Toward the end of 2014, I decide to leave my full time job as an SEO specialist at a huge nonprofit organization. Like so many post-4HWW Millennials, I want to chase my dreams of full-time, successful entrepreneurship.
I liked my job. Met some very sharp people and learned a ton. More importantly, almost everyone there seemed happy. Some of them even had cool side hustles like me.
Plus it paid $7,200/month (before taxes), which was the most money I’ve earned so far.
But I’ve never been able to stay put in a corporate gig, even if it’s fun and pays well.
I’m not built for office politics, doing the same thing everyday, fluorescent lighting, having a boss (even a good one), commuting, rush hour, and ultimately working to achieve someone else’s dream.
So for the third time in my professional life, I quit my job.
The timing is lovely – right at the start of a new year – a nice clean break, perfect for bookkeeping.
And it’s not a totally rash move. I have some revenue coming in each month from The Modest Man, and I have some former clients who want more help with their digital marketing strategy.
Oh, I also celebrated the big 3-0 on January 16th, which is either exciting or terrifying (or both).
Side note: I was really excited when I left my job. Unlike the last two times I did this, I felt pretty confident that I would never go back to a traditional job, no matter what.
But I really struggled with time management for those first few weeks (still do, actually, but it’s much better). And I got kind of depressed after my birthday, which I guess is normal when you turn 30.
All this to say, Q1 has kind of been an emotional roller coaster, but I wouldn’t trade this freedom for anything.
Ok, now for the good stuff. Before I leave my trustworthy paycheck behind, I put together a “burn rate” spreadsheet. This is kind of like a budget, but it’s forward facing, so you’re getting a handle on how much money you’ll need over a period of time.
There’s an awesome free burn rate spreadsheet template created by Roger Ma of Life Laid Out (great blog, in case you haven’t heard of it).
For me, the burn rate exercise paints a very clear picture of how much money I need to live each month, and how much money I plan on earning.
For example, here’s what I need to live on a monthly basis (after taxes):
So I know that I need at least $3,091 coming in each month, after taxes. To be safe, let’s call it $3,500.
How Much Money I Made In Q1 2015
So I basically had three clients, my blog and tax returns. Client #4 is ad-hoc hourly work, which isn’t really worth it right now (more on that in a minute).
The rental property is just a parking spot that thinks it’s a real rental property. Stupid parking spot.
It felt great getting a $4k tax refund. All those mortgage payments finally paid off! I paid about $12k in mortgage interest in 2014, and you can deduct this from your taxable income. This was a great little bonus right at the end of Q1.
About The Modest Man revenue… that’s gross revenue (before expenses). Unlike my other sources of income, which I use to keep the lights on at McGoff headquarters (i.e. my apartment), I don’t “pay myself” from the blog earnings.
I just use it to for expenses like work related travel, which is significant. So far this year, I’ve booked trips to Atlanta, Dallas, Flagstaff and Montreal.
I also use The Modest Man checking account for website hosting, domain renewals, AV/tech gear, my email service (which gets pricey once you hit 10k subscribers, by the way…not that I’m complaining about that), etc.
So I don’t really count is as “income” but wanted to include it in this report so you could get the full picture, especially since I plan on drawing from it more in the future.
Plans for Q2 2015
It’s funny, I left the 9 to 5 in order to have more time to work on The Modest Man so I could grow it into a sustainable business.
But to keep the lights on, I ended up saying yes to everything that came my way and taking on a bunch of small contracts at the same time.
It’s not that I was actually too busy, it just felt that way. I was spread too thin over too many different tasks, some of which were a little out of my wheelhouse.
Like most people, I’m much better at focusing on one or two big things than a bunch of small things. I feel better when I’m fully engaged, which is impossible with a to-to list full of twenty small-ish, unrelated tasks.
With that in mind, I’m letting go of most of my contracts/clients in order to focus on the blog. My main priority here is to make much faster progress on my first online course (more on that in another post), and this definitely requires long periods of focus and concentrated effort.
It’s hard to explain the sense of freedom you get when you leave the traditional “day job” lifestyle, but it’s amazing. Truly priceless.
The big difference for me is this: you don’t have to be anywhere. You don’t have to go into the office, even if you don’t have work to do.
You don’t have to stay until 6p even if your work is done for the day.
You don’t have to say “yes” to meetings that don’t actually require your presence.
You can follow your natural rhythms much more closely. You can design every day and week around your own ebb and flow.
I’ve been waking up around 8a (no alarm), making a great breakfast while listening to podcasts, working hard for a couple of hours and then taking a break to go outside. Then I put in a couple more hours before hitting the gym.
I’ll usually work more at night, but it doesn’t feel hard or forced, especially if I’m working on my own stuff.
It really is amazing, and I hope you can experience it if you haven’t already.