During the Super Bowl, Gwen Dean quit her job as an engineer in front of millions of people during an advertisement for GoDaddy’s “What’s Your Dream?” campaign. The reaction on Twitter ranged from complete shock that she had the guts to quit in this manner to pure inspiration.
As someone who quit a great job to pursue my dream of owning a PR firm, I fell into the latter category. January marked the third anniversary of me starting my company and I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey thus far. One of the questions that I get a lot these days from people who are looking to start a business is, “What should I do before I take the leap?”
Looking back at my own mistakes, if I could have done things differently, I would have definitely followed these tips (in no particular order).
1. Schedule an Appointment with All of Your Doctors While You Still Have Health Insurance.
If you plan on taking the plunge and aren’t looking to accept your company’s COBRA insurance, there’s a good chance you’ll be without health insurance for a while.
Once you have a target quit day in mind, start scheduling visits with all of your physicians to make sure you’re in good health. You should also start researching the Affordable Care Act to see what types of plans you’d be eligible for.
2. Check Your Eligibility for Severance Pay and/or Unemployment Insurance.
Ok, so this one is pretty tricky because you can’t just march into your boss’ office and ask her whether or not she’ll continue to pay you when you quit in a few weeks. You have to go into stealth mode, which definitely means not talking to anyone in HR either (they say they’re on your side, but remember their loyalty lies with the company and your boss first).
Start by looking at the original paperwork you signed when you were hired. Next, check the employee manual or look through your company’s employee intranet for the sections about leaving the company. Every company is different so you have to be thorough and do your research before you put in your two week notice and begin negotiations. You should also check the Department of Labor regulations for your state to see if you’d be eligible for unemployment insurance.
If you’re able to score a few months of severance pay, the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey could be a lot less stressful.
3. Identify Opportunities to Develop Multiple Streams of Revenue.
This sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people bet everything on the assumed income they’ll get from their startup without taking late payments, disappearing clients, or unexpected expenses into account.
Unless money isn’t an issue, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll diversify your income. Creating multiple revenue streams in your current business or getting a night job or freelance work assignment in your field are great places to start.
4. Cut Down On Your Expenses.
Once you have your quit date in mind you should take a realistic look at your budget to figure out what expenses you can reduce or eliminate altogether. Although it isn’t something that is readily advertised, many service providers honor your brand loyalty and will offer you the discounts that are available to new customers or will help you identify ways to reduce your bill. Be proactive and take advantage of these opportunities because if you can save even $10 a month on one bill, that’s $120 a year that you can allocate to something else.
If possible, look for ways to eliminate bills such as credit cards, which is bad debt. If you’re carrying a balance that you can afford to pay off but just haven’t gotten around to it, now would be the perfect time to get that done.
5. Have All Marketing Materials Ready To Go.
Marketing for your new business begins BEFORE you quit your job. If you didn’t already have an industry-specific blog (as you should have), hire a designer to create a logo, a website and design business cards for your start-up. If you’re worried about someone finding out, you can password protect your new website until launch day.
You should also start thinking about public relations. How will you get the word out about your new business? If you don’t have the money in your budget to afford PR, these DIY PR tips might help you get started.
6. Save At Least 3-to- 6 Months Worth of Living Expenses.
This one is much easier said than done and it was something that, living in New York, I wasn’t able to do before I took my leap of faith. However, I know had I had that cushion I would have been able to breathe a little bit easier.
7. Breathe and Try to Relax.
During this time, you’re going to experience every single emotion on the spectrum from happiness to the deepest fear. Right before I quit my job I kept a journal. When the day finally came for me to give my boss notice, I was terrified and I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me to “do it afraid.” Even though this didn’t immediately cure my fear, it did put me at ease a little bit.
Find ways to manage your stress levels. Don’t isolate yourself. Go out and hang with your friends and loved ones, share your feelings with them if you can and let them know that you need their support more than ever.
8. Network, Network, Network.
Relationships are key, no matter what industry your business is in. So once you’ve decided that you’re going to start this new gig, look for opportunities and events where you can meet prospective partners, employees and clients. That doesn’t mean you should wait for these opportunities to appear. Call people up that you haven’t spoken to in awhile and arrange a dinner or a lunch, contact industry influencers using Linkedin or social media to get on their radar.
Relationships are everything!
9. Think About Your Transition and How You’ll Notify Your Team.
Will you start working on your new business the day after you quit? Will you take a long vacation first to prepare? How will you tell your team? Will you do it in a grand gesture like the video Dean did with GoDaddy? You may want to just get up and leave, but it’s not a good idea to burn bridges with a reliable part of your network.
Now’s the time to start thinking all of this out. Plan your work and work your plan!
10. Secure Your First Client or Customer.
Securing your first client before you quit your day job can give you the confidence and assurance you need to take that next step. It will also give you a chance to see if you have a viable business model in the first place.
*This story originally appeared on MadameNoire.