build my rep as a writer (doing what I LOVE), I can still make a substantial income on the side doing what I’m good at. It’s the best of both worlds.

{Note: I haven’t had to take on any tutoring clients. When I committed myself to writing, writing committed itself to me. But I know that I can fall back on tutoring if times every get a little tough.}

Are you thinking about quitting your job? Or, did you recently quit? What tips helped you make the move? 

{A version of this article originally appeared at Clutch Magazine…catch me writing about everything from pop culture to politics on Clutch daily!}


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