How To Escape Your 9-To-5

Is your day job killing your soul? Dreaming of better days where you can work from wherever, whenever? Given you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you’re done with working nine-to-five, five days a week in a cubicle. You’re in search of a way to escape your current situation and still be able to pay your bills and go out on weekends with your mates. It took me one year and seven months to realise that the full-time life wasn’t for me, and another two months to take the plunge and quit. So I became a freelancer, and I learned a few key lessons along the way.

There are a few ways you can speed up the process so you can hand in your resignation letter ASAP and start living the life you had always intended: kind of like a uni student, except more financially stable (eventually).

#1 Make peace with the fact you’re probably going to struggle

Make the move faster by owning the fact that you may have less money for the first few months, or even years, as a freelancer. At the same time, your old colleagues – and guaranteed, your parents (plus anyone over the age of 55) – will expect you to be earning mega bucks for you to be turning down a “real” job. And yet you probably won’t be.

After working with a consistent income, it’s a shock not to find the same numbers in your account each month. It’s even more shocking to realise your clients don’t really care if you haven’t bought groceries in two weeks — and sometimes you never know when, or if, a payment is coming in.

Know you’re going to be tighter and lonelier than you ever have been before, for at least the first six months. Be prepared to sacrifice the best parts of having full-time job: free drinks at happy hour and break room chats with your colleagues.

To ease the transition, start working on your stockpile of savings now (see point three). It’s just you now, pal. You, who doesn’t have to deal with your boss’ BS anymore.

#2 Start a side hustle now

By now, you know working nine-to-five isn’t for you. You’ve given up on searching online job boards. You’re simply fed up by the day-to-day grind and office politics. You need to GTFO of your current situation or else you’re on track for a public meltdown aimed at the non-threatening office manager.

Create your way out with a side hustle. You always hear “don’t quit until you have something else lined up”. But what people don’t often say is that “something else” could be entirely your own creation.

The first step: set up a website and a LinkedIn profile. If someone hired you to sit in an office and work for a company for 40 hours a week, you’re obviously capable of doing what you do. Another bonus of starting a side hustle is, you don’t have to do what you currently do. You can be creative and turn your passion into a career, rather than spend another minute in marketing, finance, IT, sales or whatever it is that isn’t igniting your soul.

After-work hours and weekends are now business time. This is time for you to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and if it’s even possible to earn money from what you do. The point of a side hustle is that you hustle.

#3 Stop spending more than you earn

To build up a new business and survive, you need some funds behind you and a contingency plan. I saved 30% of my salary just as a backup before I quit my full-time job. After three months, I was earning around two-thirds of what I normally would have, so it was nice to have money in the bank in case the client work failed to pick up.

The easiest way to tackle your finances is to stop spending everything you earn. Once you’ve factored in rent, groceries, nights out, coffee, and just generally pissing away money on things you don’t need at Kmart and IKEA, you’re rarely left with much (or anything) come pay day. Saving money means figuring out what you need and what you don’t. Here are some tips to get you started.

If you’re certain you still want to take the leap and you’re willing to forgo ridiculous spending, you need to start while you have a safety net. Skip dinner with your mates or lunch dates with your bestie for a while: your support network will be waiting for you on the other side — plus, you will soon figure out who those people really are.

#4 Drop down to part time

On the edge, but don’t know if you’re up for the lonely days and uncertain finances? This step will speed up your transition from nine-to-five to freelancer while keeping a semi-regular wage, however, it’s not for everyone or every employer.

Frame it as personal development to your boss. There’s no shame in asking to drop down to three or four days to improve your productivity on the days you are in the office. But beware, your boss could see this as a sign you’re moving on.

With one or two extra days a week, you can now figure out if you’re cut out for life as a freelancer. Working from home can seriously suck. You can spend all day in your pyjamas, but some days you’ll yearn to be back in the office and talking to anyone at all.

During this transition, you could try out a co-working space in your city. Just like working in an office, you will feel compelled to put your head down and get shit done out of fear of judgement.

#5 Find a mentor or someone who has done it before

You’re not the first person to try to escape your desk job. A study by Upwork found nearly one in three working Australians are freelancing. That’s around 4.1 million people, half of which now earn more than what they did in their previous roles.

You want that too? Seek advice from an established freelancer on everything – from what they do in an average day, to how they score client work. What you find out may surprise you, excite you, or totally turn you off #freelancelife.

Ultimately, the fastest way to escape from the nine-to-five is to plan your route to freedom. Just know, those first few months are going to be rocky, and don’t quit without a plan. Good luck!

Amie Hamling is a freelance writer and owner of creative copywriting studio, The Creative Blog Co. She lives in Sydney, but plans to move her online business to Asia and live her dream laptop life on the beach. Follow her on Instagram @creativeblogco.