Do you dream about quitting your job but keep clocking in because you haven’t found another one that’s better? That’s OK. It’s probably better to play it safe. Or is it?
Plenty of people make the leap from a job without another one lined up and don’t regret it. So if you’re trying to figure out how to quit your job, take a cue from those who’ve done it. Learn more about how to prepare yourself if you don’t have another job yet, but are motivated to leave your current one.
Don’t Be Afraid To Quit
Quitting a job without another job lined up might seem scary, especially if it means giving up a good salary — as it did for Calvin Rosser. Rosser was paid well in his marketing role at a fast-growing startup. Because his job allowed him to work remotely, he tackled tasks while traveling the world. It sounds ideal, right? Unfortunately, Rosser said that as his learning curve flattened, he longed for work that would allow him to continue to grow and help others, so he decided to make a leap to launch his own venture.
“Too many people stay in unfulfilling jobs working for people they don’t respect because they fear what it means to quit,” said Rosser, who is the creator of the Life Reimagined newsletter. “Life is too short for this. Instead of feeling miserable every day, doing mediocre work and cashing in a paycheck at a job you don’t enjoy, take the leap and find something that excites you. In the long run, you’ll be happier and likely make more money.”
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But Don’t Quit on an Impulse
Rosser didn’t decide to just throw in the towel at his job one day. He had been thinking about quitting for about three months before he actually did. “I planned to start my own venture without expecting an immediate paycheck, so it took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of leaving a stable, well-paying job for a completely uncertain path with no guarantee of income,” he said.
Even if you think you have good reasons for leaving a job, ask yourself whether you’re acting on an impulse. “Before pulling the trigger on quitting, make sure that you’re not just having a bad day or week,” Rosser said. “When you quit, you don’t need a fully fleshed out plan or another job, but you do need to be comfortable with what it means to not be employed.”
Ignore Conventional Advice
Although Rosser said that leaving a position on impulse is a mistake, he doesn’t regret quitting a job without having another job lined up. “Everyone will tell you that you need another job before you quit your current one,” he said. “This advice is not true for everyone. Taking an unstructured sabbatical between jobs can often be the move that leads you to having a much more successful, fulfilling career.”
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Don’t Burn Your Bridges
One of the best moves that Rosser made when he decided to quit his job was leaving on good terms with his employer. “Instead of the usual two-week notice, I stayed on for two months to ensure a smooth transition,” he said. “Maintaining this relationship proved to be a smart move since I re-joined the company seven months later in a role that aligned much more closely with my learning and contribution goals.”
Get Your Finances in Order
Vaneta Lusk left a dream job in 2018 to build a freelance writing, marketing and public relations career. “While I loved my job, it was very inflexible, and it was getting harder to balance my family and work obligations,” she said. “I wanted the freedom to design my work schedule around my family and not the other way around.” However, Lusk only had one freelance client when she quit her job, so her income was going to take a hit.
Having her finances in order before she quit made leaving a job to start her own business possible. “Our house and cars are paid off, and we had five years’ worth of living expenses saved up,” said Lusk, who is the founder of the blog Becoming Life Smart. “Knowing we could cover all of our bills for years to come was a big confidence boost in quitting to freelance.”
Don’t Hesitate Too Long
Quitting without a plan or being financially prepared is a bad idea. But it’s also not a good idea to stick it out for too long in a job that you’re ready to leave. “I went back and forth on actually turning in my notice for six months until I finally decided to go for it,” Lusk said. If she had to do it over, she said she wouldn’t hesitate so long to hand in her notice.
Build a Budget To Make Quitting Affordable
Jacob Wade had several reasons for leaving a job as an enterprise account manager at a technology sales company. However, the most compelling was his frequent travel for work that was putting a strain on his family. “I found that I could not be mentally present with my family when I was home,” he said. “Something had to change.”
He decided to make a big shift. Wade quit his job to travel for a year with his family in an RV. To make it possible financially, he sold his house and created a budget. “The most important thing we did was map out a monthly budget on what it would take to live on the road,” said Wade, who is the creator of iHeartBudgets. “We then put our money from the sale in a money market savings account, and only transfer what we need over at the beginning of each month.”
Automate Savings To Create a Freedom Fund
To be able to afford to quit when you want, Wade recommends creating a “freedom fund.” By eliminating unnecessary expenses and automating his savings, he was able to set aside 40% of his income for a year before he quit. “Create a recurring transfer to your ‘freedom fund’ account, and challenge yourself to transfer more and more each month,” he said.
Take Steps To Ensure You Can Return to Work
Wade wasn’t afraid to quit his job to travel for a year with his family of five because he knows that he’ll be able to land a new job when he’s ready to return to the workforce. “I worked my tail off for the past 15 years building a professional reputation of being a top performer and delivering above and beyond, and I am happy to say that reputation has opened up many job opportunities,” he said. “I will find work.”
Address Concerns With Your Boss Before Deciding To Quit
Kassandra Dasent quit her job as a software project manager in February 2019 to start her own business, Minding Your Money. “Although I was very committed to my position as a software project manager and doing what was needed to ensure success for my teams and for the customers, I never felt truly connected to the nature of the work,” she said. “It reached a point where I felt I could no longer be effective in my role and it was taking a toll on my mental health.”
Before quitting, though, Dasent told her manager that she was dissatisfied with her job along with the reasons why. He offered her some suggestions to alleviate some of her concerns. She also was given a leave of absence in hopes that she would remain an employee after taking some time off to rest. “In the end, I made the decision to quit because I knew that the job situation would not improve,” Dasent said. But she recommends that employees address the reasons they want to leave with their boss as she did before quitting. “Management may be inclined to make changes or concessions that may avoid or delay them from having to resign,” she said.
Think Twice Before Taking the Easy Way Out
Quitting a job can seem like the right thing to do when things get hard. “However, you’ll learn more from grinding than you will from quitting, as quitting is often the easy way out,” said J.R. Duren.
He learned that when he quit a copywriting and social media manager position because he was frustrated with his boss and then ended up asking for his job back a day later because he regretted his decision. “It was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve had to do as a professional,” said Duren, who now is a personal finance analyst and senior editor at HighYa. He continued to work in that job for a few more months until he found other work to compensate for the income he would be losing by giving up that job.
Question Why You Want To Leave
Before quitting, you should get clear on your reasons for leaving a job, said attorney Nance Schick. “Do the self-exploration necessary to know why you want to leave your current situation,” she said. Ask yourself whether it’s your boss, your co-workers or the actual work that you don’t like and if leaving will improve your situation.
Although Schick was facing problems at a job with a law firm, she enjoyed her work and was trying to make the best of a bad situation. But she realized it was time to leave when her boss took advantage of her absence after the death of a family member to steal a client she had been pursuing. “I was furious, devastated, frustrated, confused and still grieving,” Schick said. “I knew that it was not a good time to make a major life decision, but my family also reminded me that I did not have to take anyone’s abuse anymore.”
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Build Your Network Before Quitting
Voice actor Scott Reyns said he learned an important lesson when he quit a job without another one lined up in the early 2000s. It helps to build relationships and a strong network before leaving a job said Reyns. “Remember that keeping in touch is especially important when you’re thinking about making a move, and don’t be afraid to interview even when you’re not sure if you are,” he said.
Maintaining relationships paid off for Reyns, who landed a freelancing gig with a group he’d done contracting work for in the past shortly after quitting. A few months later, he got a full-time job because a former colleague referred him for the position.
Stop Making Excuses If It’s Time To Move On
One Sunday while at the movies with a friend, Owen Cook started to get lightheaded thinking about going into his job as a legal marketing specialist. He was burnt out and had known for a while that he was unhappy at his job. “I realized that no job is ever worth sacrificing your well-being for and quit the next day,” Cook said.
He didn’t have as big of a financial safety net as he would have wanted when he quit, but he doesn’t regret taking the leap. “I learned that no one is ever fully prepared to jump to that next step,” said Cook, who founded his own company after quitting, BlockchainSEO. “There’s always excuses to make as to why you shouldn’t take a chance, and uncertainty is everywhere. But, shielding yourself from vulnerability and uncertainty clearly doesn’t lead to much happiness or satisfaction in one’s work either.”
Let the Lack of a Safety Net Encourage You
When Daniel Kepka left a six-figure job as an information technology consultant, he didn’t regret doing so without another position lined up. He did have savings to keep him afloat financially, but Kepka said that not having the safety net of another job helped propel him to launch his own business. “The ‘you have to succeed cause there is nothing else’ mentality really pushes you and makes you a success,” he said.
Have Faith in Your Ability To Find a New Job
Holly Smith* had thought about quitting her job as a clinical director at a substance treatment facility in the fall of 2018, but the interviews she went on didn’t result in any job offers. So, she kept working until she just couldn’t take the stress of her job anymore. She finally resigned without another job in March 2019 because she realized she was hurting her own health. “I had to stop to really process, ‘Why am I killing myself for a company that will replace me?’” Smith said. “I felt like I compromised my morals and ethics as well as broke a boundary, so I resigned with a 30-day notice.”
Smith said that although she has additional sources of income from her private therapy practice, quitting without another job lined up has been scary. “My main thing is having faith! No matter what, I am employable if I choose to take another job or continue to build my own practice and contract my services to do more of what I love,” she said.
If you’re thinking about how to quit a job, Smith said you should do it even if you are scared. “If all else fails, you can always register with a temp agency until you figure out what you want to do,” she said.
Keep reading to check out 101 side business ideas that you can start without quitting your job.
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*Smith is not her real name. Holly asked that it not be used because she still was transitioning out of her job.
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.