In yesterday's session of a recent program I've begun, I was asked this question by a participant. "How do we pull the plug on our existing career/job and take that leap of faith of going independent to chase our dream?", he added. And this was not the first time someone has asked me this in the last decade that I have been doing something very different from what I used to.
My response was the same I have given to many earlier.
Assess and Introspect
One of the first things to ask yourself is whether what you are passionate about has some value proposition from a prospective buyer/user's perspective. Would your product/service be enticing enough for others to pull out their wallet? If it is related to art (music, painting, and such ...), you are likely to find many who are hugely appreciative of what you do - plenty of 'likes' and 'shares' on social media - but would they be willing to pay you any money for it?
Even if the answer to this question is not an emphatic 'yes', you can still think of packaging your offering in a way that others can see value in. When I chose to switch careers from being an IT Professional to chase my dream to produce some original music, that was not the first thing I did. I was certain, even my closest friends and family would at best, buy my first music album and then there was no guarantee of repeat success. To make matters more complicated, my interest was to make music which was close to my heart and not necessarily the kind which was being consumed by the commercial film industry. I was completely self-taught, un-orthodox, with no prior connections or branding. And, I was not keen on doing paid performances. The goal was to make original music. Period. So I got around to establishing a teaching practice and a retail store for musical instruments to take care of my daily bread. Teaching helped with continuous improvement, so that was a bonus!
Prepare for the switch and take action
Once your plan is clear, it does not mean you are ready to pull the plug on your existing job. Preparation is key. And it goes beyond what business schools have to say. If you have dependents, you will have to begin by taking them into your confidence, in terms of sharing your vision, your approach, your Plan-B (C, D probably E as well), how you think it goes beyond just satisfying your selfish passion. In fact, they become your team members on day one. A team which is in it for no pay, no ESOPs, nothing. A team which in fact, has to learn to tighten their belts and shoulder part of the burden of uncertainty which you are about to experience. If this buy-in is missing, you have your first big challenge already. It also helps if your big liabilities are behind you.
The next step is obviously ensuring that until your new (ad)venture becomes stable, you are able to handle the financial burden. Whatever timeline you estimate, my suggestion is to multiply that by 2 at least, just to be on the safer side! Then comes the detailed roadmap, plans, execution/business model and all the stuff which goes into a business plan. Yes, at least a rough business plan is necessary. For you to look at and introspect and also for you to show to a few friends who can play devil's advocate and warn you about stuff you have failed to see. At this stage, you are likely to be faced with more "Don't do it. you are nuts" than "Super, just go for it" responses. Listen to and analyse the justifications/key points being given along with each response. But use your judgement and conviction to take the final decision. And then, take complete ownership for your decision.
One life is all we have … sure that your roadmap has clear outcomes defined and fairly tight time lines. If right from the beginning you do not define and track your key metrics, you are going to lose a lot of time in all the excitement of suddenly becoming independent. Remember, when you are working for someone, timelines and objectives are handed down. On our own, we can become lazy and loose focus very easily. Calls for very high levels of discipline and perseverance. There are many more factors to think about, but I'm going to end this by just saying that getting even up to this stage, is an achievement. I know of many friends and family members who continue to talk about their dreams with no actions being taken. Fear, lethargy or perhaps a combination of both could be the reason.
One life is all we have ...