How To Transition From Full-Time Work To Full-Time Business Owner

High On A Mountain
My last day at work was exciting and terrifying.

Owning a small business is a weird feeling. I don’t know if others feel this way, but I often feel like one day someone is going to pull the plug and everything will implode.

So much for confidence, right?

About four years ago I left my full-time job to run Ghost Blog Writers full-time. But GBW didn’t start at that point. I guess you could say that was the real start of the company, but it actually started about two years earlier when I started writing for one client that wanted weekly blog posts on his business’s website.

I don’t know if this is the perfect advice for transitioning from full-time work to full-time business owner, but these are some of the things I learned during my transition.

I Loved My Job

The job I had at the time was my first full-time job out of college. When I applied for it, a couple months or so after graduation, I didn’t really know what the job was, but it turned out to be perfect. Talk about getting lucky.

The job was: Catalog Manager. What was that? I had no clue.

I learned that my job would be “running” a women’s footwear catalog for a large footwear cataloger. They had many different brands and have expanded into other areas.

I got to be involved in just about all aspects of the business. I was involved in figuring out who to send catalogs to, how to make different versions of catalogs and more. I got to work with designers, merchandisers, purchasers and more great people.

It was also great working with the marketing team. They were all very smart. It was a great group to be part of especially for a kid right out of school that loved business.

The “problem”, though came five years later when blogging kind of fell into my life and became a little business. I don’t think I would have left the job for another job. The only way I would leave is to start my own business.

I think that made it difficult to leave the job. The people were great. The job was challenging and I liked it. But the pull of doing my own thing (even if it failed) was too strong to ignore.

“I wish I would have done it sooner.”

As GBW started to get a few more customers I started thinking about how it could become a business. Not just a freelance gig, but a real business. I needed to bring other writers on board to do the writing for clients and maybe even eventually for the GBW Blog.

As that vision started taking place I thought back to my interactions with business owners over my life. I can’t remember one specific person saying it and I don’t remember exactly where I would have read it, but somewhere I remember hearing entrepreneurs saying that they wish they would have started sooner.

GBW wasn’t really in a place where it could replace my full-time job money-wise. But I kept thinking back to the idea that I didn’t want to wait to get started. I don’t think it’s ever a good time to quit your job to run a business. There’s no perfect time for sure.

I thought back to the idea that “sooner” was “now”. It was time.

What’s the worst that could happen?

When you’re in business it’s pretty easy to think about the best thing that could happen. You dream of lots of revenue, big offices, big houses and big cars.

It’s easy to have that dream.

It’s much more painful and difficult to think about the worst that could happen.

But I kind of forced myself to look at it that way before I made the jump. I think I was in a pretty good shape to leave my job. I was living with my then-girlfriend, now-wife. She was very supportive. That helped.

We discussed the worst possible outcome. All of GBW’s clients leave at once. There’s zero revenue. I have to take on any kind of job to pay the bills while still working to build GBW back up.

One good thing about GBW is that it doesn’t require much cost. I thought I could avoid going into debt at least as far as putting money into the business was concerned. To me, no money was better than owing money.

So that was kind of my worst case scenario and when you’re 27 it doesn’t really seem too scary to think about starting completely from scratch in life. At least you were giving something a shot.

And I have an uncle that started a business when he was 24. He had a wife and two kids. Now that’s a risk. I was 27 with no responsibilities. I didn’t have any excuse.

Do I know enough to run a business?

This was a big thing in my mind all the time. It still is. I kind of suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

For my whole life, entrepreneurs where other people. I never really thought of myself as one. I don’t know if I really think that way even today.

When I first made the transition it was weird to think about running a business. It always felt like people looked at me like I was just freelancing or doing something like that or just spending money and not making money. It still feels that way sometimes.

To get past that feeling, even today, I just kind of look at the tasks that are most important for me to do and focus on those. That kind of fills up the day and if I pick the right tasks then 6 months or so down the road GBW grows a bit and continues moving in the right direction.

I don’t know if I thought what we could accomplish with GBW in 5 or 6 years, but I think it’s in a good place. I have to kind of push myself still to think bigger. I think it’s true that you really become what you believe. I’ve always thought of GBW as being a small business and that’s kind of come true.

Maybe I need to think bigger…

It’s Never As Bad Or As Good As It Feels

One weird thing about running a business or even about life in general is that things that happen are never really as bad as they seem. And on the flip side of that they’re also never really as good as they appear to be in the moment.

Maybe there are a few exceptions, but what I’ve observed is that good entrepreneurs and good leaders seem to have good perspective on the things that occur in life. They know that bad things or disappointing things will happen. When they do they figure out a way to move forward and work past it.

And if things go well they’re happy, but they’re always hedging. It’s good now, but will it be good in the future?

There’s a good analogy I read somewhere. A grocery store in a small town might do great business when the circus comes to town. It’s a reason to celebrate, but that grocery store wouldn’t expand its main building because the circus only stays for a short time.

Final Thoughts

Life is kind of funny. You can start doing something and kind of figure it out along the way. I think we’re better at doing it when we’re kids. We’re not afraid to try new things to figure out what we like. And when we like something we’re not afraid to fail and practice and work to get better.

You can do that with your business. You an be afraid of leaving your full-time job. That’s fine. You might think that you don’t have the skills to make it succeed. But the great thing about life today is that you have access to pretty much any kind of information you could want or need.

Consider the worst that could happen if you left your job. Would life go on if that happened?

Maybe we should flip that…if you stayed at your job what’s the worst that could happen?

Thinking about that might make you take the jump. I kind of thought that way. A job meant a pretty good life, but I wanted to take the chance at a life that fit me more.

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