Doing what you have to do and doing what you love to do, for most people, are two conflicting pulls. If you don’t do what you have to do, you won’t make enough money to get along. But when you can’t do what you love, it’s easy to get discouraged.
What if there was a better way — a way that you could merge your passion and your profession into one? By leaving my job to become a full-time writer at MakeUseOf, this is exactly what I recently did. I want to share my story so that you, too, may be able to take this exciting step.
How I Found My Passion
The last thing I thought I’d become in school was a writer.
I didn’t have the best elementary English classes, so I always dreaded writing papers. That all changed with the English teacher I had in 11th and 12th grade. In those years, it was like I couldn’t write anything wrong. I would write a paper in a 40-minute study hall, think it was crap, then get an A+ on it. Those years, under that teacher, really boosted my confidence in writing.
Fast-forward to early 2014, when I was a sophomore in college. I still had a knack for writing and college papers never fazed me. As a Computer Information Systems major who wasn’t loving programming, I was looking for other ways to apply my skills. I had followed MakeUseOf on social platforms for a while. When they posted a link to an infographic titled “Ten Signs You’d Be a Great Writer for MakeUseOf”, I decided to give it a go.
The only question was what to write about. Just that weekend, a friend of mine had some issues with a browser hijacker taking over her searches. She asked me for help, and I could point out all the places that the hijacker was hiding in Chrome. She remarked how cool it was that I knew all that without looking. And that’s when I knew that my first article would be about cleaning up Chrome hijackers.
Hilariously, my laptop’s hard drive died the moment I sat down to write the article, but I didn’t let that get in my way. Using a crappy old laptop with Linux Mint installed and with some help from friends’ computers to grab screenshots, I sent in my article on January 26. 2012. Four days later, Tina replied.
She liked my article.
A Hobby Becomes a Passion
Of course, I wasn’t looking to become a lifetime writer from that moment on. But through the remainder of my college career, including a full-time internship in the summer of 2015 and a senior project that required building an Android app, I never stopped writing. Writing is something that I always wanted to do, no matter how many other things were demanding my time.
I considered becoming a full-time writer once I graduated college this May, but felt like I needed to get a “real” job (despite Justin Pot telling me I had a “real” job as soon as I started writing for MUO). In March, I accepted a position as an IT Service Technician for a small/medium business IT outsourcing company in my area. It was good work, and I learned a lot at the job. But through months of working in IT, I was always thinking about writing.
The way I knew that writing was what I loved, while working in IT was just a job, was that writing was still something I looked forward to after a day of work. After 12 hours (from waking up to coming home), I still had the drive to sit down and write a couple of shorter posts, and write a full article on Saturdays. I considered what it would mean for me to go full-time, and the benefits of doing that.
When it came down to it, I knew that now was the time to make my jump. I’m young, and don’t currently have a family to support. Truthfully, the strongest reason was this: I’d rather give this a try and run into some problems than never do it and wonder what could have happened ten years from now.
What You Need to Consider
If you’re making a similar consideration, it’s important to keep the negatives in mind as well as the positives. You’ll be drawn to thinking “I won’t have to sit in traffic for an hour” or “I won’t have to deal with that annoying coworker any more.” These are fantastic perks of following your passion, but you also must think about what you’re giving up. Talk to your family and trusted friends and get an outside opinion — for me, discussing the idea with my family was important.
Financial concerns are at the top. Take some time to use a spreadsheet and visualize what your incomes and expenses are for each path. For me, leaving my job meant giving up my paid health insurance. But this saved me from paying for the gas to drive 250+ miles every week. If you don’t already use a budget tool, take one out for a spin and figure out if you will have enough money to cover your expenses when you make the jump.
Aside from finances, there are other considerations. If you’re well-respected in your field, what effect will leaving have on future employment considerations? Do you have a backup plan in case an emergency happens and you can’t keep up with the bills? Since you’ll be from home, do you have ways to stay in touch with friends and go on dates, if applicable?
For me, perhaps the biggest draw of becoming a writer was having control over my time. When I’m sick and can’t write, I don’t have to “use up” a sick day. If I need to stay up late one night for an event, I can just shift my writing time up the next day. For some this is wonderful — others might struggle with the autonomy. Nobody will tell you what to do when you’re on your own.
The Big Moment
Once you’ve considered everything, and you’ve decided to make the change and do what you love to do, the hardest part is breaking the news to your boss. It’s a good idea to do this on a Monday or a Friday — be sure to leave graciously and stay at least two weeks.
Remember that your employment is at will, so you shouldn’t have any reason to be afraid. You should make every effort to meet your boss in person to let him know, and explain that you’re only leaving to follow your dreams. Who can argue with that?
Be ready for counter-offers. Your boss might offer you a promotion, or a position that incorporates more facets of the passion you’ve expressed to him. Consider this before you’re sitting with him. If he offers you $5,000 more per year than you’re making, is that enough to keep you there?
If you’ve gotten to this point, I imagine that it won’t be. Money is a factor, but it shouldn’t be the only one.
Three Weeks Later…
I put in my notice on October 10, had my last day on October 28, and started as a full-time writer on October 31. Would I recommend that you follow the same path and live your passion?
Absolutely. Of course, your exact plans or experience might be different from mine (as I already had an authorship at MakeUseOf). But the same principles apply.
Since leaving my job I’ve been happier. I have picked up learning Spanish, and have had more time to see friends and family. I also now have time to review video games for MakeUseOf (which I love doing) and put more time into articles that would have felt rushed on Saturdays when I was working.
It might feel weird at first because it’s different, but you know what? Being different is good, because the normal is working until you drop. Especially in the USA, so many people work their entire lives, neglecting their families, friends, passions, and fun. Life is about so much more than just work. And by following your passion, it’s so much easier to keep those other things in balance. No longer do every five out of seven days have to be dominated by you paying your dues.
Life is way, way too short to live the majority of it wishing you were doing something else. Nobody who’s on their deathbed says that they wished they would have worked more hours. You don’t have to be stuck doing what you’re expected to do. As long as it’s not going to put you out on the streets, do something crazy and go live your passion.
What would you do with an extra several hours a day? Hours not spent sitting in traffic or in useless meetings? Spend them instead with your kids, learning an instrument, writing a book, or working out. You can’t put a price tag on free time.
If you need a push to make a change in your life, check out how Ryan changed his course with motivational videos. I’ve shared my story with you, and hope that it motivates you to make a big change in your life.
Have you left a job to pursue what you’re passionate about? Let us all hear it down in the comments. Please feel free to ask me anything down in the comments too — we’ll continue the discussion.