Quitting a job is a massive step that a lot of us will make at some point in our career.
Whether it’s seeking a new job opportunity or pivoting careers or leaving a toxic situation or simply leaving a position that is no longer fulfilling, we all have reasons for wanting to make a career transition.
While quitting a job is a normal step in the course of one’s professional life, it’s also one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, or done in haste. We have to consider things like finances, employment benefits, and future job prospects, and if you’re planning to go freelance, you’ll want to consider things like health insurance and *gulp* estimated quarterly taxes. No wonder quitting a job strikes terror in so many of our hearts!
Luckily, there are action steps you can take to make leaving a 9–5 job seem less daunting—yes, even if the thought of leaving a full-time job seems terrifying! By putting in the work beforehand, you can help ensure that you leave your current job with security, confidence, and on good terms.
Create an action plan to quit your job
Like with any other big goal, quitting your job involves a fair amount of planning and organizing. You’ll want to get your ducks in a row e.g. health insurance, finances, etc. before you take the big leap. And just like a big goal, you’ll want to break it down into micro, bite-size pieces. Figuring out our personal finances can be intimidating, but if we tackle one little aspect each day, it becomes more digestible.
Take 30 minutes to an hour to start jotting down all the things you have to tackle and start creating your action plan.
This action plan will give you a big picture view of all the things you have to do. Then, you can start breaking these tasks down into micro steps to make them achievable.
We’ve put together ideas for what can go into your action plan. Explore the options below to see which steps apply to you and then use them to help prepare your departure. Remember to take it one step at a time. We’re cheering you on as you enter this new and exciting chapter in your life!
Review your finances before quitting your job
If you’re leaving your current role without a new job or client lined up, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you have a good financial buffer to keep you afloat.
It’s often recommended that one should be prepared to have a year’s worth of savings in case a new job doesn’t come through right away.
With this figure in mind, you can start working out a budget and squirreling away money. You might consider opening a savings account and transferring money into it every week or month. Hide your debit card for this new account so you’re not tempted to dip into it. Give your account a fun name like “My Awesome New Life” as added motivation.
Besides rent and living expenses, here are some other expenses you’ll want to account for:
- Health insurance payments
- Vehicle insurance payments
- Student loan payments
- Credit card payments
- Educational expenses
Not ready to quit your job just yet? Create a side gig
Money is probably the biggest concern we all have when it comes to quitting our job. And while creating a savings account is the smart thing to do, it may take a while for money to accrue.
But you don’t have to wait around to start getting the ball rolling. In the meantime, you might want to consider creating a side gig or doing consulting work to start transitioning into your new career. This is a safe way to “test the waters” of a freelancing career, while still having one foot safely planted in your full-time job.
If you’re looking to pivot careers, it’s a good time to start building up your skill set for the career you want to have. So if you’re interested in transitioning into social media work, start offering your services to local and small businesses. Or if you’re looking to do freelance writing, start pitching editors at smaller publications and building your bylines.
This part will certainly require discipline and sacrifice, working nights, weekends, and whatever free time you have. It might even be slow going at first, but slowly but surely, you’ll start to develop lots of new skills, your reputation will start to grow, and current clients will start referring you to other clients.
When you do you leave your job, you won’t be entering this new and scary world. You’ll already have tons of experience and clients under your belt, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
Build your side business
As you slowly expand your side business, you’ll want to start thinking about the administrative and marketing aspects, especially if your work will depend heavily on clients and referrals.
Marketing. Think about creating a professional website, a professional social media account, and business cards.
Administrative. As your business grows, you’ll want to consider your future workspace. Ask yourself if you’ll be fine working from home—do you have a designated office space? Or maybe you want to separate your work and personal space. If so, you can look into renting a studio or a desk at a coworking space.
Accounting. You’ll also want to get a referral for a good accountant who’s experienced in working with freelancers or small business owners. They can also advise you on how to start setting up your estimated quarterly taxes.
Notify your manager
The standard is to give your manager at least two weeks notice of your departure, but this may vary depending on your industry.
You’ll also want to set aside time to inform your manager in person. Rather than surprising your manager and giving them the news in the hallway, send a short but polite email stating that you’d like to have a chat with them.
It might feel awkward telling your boss that you’re leaving, but try going into it with a grateful and excited attitude. Thank your manager for the opportunity and guidance they have given you, and then mention that you’re looking forward to building on the experience you have gained. This will frame the conversation in a much more positive light, and will make it feel less like a break up talk :).
Of course, the nature of the conversation will depend a lot on the dynamic and relationship you have with your manager. If you’re feeling nervous, jot down your notes, work out what you want to say beforehand, and study sample scripts to help you feel confident.
Let your friends and former colleagues know you’re quitting
Send personalized emails to friends and former colleagues to let them know you’re leaving your current job and that you’re looking for new opportunities. You can also make an announcement on social media. Create a post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn—whatever platform you’re most comfortable with.
You never know: these email and social announcements could start a conversation or an introduction to someone at a dream job. By reaching out to loved ones and people you already know, you’ll feel that much more supported as you start exploring new options.
Send thank you cards and a farewell email
It’s always nice to end your last day on a note of grace. Send thank you cards to your managers and coworkers and let them know how much they’ve impacted you. At my old job, I remember an intern who once wrote thank you cards to our entire team and everyone was so touched by her thoughtful gesture.
Lastly, you can send a farewell email to your team or department. You can also convey your thanks in this message and express what you learned and will take with you. Include your future contact info so that colleagues can stay in touch. If you’re not comfortable giving out your personal info, you can include your social media account or LinkedIn profile, or website.
You did it—you created an action plan, built a safety net, dispatched your thank you cards, and now you’re ready to strike out on your own! Huge congrats on an incredible job well done!If you’d like some guidance and inspiration on navigating the freelancing life, check out our guide here and here.