"Should I Quit My Day Job?"

Great timing on this one. Lifehacker links to a post on Get Rich Slowly that posits the question of whether or not you should quit your day job to pursue a passion.

Well, I've just finished a huge how-to on writing, publishing and selling your book. One of my huge points: don't quit your day job. But what if you want to? What if you ARE so gung-ho that you're ready to take on the world with your talents? Well, here's what Get Rich Slowly suggests you ask yourself first:
Chasing a dream isn't for everyone. There are plenty of people who prefer the stability and security of a job. Many creative, interesting, passionate people like the advantages of a steady paycheck, good benefits, and the ability to leave work behind at the end of the day.
Before you consider quitting your day job to follow your passions, ask yourself:
  • How comfortable am I taking a risk with my livelihood?
  • Am I willing to maintain a business?
  • How will I handle the business management aspects of my new career?
  • Do I want to do this all day, every workday, or will that strip the joy from it?
  • Will my family and friends support this move?

Those are all well and good. And general. And pretty much useless. This flowery hand-holdy "God, we need to fill space and sell ads" bullshit blogging crap gets on my nerves. Those are NOT the questions you ask. They're the beautifully generic overarching theme of what you should actually ask yourself, which is this:

How the hell will I feed myself, keep the lights on, keep the roof over my (or our) head, and still be a writer (or whatever other creative field you want to pursue)?

Here's the answer: You will work almost twice as hard as you did at your day job, over and above the actual work of whatever it is you want to leave that job to do.

You want to be a writer? You will put in your hours writing, and then twice the number of hours of your old job promoting that writing, selling that writing, managing the checks that (might) come from that writing. This is, of course, after you've established some sort of revenue source from that writing.

If you're single:

The essentials are food, water, shelter, air and something soft to sleep on. Additional necessities will include electricity, internet and garbage service. Air is free, and hopefully you already have a bed, so those two are handled. Everything else has a bill attached. Add those up. This is a figure we will call X.

Mind you, "food" does not mean eating out. Period. No eating out. This is not the place to figure out eating out expenses. This is the place to figure out the base caloric intake your body needs to survive. The same goes with water: fuck Pelligrino. You're drinking out of the tap.

As far as shelter goes, you have to figure out if you're okay with downsizing, or if you're going to attempt to keep the mortgage / rent paid on where you're at now. Don't be afraid to take on a roommate, or move to a cheaper place.

Everything else -- EVERYTHING -- is expendable. Yes, including your car (especially if you have a bike). From this point forward, you've got to make enough money to be able to afford everything else. This means cable, satellite, strip clubs - EVERYTHING.

If you're married / living with someone:

Everything I just said above, plus "Is he/she okay with that?" If they make enough money to support you both, are you ready to accept the fact that taking a year or two years to write your book had better be met with some measure of success? Because I don't give a shit how much they love you and care about you and tickle your ass with the feather of support, two years of paying for your food, shelter, water, and everything else? That's going to require that at some point you come back strong and make up for your lack of keeping up with your end of the bargain. Period. Because if you don't, there WILL be resentment.

No no, you're right, I DON'T know him or her. I don't know how much they love you, and support you, and wants you to be happy... But I do know people. And people don't like being fucked. And you taking two years and doing something that does not pay off end in the end? That's fucking them.

Note that paying off doesn't necessarily mean a huge financial windfall. Maybe your book / art project / whatever leads to new contacts and opportunities. Maybe you write something that leads you to discover that you're amazing at research, and you end up taking that on as a career. Who knows. Just make sure it pays off.

Got all that covered? Know where the next three months worth of bills are coming from already? You're ready to quit your job. Not because you've secured the money, but because doing enough of the work to know the answers to everything above puts you in a certain mindset to either accept how hard it's going to be or quit.

Go for it.