Earning money doing work you truly enjoy is a dream come true.
But realistically, most people aren’t able to financially support themselves doing what they’re most passionate about. So how do we find a balance between the work we’re required to do and the work that inspires us?
We asked ourselves this very question toward the latter part of our corporate careers. We understood that if we could slowly replace the income we were earning at work, we’d put ourselves in a position to leave our jobs behind and do something that truly mattered to us. So instead of chasing the next six-figure jobs, we set out to build several smaller streams of income that put us in better control of our time and income potential.
By 2020, we’d both become full-time entrepreneurs and today, we’re well on track to fully replace our old job salaries by 2022 if not sooner. But the steps required to get to this point began as early as 2015. As we began to envision a more balanced life, we asked ourselves some critical questions. What work do we want to be remembered for? Who is in need of the work we’d create? And lastly, what financial decisions do we need to make to prepare for this transition?
The questions about work were simple—we wanted to tell creative and culturally relevant stories that inspired better financial decision-making. Our careers in sales and marketing prepared us to identify exactly who our customers were and how they differed from other consumers. But the monetary decisions were far more complex because they required us to make predictions about the journey ahead (although we admittedly didn’t see that pandemic thing coming).
If you’re looking to make a similar transition from a job to pursuing a passion as a full-time entrepreneur, here are a few things we advise.
1. Have considerable cash on hand.
The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months of your living expenses set aside in a savings account for emergencies. But if you’re looking to transition to life as an entrepreneur, you’ll likely need significantly more. You should plan to have at least six to 12 months of cash on hand just in case your new business venture isn’t able to fund your lifestyle. In fact, it’s best to avoid quitting altogether until you can consistently rely on your ability to pay yourself.
2. Get out of debt.
Starting a business is hard enough. Starting a business with debt is even more difficult. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need the ability to pivot in a moment’s notice, which can be challenging if you’re shackled with costly debt payments. To prevent this, you should aim to eliminate or reduce debt to manageable levels so you can better manage your cash flow and improve the chances of accessing affordable lines of credit should you need it.
3. Open and start funding a brokerage account.
Most conversations about investing tend to focus on retirement planning and thus a lot of attention is paid to 401(k) and IRA accounts. But if you’re years away from retirement, you may need access to funds that aren’t tied up in a tax-deferred account or sitting idle in cash like an emergency fund. In this case, having a separate brokerage account can make a huge difference. There are no contribution limits, no early withdrawal fees and the funds give you access to post-tax dollars that can be used in a pinch or allowed to keep growing.
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The day we came to the realization that our job titles would not be on our tombstones was the day we began to think differently about our legacy and our money. Now, after years of slow, intentional building, we’re fortunate to be among the privileged few who earn income doing work they truly love. It is a dream come true, and we hope you get to say the same thing someday.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by Shunevych Serhii / Shutterstock.com