The logistics of quitting your ‘real’ job and pursuing your passion

Chase your dreams.
Chase your dreams.
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This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the logistics of quitting a ‘real’ job to pursue a passion? Answer by Rebecca Massey, health care professional and writer.

Practically speaking, there are three approaches. None of them are easy, but depending on what your real job is and what your passion is, one may be easier to execute than the others. All of them require careful planning and a realistic approach in order to be maximally effective.

1) Stay in your real job…

…and set aside time each day to work on your passion, until your passion can replace your real job.

In terms of financial risk, this is the safest option; in terms of the progress you’ll make on your passion, it’s likely to be the slowest option. Still, plenty of people do make it work—my most successful self-employed friend did it like this. There were a couple of years where he was effectively working two full-time jobs at the same time; however, he’s now been fully self-employed for over eight years.

2) Scale back expenses…

…so that you can do your real job part-time and your passion part-time. This might take the form of moving to a less expensive place to live, paring down your lifestyle, or both. It may not be a practical option if your current career doesn’t really allow for part-time work.

3) Save money until you have enough to support yourself for a period of time…

…quit your real job, and jump feet first into your passion. This one is going to be VERY dependent on how hard you’re willing to grind to save money, how much money you can practically save from your current income, and what the start-up costs for your passion are. If you don’t make much and your passion costs a lot, this may not be an option unless you’re willing to massively scale back living expenses in order to save more, or willing to wait until much later in life to get started.

Many writers will advise you that the only “real” option is to jump in feet first, regardless of your level of financial security, so that you “have to make it work.” I strongly disagree with this.

Desperation does not lead to good decision-making, and the last thing you want to do in any new venture is set yourself up for bad decisions. When you have a safety net, a bad decision is a setback. When you don’t have a safety net, a bad decision is a disaster.

So how do you figure out which approach to choose?

Take LOTS of time to think and plan. Don’t pick any of them without making a plan! Try making a plan for all of them if you’re not sure which one would work best for you. Get ready to spend some quality time with some charts, calculators, and/or spreadsheets.

For any or all approaches, list the goals and milestones you want and need to hit in pursuit of your passion.

For option one, take a good hard look at your current weekly or monthly schedule. Plot it out (on paper or in a computer program, whatever works for you), and figure out where you can dedicate time to your passion. Can you commit to sticking to the schedule? Try to estimate how much time it will take to meet each milestone. Is that an acceptable timeframe for you? If not, can you carve out more time each week?

For option two, investigate your options for part-time employment. How much can you expect to make? How long could it take you to find a part-time position? Also, look at your expenses. What bills can be eliminated, reduced, or placed on a different payment schedule? What can’t? Are there any expenses that might actually increase as a result of the new job (e.g., if it’s a longer commute)? Then, make a theoretical weekly or monthly schedule for yourself. How will you plan your days when you’re not working?

For option three, figure out how long you think it will take to become financially self-sufficient with your passion. Figure out how much money you’ll need to save in order to pay your expenses for that period of time. Figure out how long it will take you to save that much money. Can you stick it out for that long?

If you’re in a relationship, have children, or have anyone else living in your household, be sure to talk to them, too. They’re going to be part of this change—they deserve to have a say and know what’s going on.

If any of the above plan-making activities are too emotionally difficult, or if you find yourself putting them off, you are not ready for any of these approaches. Don’t mistake interest—something you like to do—with passion—something you’ll be on fire to do, through good times and bad. You want to be sure it’s the latter before you upheave your life for it.

Which approach did I choose?

I chose option two, for the following reasons: my day job could easily be converted to part-time; my passion has very little in the way of financial start-up costs; and there were other things going on in life that made moving from a big city to a distant (and cheap) exurb a very attractive option.

If you consider and plan carefully, you will be able to choose the one that’s right for you!

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