in FS, Planning, Psychology, Side Hustles

Excited and Scared: One Week as a Full-Time Blogger

I’ve had a week now to adjust to the idea that I’m a full-time blogger, that I’m completely in control of my financial success or failure. To be honest, I’m both excited and scared.

I had the same job for sixteen years. I’ve never made a career change. I’m sure that many of you have moved or started a new job and felt similar fears. I need to realize that my fears are normal, and that this change is not irrevocable. I don’t want to make this sound like I’m having second thoughts —I’m not.

I’m excited to be pursuing my dreams, and I’m committed to making Get Rich Slowly a fantastic place to find personal finance information. I just need to make some mental adjustments to my new reality.

No cost savings
Some books argue that you can save significantly by quitting your day job, but I’m not convinced this is true. It might be true for a two-income couple with young children, but it’s not true for me. Not only will I lose the income from my day-job, but Kris and I both suspect household expenses will increase.

After one week, I already know our utility bill will go up. It’s fine for us to leave the thermostat set at 54 degrees when nobody’s home, but when I’m trying to write, that’s too cold. I bundle up to keep warm, but all the same, I need to turn up the heat a little.

I never spent a lot to go out to eat with co-workers, so my food costs were pretty low while on the job. Now that I’m trying to eat healthfully, our grocery bill will probably rise. I don’t have kids, so there are no daycare expenses I can cut. I already shop for clothes at thrift stores, so the savings on my wardrobe will be minimal, as well.

The only real economy will come in automobile expenses. The box factory was exactly 20 miles from my house, so I’ll be saving about $14/day in transportation expenses (fuel and maintenance), or about $3500 per year. (My car costs about 36.1 cents per mile to run.)

Potential problems
As you might expect, I’ve tried to be methodical about this move. Because I’m so eager for this to succeed, I’ve thought a lot about potential trouble spots, and I’ve tried to be sure that I have a plan for addressing them. Future concerns include:

  • Health insurance. For now, I’m covered on a plan through Kris’ job. What happens when she retires? What happens if she changes jobs? This isn’t something we have to figure out immediately, but it’s a concern for the future.
  • Personal savings. I’ve managed to rebuild my savings since encountering car trouble in early January, but I’m still short of the $10,000 I wanted to have set aside before quitting my job. I’m confident that I’ll have this by the middle of the year, but I’m still taking a risk by not having that money set aside first.
  • Income. The income from my web sites fluctuates. Some months it’s much higher than I need; sometimes it’s low enough to worry me. I’ve calculated how much I need to earn per day to replace my $42,000/year salary from the box factory, and so far I’m meeting that goal.
  • Expenses. My spending doesn’t worry me too much, but I’m continuing to track it closely. I spent the past two years reducing my lifestyle, cutting unnecessary expenses. This frugality will ease my mind as I begin to work from home.
  • Work schedule. For the past year, I’ve basically been working non-stop. Every spare moment has been spent on this site. I’m still working on it all the time. (Have I become a workaholic?) I need to develop a more realistic schedule that allows me to have time for family and friends.
  • Social life. Many people who work from home have warned me that it’s important to get out and be social. After just a week, I can see that they’re right. I need contact with people. How can I get this contact without spending money? Maybe I’ll take a class or two. Maybe I’ll do volunteer work.

I feel confident about our plan for each of these points. I’m particularly excited about our aggressive savings. In fact, I don’t have any specific worries about writing full time — only a generalized fear of the future.

Part of the problem may be that I no longer have a long-term goal. For three years, I was working to pay off debt. That goal kept me focused. When I became debt-free, my goal became to quit my day job. I’ve done that now, too. I don’t know what to do next. I have some short-term goals, but no longer have a single over-arching purpose. I need to find that purpose.

Words of wisdom
I spent part of Friday evening talking with Bruce, the father of a friend. We talked about exercise, we talked about investing and retirement, and we discussed my move to full-time writer.

“I’ve been writing on the web for over a decade,” I told him. “I’ve been writing daily about personal finance for nearly two years. You’d think this move would be a no-brainer. But the truth is I’m scared. It was one thing to have Get Rich Slowly as a hobby — it’s completely different to make it my full-time job. Making this leap is tough.”

Bruce nodded. “It’s always scary to try something new,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what. You’re doing the right thing. It’s scary now, but imagine how scared you would be to make this move in five years. Or ten. I think it’s great that you’re giving this a shot. What do you have to lose?”

He’s right. What do I have to lose? Nothing. Even if I fail, I succeed. I will have pursued my dream. If I come up short, I’ll have learned things for the future.

Where I’d really lose is by not pursuing my dream. When I’m on my deathbed, I’m not going to think, “Damn. I wish I hadn’t tried to write full-time — I should have stayed at the box factory.” But I very well might have thought, “Damn. I wonder what would have happened if I had tried to write full-time instead of staying at the box factory.”

To infinity, and beyond!
Ultimately, despite my fears, I’m doing the right thing. It’ll take a couple of weeks to work through my nervousness and trepidation. But I’m living the life I want, and that’s what is important.

Your first months, or even years, of being jobless will require adjustments of all kinds. You’ll be exposed to new people and you’ll be learning new skills. You’ll be drawing a new map, one that will take you places you’ve never been before. If you treat all of this as an adventure — which it certainly is — you…will be able to look back fondly when you tell the story of your early days of making a living without a job. — from Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara J. Winter

In the past month, I’ve done a lot of reading about nontraditional jobs (like writing a blog). Some of the books I’ve found useful include:

Each of these books was recommended by a different Get Rich Slowly reader. Thanks to everyone who has provided advice and suggestions. Your support makes all the difference!

Write a Comment

Comment

58 Comments

  1. Congratulations on being free from the box factory!

    This past Friday I resigned from the job I’ve had the past two and a half years so I know how satisfying and frightening it can be all at once.

    I’m nowhere near ready to rely on blogging for a full-time income so I also know how tough it is to get to that point. Luckily I met my savings goal so I have a safety net for the time being.

    Your words, ” Even if I fail, I succeed.” ring very true and are wicked motivating.

    Good luck to you!

  2. It helps that you have lots of marketable skills. So if GRS crashes (unlikely in the near future, I think) you can take your talents elsewhere. But I think you’ll do quite well.

  3. Great post — I imagine it’s not easy being so open, or even to be so open with yourself about all the different feelings. It occurs to me that one of the things you’ve already done, adding another blogsite, is a good omen for the future–you probably won’t want to do this exact thing for the next 16 years, so adding new things to your life now is a great idea.
    I think everyone benefits from making changes in their life — when I was in College many many years ago I was dealing with a very unwelcome change and a man I loved shared one of his favorite quotations from Norman Mailer. I don’t remember the exact words but the meaning was “you can stay the same, but it will cost more every day.” Since then, I’ve often thought of how true that is, that it actually “costs” (in every sense of the word) more to keep things static than it does to embrace change.

  4. As I’m sure you already know, your increased food and heating bills will be a drop in the bucket compared to your increased tax liability. Educate yourself on how different income is taxed and on what exemptions are available to you.

    Re: Health insurance. I have never had an employer provided plan and I have managed to get by. The coverage is not as comprehensive but I have not wanted for care and it doesn’t break the bank. You will have to make sacrifices if you go off you’re wife’s health insurance, but it is doable.

    Re: Socializing. Why not TEACH a class? Large universities offer university extension courses 3 or 4 times a year and you can sign up to run one. I would think running a pf blog with almost 50k readers would qualify you for that.

    Also, Re: Socializing. My local library has book clubs totally FREE, which I thoroughly enjoy going to. I bet your local library has them, too.

  5. Thanks for sharing the details of your journey with us. If you had done this all behind the scenes, it would be relatively seamless to us. However, I think we all learn something (and are motivated) by you sharing your success, and your challenges. For us aspiring entrepreneurs out here it is great to live vicariously through you, until we can join in jumping ship from the rat race! Keep up the great work and you’ll be just fine.

  6. Congratulations on trying a new life! Most people only move when forced to, but we all have to move some time, so it’s good you made the jump yourself.

    I spent the last year digging myself out of debt. I’m not done, but I’ve paid off over $10,000 in bad debt and almost $12,000 in cumulative debt in about twelve months. Now I’m seriously looking at cutting down on my work load to concentrate on my own writing (fiction, not personal finance!). All this is pretty scary for me, too. I’ve been reading you and other bloggers to keep myself on track, and while I haven’t been perfect, you guys have helped me keep my eye on the ball. Life is getting better because of it. Thanks JD.

  7. @Sara

    Excellent point. Yes, taxes are a huge concern. I can’t believe I forgot to list that above. They’re such a huge concern, though, that I’m willing to write an entire entry about them in the future (probably sometime in May). As a self-employed individual, I have a higher tax burden, and that means I have to earn more than $42,000/year to take home the same I was before.

    Thanks for pointing that out…

  8. I think what makes your blog special to me is that you are open about your thought process, actions, experiences and emotions. The “sausage-making” if you will, not just the end product. That’s what I like to read about, the process. I am starting to explore the idea of nontraditional jobs myself, and your thoughts are the kind of stuff I want to be aware of. I wish you the best. What you’re doing is very inspirational. Please continue to update us!

  9. Great post, I love hearing the details of all of it.

    Best of luck. I’ll be reading daily as I have been for over a year. You’re one of the best writers on the web as far as I’m concerned so I’m confident you’ll succeed.

    -Josh

  10. For the social aspect, I have found success in joining a local running club since I’m in to running. You might look in to a cycling club (IIRC, you were into cycling).

  11. J.D., you already know how I feel about ya, but one thing I’ll say is this: you can always make paying off your house early your next intense goal. 😉

  12. Interesting and timely counterpoint to Trent’s post on how he’s saving $8K/year working from home. Not everyone is going to see those savings.

  13. Yeah, Trent is one of those people for whom these books are written: he does have small children, so working from home might save him some money. It’s not going to happen for me, though, except for the car expenses.

    Who knows? I could be wrong! (I hope so!)

  14. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You have a very good chance for success since your business had been setup and you understand it prior to you leaving your job. There will be rough times and you will learn and grow from them. Here’s to your success!

    Best Wishes,
    D4L

  15. So you are now an entrepreneur! Congrats.
    Regarding health insurance: if you are legally married, your spouse can cover you even when she changes jobs (as long as her new employer offers family plans — and if an employer offers any health insurance plans, they probably have family plans). Or you can get individual health insurance. I have a high deductible coverage that is tied to health saving account, which lowers my taxable income.
    You have a good CPA for your business income, right? If not, I strongly recommend finding one.

  16. Library research would probably be a good way of blending work with socialization — and it would be far cheaper than going to the bookstore. As for new goals, how about financial independence? That is, getting yourself to the point that you have enough saved/invested that you can continue your lifestyle even if you never earn another dollar. Not that you’d quit what you’re doing at that point, but you *could* if you wanted.

    Start by figuring out how much that would take, and then work back to create shorter terms goals so you can taste success on the way.

  17. Not sure how eating healthy correlates with working at home. Otherwise, an interesting article. I work at home and know all the standard pitfalls, and I think social interaction is the biggest hurdle.

    I do know one thing. You should never, ever discount eating healthy as an expense. The upsides to a healthy lifestyle go beyond money. Besides, you will save a lot of money in the long and short run considering doctor and medicine costs.

    I started eating really healthy about four years, spending lots of money on natural and organic foods, and I haven’t been to the doctor a single time since I started. And I’ve only been to the eye doctor once, and my eyes had gotten stronger!

  18. JD, I’m with Sara – check into the nearby community centers and colleges about teaching a class. Maybe programming, maybe blog writing, maybe personal finance.

    Other socializing ideas: See if http://www.meetup.com has groups in your area centered on topics you’re interested in. You can also look into book clubs, walking clubs, or other options.

    If you just want to get out of the house occasionally, some independent bookstores have free wifi and don’t mind if you nurse a mug of tea for an hour or 3 while you’re writing.

    On saving money: Books assume you’ll spend less on business wardrobe & its maintenance if you quit your job. If your job requires dry clean only suits and now you’re in jeans, you will save money. If you were already working in jeans then it won’t. 🙂

  19. David wrote: Not sure how eating healthy correlates with working at home.

    There’s no direct correlation between eating well and working at home. It just happens that as I’m making this transition, I’m also focusing on my fitness, so the two things coincide. My diet at the box factory was cheap, but it sucked. (Think microwave pizza pockets, etc.)

    I agree — expenditures on fitness and health are more like investments than true expenses.

  20. Congratulations, JD. I hope your new endeavor is fulfilling. I know it will be succesful and profitable. Happiness is the key though and I think you’ll find it as well.

  21. JD,

    Congratulations on following your dreams and having a wife who supports you following your dreams!

    I don’t know what kind of ‘atmosphere’ you need to have around you to help you focus when you write, but in addition to those mentioned above and your public library, places such as Panera’s, McDonald’s :-{, Starbucks, etc also have free Wifi. That may be a way to get out the house (save a bit on the heating bill 🙂 ) and perhaps get some social time.

    Comments above mentioned teaching at a University to supplement your income. What about online classes (ie. how to create a successful blog 🙂

    Good luck. I love this blog! I’m sure this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of your success!

  22. I just started working at home this year and quickly ran up against the ‘oh-now-we-can’t-drop-the-thermostat’ thing.

    I don’t know what your workspace is, but mine is in a spare bedroom; this winter I closed the door and turned on a spaceheater. It made getting lunch downstairs cold, but maybe it kept me at my desk for more time too!

    The space heater can make a small room heat up quickly.

  23. Honestly, you need to apply some of that “4 Hour Workweed” logic.

    What’s the worst that can happen? No career change is irreversible.

    I just quit my day job and took my small business full time. I made 15% of my old paycheck this weekend alone!

    Don’t be afraid in your greatest moment!

  24. Wow this is the first post I’ve read on your blog and I think your blog is really going to “talk” to me. I was made redundant from my position of seven years last December and have chosen not to work since. While my redundancy payout will allow me to continue not working for a few months yet I am starting to worry about what I am going to do next – I REALLY do NOT want to go back to full time work in an office. The problem is, I was a corporate services manager and that is not the sort of job that translates into working from home… and I’m an introvert who hates picking up the telephone so the thought of marketing any business I develop gives me the horrors.

    Anyway, that was a VERY long winded way of saying I will be reading back through your old posts, and reading the new ones as they appear, with great interest!

  25. Congratulations! I think it is fabulous that you have followed your dreams. I am sure you will figure out the next big dream to work toward but take the time to celebrate reaching this dream.

  26. J.D.,

    When we met, one of the questions you asked me was if I’d read the Tim Ferriss book – 4-Hour Workweek.

    I am now, and one section really hit me between the eyes. It was where he talked about his trip to Europe, and really though about the worst-case scenario about his business, and other things in his life.

    In his case, the worst-case scenarios really weren’t that bad.

    I would recommend you evaluate your situations the same way. Perhaps you will be surprised, and this will give you more encouragement to move forward boldly.

    I have complete confidence that you are going to succeed in whatever you put your hands to.

    Cheers,

    Aaron Kulbe

  27. Congrats on being a full time blogger! I am really happy for you, and for the fact that you can earn a good living from doing what you do. It’s wonderful! Can’t wait to see what the site becomes now that you have more time for it. 🙂

  28. I’ve been lurking on this site for around 4 months now, and must say so far I am extremelly impressed. I am a U.S. Soldier living overseas so many of the things you discuss don’t really apply to me given that I am not exposed to the economy back home per se. Nonetheless I have received tons of useful insight from your posts and the responses of others.
    I do have one question in regards to you blogging full-time. How do you make an income from this site? I haven’t seen any advertising or anything of that sort. I’m not trying to pry, but I am interested in earning a secondary income via the Internet so your method of blogging intrigues me.

  29. JD, its fabulous that you are following your dreams. I think it’s also important that you get out of the house regularly 🙂

  30. Way to go, JD. I agree with one of your commenters who suggested that limiting your hours may be one of your biggest challenges!

    It’s obvious that GRS is a passion for you, and it’s wonderful that you’re giving it the attention it deserves. You’ve inspired us all!

  31. Lots of moms quit their careers and it is a very scary thing. I did it a year and a half ago. I’ve doubled my freelance writing income since — without a babysitter and twin toddlers under foot.

    I, agree with a PP, definitely become smart about taxes. Sure, you are taxed more, but track EVERYTHING you do and soon you’ll realize your expenses add up, especially as a writer. In fact, you could branch out to other writing — not just blogging — and so long as you “pitch” an idea about it, it can be an expense. I have creatively found a way to work taking my daughters on fun explorations as a way to write off that expense, just by writing about it.

    It can get lonesome … takes about a year to really get a groove on, I think. Soon you’ll be like the rest of us indies … anti-cubicle. I really enjoy your blog and your thinking out loud.

    p.s. just paid off one of three credit cards and got our emergency savings back up to over $1000 thanks to my freelancing.

  32. It will work out for you one way or another. The fact that you are pursuing your dream and are even in position to try is an accomplishment. Best of luck.

  33. Congratulations and good luck! I’m jealous. Hopefully in 2 or 3 years I’ll be in a position to do something similar but for now it’s a pipe dream.

  34. Best of luck JD. Great idea to jump in with both feet after you felt the water first. Now that you are focusing on your site full time I’m sure you will take getrichslowly to the next level very quickly indeed.

  35. Great post. I find it really interesting to find out all of the “behind the scenes” information about you running your own blog. I think it’s really helpful to anyone looking to do the same thing in the future.

  36. Congratulations!

    Scalzi at Whatever has a lot of very, very good advice for full-time writers. Ignore the SFWA politics, which are the despair of many.

  37. Congratulations on your escape from the everyday grind! I remember when I first quit my job. I was scared at first but then you get this ultimate sense of accomplishment. You then realize that there is nothing beyond your imagination.

    The big piece of advice I would give you and anyone else is that you shouldn’t expect to “work” less. The difference between a job and a career is about 30 hours a week! However, if you truly love it, it won’t seem like work.

  38. Get involved in some kind of network … a professional writing group … a money blog writing group … where there is a forum or monthly in-person meetings. The point being not so much for social (which will be a benefit), but addressing the fact you need to tap into people like yourself any minute of the day/hour to know what you are doing is normal. What I sense about your nervousness and/or what I know about this kind of nervousness is that it is caused from not feeling connected enough to your “new” society. Get around people who have been doing this twice as long, making twice as much money, and reality will set in better. If you already belong to such groups, maybe it is time to find a way to get more out of them.

    Katrina

  39. Congratulations!

    I worked from home a few years ago and found that I ate much healthier and cheaper also.

    The trick is to plan ahead. I ate more whole grains because I actually had time to cook them. Put a pot on during mid-morning and by lunch you have a foundation for a meal. Add to that leftovers, veggies, beans, an egg, etc. (I highly recommend eggs for a healthy, protein-rich, quick meal on the cheap, and they can be prepared in a million different ways.)

    Another idea: experiment with making your own soup stock and then freeze individual portions. Before lunch, take out a portion and heat it up on the stove, adding whatever other soup ingredients you feel like that day. When your garden gets going, this meal will be nearly free!

  40. More re: Tax liability. The type of self-employment income that I am familiar with and which I believe is most common is independent contractor income.

    However, it would seem that the majority of your income would come from advertising revenue from the site, which could potentially taxed very differently than other self employment income.

    For example, I know a self employed person who I help with bookkeeping. His tax liability is considerably less than mine because his income is from leasing commercial properties and there are a significant amount of deductions available to him for that type of income.

  41. Your utility bills might go up, but I think you can probably claim a portion of your mortgage payment as a business expense, since you’re working from home. This might help makes things balance out.

    I’m not sure on the details of that, though, so you might want to talk to an accountant or a tax lawyer if you haven’t already looked into the details.

  42. “Social life. Many people who work from home have warned me that it’s important to get out and be social”

    They also say this for Stay at home Moms. But inside not socializing with peers it not healthy

  43. That’s awesome JD. It never hurts to try, like you said, what do you have to lose? NOTHING.

    If you’ve made it this far with a full-time job, you can easily double your income putting more focus on this blog. The internet has so many opportunities and the earnings are endless! Good luck!

  44. Congratulations, JD, on your new day job. 😉 I think it’s helpful to express concerns and share the pro’s and con’s with readers, but I also think you need to be careful and not focus on the concerns/negatives. You have expressed your fear a few times and while that’s normal, I wanted to suggest that you set those fears aside as much as possible and just move forward … otherwise, they will become bigger than they really are. It’s the old law of attraction principle. Focus on positives only. Deal with the other concerns, like insurance, taxes, etc., of course, but don’t give them unnecessary weight. Being home and setting your own schedule where you can attend seminars, teach classes (if you wish, as others suggested), go to gallery viewings or whatever strikes your fancy (thinking free or low-cost activities), etc. where you will be exposed to new potential/potential new readers/clients can offer so many opportunities for expanding your business and your life. It’s that old saying, “The world is your oyster.” Go for it!

  45. Wow. What an inspirational post. I’m rooting for you all the way! (BTW, did you remember that kid on the Simpsons…what was his name?…”I want to go to the box factory! YAAYYYYY boxes!”)

  46. Thank you Sarah, I’m so glad someone said it. The whole time I was reading the post I was thinking about that Simpsons episode with the guy working in the box factory.

    “Everything I know in life I got from the Simpsons”

  47. Welcome to the work-at-home club. You probably have thought of this, but re: heating bill: just get a really good room heater for your home office. Preheat the room while you’re having breakfast, and it will be nice and warm by the time you go in there with your four layers on.
    Here’s a community involvement idea: offer to teach on personal finances, at a local high school. WOuldn’t it be great to get to kids before they screw up? Or perhaps through a church. In any event, offering courses on financial literacy would be a great public service and you could try out your book ideas and actually be doing some market research at the same time.

  48. Congrats on making it a week! I’m sure you’ll do fine. Looking forward to all the cool stuff you’ll come up with now that you’re full time 🙂

  49. This is a very brave step! I could not imagine being in your shoes, but let me try 😉

    *Imagines*

    Yep I think i would have one foot in the pond and the other cemented in. I’m not saying what i would do is right, it is more a reaction out of fear :S

    Of course i just started blogging and dont have your experience! Oh i do have a question, how do you make money with your blog? I am failing to see any ads!

  50. When I became a fulltime freelance writer, my husband was scared the utility bills would go up. Don’t worry, it’s not that bad. Because I was so busy, my husband also quit his job to help manage my business and now we literally use a tank of gas like once a month. We bought a new car in December and we didn’t fill it up for the first time until early February and we live in West Texas where you have to drive everywhere, oh and did I mention we paid cash for the car? And we’re paying our house off next month after only living in it 5 years. Hate to brag, but writing has been very profitable to say the least 🙂

  51. Congratulations for taking the leap and thank for taking us along through the journey. You’ve been a financial inspiration & I’m sure you will continue to inspire us to live fully!

  52. I also would like to congratulate you for this extremely informative site. I love to pop in once in a while to read up on new and exciting financial topics. In fact, it is proving very helpful as I am two weeks away from purchasing a mature physiotherapy clinic. I am a therapist and I have been working in this clinic for 8 years. This site is motivating and it also has encouraged me to take the leap. Can’t fail right! Even if the company would.

    Thanks again.

  53. Wow, was that only two years ago? I just found this post through another site and was a bit stunned to see you made the leap to full time self employment such a short time ago!