Leaving your full-time job in the midst of a recession is either a really stupid or really smart decision. Since I just made the move myself, I’m going to make the case for smart.
If you can swing it, a recession is an ideal time to stop being an employee and start doing your own thing. Your plans to go freelance, start your own business, or take a sabbatical shouldn’t be on hold right now because of the economy. While the fear mongers might be saying you should be grateful just to have a job at all, I challenge you to expand your vision.
Now’s a fine time to take a risk because there’s just not much to lose.
Being an employee right now sucks. Even if you’ve survived the layoffs at your company, you’re still in fear that next round, you won’t be so lucky. Salaries are frozen, bonuses are non-existent, and without all the staff that got cut, you’re expected to do more work for the same or less money. Morale is low and the fear of what bad news might break next stifles innovation, puts otherwise sane people on the defensive, makes management more willing to make dumb moves in the name of this quarter’s revenue report, and stresses everyone to the max. Employees become suspicious and resentful of one another and their managers, wondering who’s making what, why that exec is driving a company car, and whether or not the company can afford bagels for the Friday morning meeting.
Doing your own thing is easier than ever, especially online. Lots of smart people have been laid off and are available for consultation and collaboration. Prices are lower because service providers want to move product. Things like web hosting and even office space is cheap and easy to find. Folks who want to become consultants or go freelance, this market is good for you. Because big companies laid off staff to save money, they’re more in need of hourly contractors than usual.
In short, when the market sucks, the stakes aren’t that high, so it’s a good time to take the risk. If you fail? You’re no worse off than if that next round of layoffs landed a pink slip on your desk anyway.
About the “big IF.” Notice I said it’s a good time to stop being an employee if you can, if you’ve got the means to do so. The means might be a year or two worth of savings in the bank, a low cost of living, a working spouse whose employer offers health insurance coverage for you, investments to draw on, connections to work for possible contractor gigs, and a generally positive outlook on life. Luckily I’ve got all these things in varying degrees, and no small children living under my roof. So that “if you can” is certainly a big if.
But if you do qualify, don’t let the BIG SCARY RECESSION stop you from cutting yourself loose from the W-2 yoke and trying something different. If you can get over the knee-jerk fear and lack of confidence connected to this stifling economic time, you’ll realize it’s a better time to do so than you thought.
Just a guess that this post is in response to the numerous questions you’ve received about your decision to leave Lifehacker now of all times. I have to ask though, has it been a good decision?
Love your outlook, Gina!
Ever read “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber? Here’s an adaptation of the basic idea:
Skilled people aren’t necessarily good entrepreneurs. You either have to be both, become what you aren’t or have a trustworthy partner who is what you aren’t.
has it been a good decision?
It’s only been a few weeks, but so far so good. New opportunities have come up that wouldn’t have otherwise, and the change of pace is energizing for me, though I do miss talking with those crazy kids at Lifehacker every day all day.
Here here! What a great motivational take on going it alone in a recession. I couldn’t agree more. I am doing just what you are talking about as well and I am LOVING every minute of it.
Thanks for articulating the excitement of the new frontier for me.
I’ve been toying with a blog and trying to ramp it up but haven’t found enough time to seriously push it forward like I would really like to. One good advantage you have is your name to help you build up a following faster than the usual unknown bloke like me.
So far the blog looks really good with good content. I’m using the Journalist theme on one of my blogs also. Like it clear and simple!
Gina, when I read your goodbye post at Lifehacker I didn’t know you were moving out of full-time employed jobs. Actually, I didn’t know you were a full-time employee there. Just discovered this new website after discovering your flickr with that Google search image you posted.
Well, I just got the courage to make the move myself and I will quit my full-time job on March and your post made me more confident.
I’m developing some projects/ideas myself and I will let you know when the kick-off.
Congrats for the new site, it’s already on my Google Reader.
Thanks for giving me some much needed encouragement. I took the plunge last March and while I’ve had a steady consulting gig, it dropped off at the end of January and now I feel like a fish floundering out of water. Well, my husband’s encouraged me to spruce up that NaNoWriMo novel he thinks I have a chance at marketing. It’s discouraging not earning an hourly (or weekly for that matter!) wage but you’re right; the stakes currently aren’t that high and right now, we can afford it.
Excellent post, and I agree.
I too will be leaving my employer at the end of this month (both by choice and employer has less financial resources — so it’s time to cut health insurance and decrease hours), but as you said, I’m lucky because I have a few clients in the queue, current employer has agreed to 50k contract for X number of hours, and I’ve always wanted to be independent (so attitude is aligned right, though originally was a little depressed when notice was given).
After deciding to go self employed, my spouse applied for a job at a large drugstore chain, and will get health benefits, which is huge (lucky), — although — universal healthcare in the US will likely be an option soon for those not so lucky to get it currently through employers.
Best of luck to you in your pursuits!!
DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR JOB!!! This is not a “Big Bad Recession”, this is a DEPRESSION. Save your money and try and be your best at work and grateful for having a job. I’m not kidding! Until the Sun comes back out again (4 years from now?), don’t take the risk of this HORRIBLE advice.