What To Know Before You Go Through With That Fantasy of Quitting Your 9-to-5 Job

“I Quit My Secure 9-to-5 Job To Go Live On An Island.”

“My Instagram Earns Me A Six-Figure Salary.”

“I Gave Up My $100,000 Salary To Go Freelance While Traveling The World.”

HBO Films/New Line Cinema

We’ve all seen these stories, reading them with a fervor as we dream of having an Eat, Pray, Love moment of our own. Now, more than ever, the idea of breaking free from a stable, 9-to-5 job in pursuit of freelance or entrepreneurial opportunities (or, you know, to make money off your Instagram) has become more enticing than ever.

But before you take the plunge and fully rely on a side hustle as your only source of income, there are a few things you need to know first (aside from just mapping out your Instagram strategy). Enter Aliza Licht, author of Leave Your Mark, with a much-needed reality check and fresh career advice.

Courtesy. BUY NOW

Licht first shared her advice to networking and working your way to the top in the first edition of Leave Your Mark, which debuted in 2015. At the time, she was the senior vice president of global communications at Donna Karan International, where she most notably created the social media persona ‘DKNY PR Girl’ on Twitter. Since then, she left her 17-year-position at the fashion brand to become an entrepreneur, starting her own LLC where she consulted and freelanced for Forbes.

After deciding freelance life wasn’t for her, Licht is now the vice president of brand marketing and communications at Alice + Olivia. But luckily for us, she’s still sharing what she’s learned since leaving Donna Karan and branching out on her own (all in today’s rapidly shifting corporate climate) in an updated and extended addition of Leave Your Mark.

Featuring five new chapters, (some of which are titled ‘Quitting Your Dream Job’ and ‘CEO and Founder of Nothing’), the new paperback book dishes out updated career advice for those looking to navigate the tricky waters of today’s social media and digital driven corporate world on their own. In an exclusive chat with BAZAAR.com, Licht shared some insight behind the do’s and don’ts of quitting your full-time job to become an entrepreneur.

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Don’t: Up and quit your job without a solid strategy.

“You need to put together a business plan where you’re really understanding how many gigs you need to have in order to be able to live the same lifestyle you’re [accustomed] to. You may have a consulting gig for the next three months–but then what happens after that? It could take another four months to find something else. It takes planning, it’s not something that you can do in real time.”

Do: Test the waters by embracing a few side hustles.

“I would not recommend to anyone to quit their day job. I would recommend doing more of a side hustle and testing out the freelance side while you still have a full-time paycheck. Get that up and running before you consider leaving your day job, it’s much harder [to go freelance] than people think.”

Do: Remember that being authentic and nurturing your personal brand on social media is key.

“Figure out what your niche is, what you’re really good at and what your special sauce is and really making sure to keep on promoting that. I’ve said this many times before, but repetition is reputation. The more that you speak about something or show yourself speaking about something, the more that people associate you with that topic.

Go through your timelines and give those spring cleanings that I recommend. If you didn’t know yourself, what impression would you have by looking at your feed? Instagram really is the new resume—it’s the first place people check to see what you’re all about. Go through and make sure that you’re deleting things that no longer represent who you are and add things in that you think represent you. Make sure it’s your own shop window; when people walk by and see your shop window, they see what you’re all about. It matters to an employer how you look on there—especially if your account is public.”

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Do: Be realistic about what people will actually need from you as a freelancer.

“One of the things that I did well was that I tried to be realistic about how necessary it was for people to speak to me. The answer is: not very necessary. If you’re not working for a brand or you’re not someone that other people need to speak to on a regular basis, then you have to remember that it’s up to you to do the reaching out. It’s not to say that you’re not important or that you’re not someone that people need to know, it’s more that everyone is so busy and they have so many people they need to speak to to get their job done.

It’s very easy when you’re in a job to keep relationships up. By doing your job, inevitably you’re speaking to people. When you leave that job it becomes extremely burdensome to keep your relationships strong–you’re not as busy, but everyone else is. You have to make it really easy for people to see you. When I was freelancing, I made sure that I was always the one that was going to someone’s office or going to grab coffee near someone’s office to make it as easy for the person who has the [full-time] job as possible.”

Do: Keep tabs on your progress in the freelance lane.

“Be really honest with yourself about the progress you’re making. You can make yourself feel really successful and busy by constantly having coffee and lunches and pitching people. But when you really take stock, which is what I did at the end of ten months [of consulting] to see what had to show, you really have to say to yourself, ‘okay being social and networking is not the same thing as bringing in a paycheck.’ How much is really amounting to something concrete that you can say ‘okay, this is a real business and I can make up my previous salary by having five clients’ or whatever the case may be.”

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Don’t: Forget to be your own biggest promoter.

“People do not remember to communicate what they’re doing. When you launch something, you need to arm every single person in your network with information. At the end of the day, the people you know are the ones who are going to hear about gigs. If you set up a consulting business and you are just waiting for people to contact you because you filed this LLC and you posted on Instagram that you made this business, that’s not going to cut it. You have to really hustle and you have to tell people ‘hey, this is what I set up. This is my new company. These are my capabilities. This is what my strong suits are. If you know of anyone looking for this type of service, I would greatly appreciate you recommending me.’ Let your network help you in getting the word out. You can’t just do it once. You have to really remember that no one is going to think of you on their own. You have to put yourself in front of people’s faces.”

Read more of Licht’s advice in the second edition of Leave Your Mark, now available at amazon.com.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR US