Over and over, I've seen the most tragic thing happen to the best of us.
From life coaches to graphic designers to tech stars, the affliction seems unprejudiced and deep-rooted: Ambitious, inspired entrepreneurs end up stuck in their 9-to-5s (er, 8-to-7s) because they never know when to cut the cord. Sidelined business ventures become energy-suckers, relationship-ruiners, and money-wasters. Budding visionaries get burnt out and start agonizing over their own unfulfilled potential.
Naturally, leaving something steady and predictable is one of the biggest decisions most entrepreneurs face at one point or another. Before I leapt, I pushed it back, made excuses, and let fear and "responsibilities to my team" get in the way.
And there’s certainly a lot that can be done to start and run a thriving business while you're still working for The Man (or Woman). At some point, though, enough is enough. You want out. You feel ready to bust a move.
Here are four ways to know it’s time go for your entrepreneurial dream full-time.
1. You’re Ready to Scale, But You Don’t Have Time
If you’re working full time and spending evenings and weekends on your venture, then that’s fantastic. But it’s nearly impossible to do the work required to keep it a money-making venture and create longer-term sustainability and growth with just your evenings and weekends. It’s also pretty hard to hire, train, and be a responsive leader when you’re working on something else all day.
While money can always be made, time is the single finite resource we have. And at some point, you’ll be missing the chance to scale up because you just don’t have the time to devote to it.
When you hit the point of not having enough time to do all the things you want to for your business, then there’s a good chance you’re at least partially ready for the next step.
2. You Have Enough Money Saved to Support Yourself
While ideally your business will be wildly profitable, you need to make sure you have enough to keep living until it really takes off. That’s why it’s important to understand how much you need to live and how long you realistically think it will take until you’re turning enough of a profit to pay yourself a livable salary.
While you don’t have to know exactly how much you spend on cereal or toilet paper, having a sense of your total spending each month and how that breaks down into general categories (e.g., transportation, food, fun) is critical. You should also consider the ways you may want or need to change your lifestyle to make the dream work.
Creative entrepreneurs in particular often hate becoming intensely aware of their own finances, but remember that knowing your financial state is truly about creating possibility and opportunity, not about killing the dream. It’s better to be thoughtful about this now than to end up in some solid debt eight months down the road and have no idea how you got there.
3. Your Commitment to Success is at 111%
If there is nothing else that you take away from this list, make it this: Success is a choice, and your staunch commitment to your vision is the number one thing that will ensure you get there. Sometimes it takes longer and includes more bumps in the road than expected—but it is possible, as long as you're committed and constantly learning and adjusting.
Remember all those stories you’ve heard of how the most successful entrepreneurs in the world made it to where they are now? Well, most of them started with different jobs or interests and amounts of money in the bank. The one thing they had in common is an unyielding commitment to doing whatever it was that needed to be done in order to make their dream a reality. You can, too, if you choose to (and I hope you do!).
4. You Decide it’s Time
In some ways, starting a business is kind of like having a kid—it never feels like the right time to do it. There will always be more things you want to figure out before making it happen, more things you want to fall into place.
But guess what? The idea of everything falling into place is a myth (or at least a rare occurrence). You have to create the conditions that make you feel comfortable with taking that next step.
So, think about what it is that needs to be in place for you to be able to bust that move. For me, it was a certain number of clients and peace of mind about leaving my old job behind.
Then, create your own timeline for getting those things in place and create accountability for yourself. Put a note on your calendar reminding yourself that, on this date in the future, it’s going to be time to leap—whether you feel ready or not.
It's always an incredibly tough decision to dive into something unknown, especially when it’s headfirst! Not many of us, despite dreaming about the thrill of forging our own paths, are thrilled about the possibility of a volatile cash flow or paying for our own health insurance. But if you know in your gut that you want to get your business off the ground, than it’s time to push through the challenges ahead and make it happen.