Imagine that you’re sitting in your local coffee shop. The decadent smells swirl around you as you type away on your laptop. You’ve got a couple of interesting copywriting projects to get done that will pay a few thousand dollars each. Life is good and you couldn’t be happier.
Now wake up.
You’re at your desk in your office or cubicle. Employees chatter around you as you try to focus. You really hate this job. There’s nothing redeeming about it at all. Your boss is a tool and your co-workers are annoying. The work you do is unchallenging and uninspiring. You spend most of your day counting the minutes until 5 pm.
For too many of us, the above scenario is all too real. You dream about quitting your day job and working as a freelance copywriter but are unsure how to go about it in a way that won’t leave you curled into a ball in the corner as you freak out.
Worry no more.
I’m here to help you with just that.
There are a few things you need to do when quitting and the very first thing is doing an honest evaluation of why you’re leaving. Are you running from your current job or to your new career?
If you’re running from your current job, why is that? Is it something that potentially could be fixed with a heart to heart conversation with your boss? Is there an alternative work arrangement that might make things a little easier to handle? Running from a bad situation won’t necessarily resolve it the way you’d like it to. In fact, you may find that the problems follow you. Those bastards.
If you’re running to your new career, have you adequately planned for it? Do you know how you’ll get new clients? How long will it be before you start generating enough income to cover your expenses? Do you have the support from those closest to you? While this support isn’t always necessary, it sure does make things a hell of a lot easier.
So, you’ve thought it through and you’ve made the decision to quit.
You’ve taken the first (and sometimes the hardest) step in the process.
- Break the news to your boss first, in person and with a concise written letter. It’s only fair that you talk to the head honcho before you pass the work around your coworkers. It would be really awkward to go into a meeting with your boss to break the news only to find out that she already heard it from Stan in accounting. It’s a professional courtesy to tell your boss in person even if writing an email seems sooo much easier. Bringing along a letter with just the facts regarding your resignation (such as effective date) and a short thank you for the opportunity to work there. Even if you’re not all that thankful, the small gesture is super classy. The standard notice time period is two weeks but double check your employee handbook to see if more notice is required for your particular position.
- Stick to the basic facts. Believe me, I know what a temptation it is to want to go all Jerry Springer on your boss and just unload every grievance you’ve had for the time you’ve worked there. The cold hard truth is that going ape-shit won’t do anything but reflect badly on you. If your boss keeps pressing for a reason why you’re leaving, be honest in a calm and respectful manner. Your boss isn’t entitled to any information beyond the date that you are leaving. If there’s no need to give him more information, don’t.
Side note – This also includes not putting your former boss or company on blast via social media. That’s just not cool. Don’t do it.
- Be prepared for anything. Your boss may have you escorted out immediately. Make sure you’ve taken home (or can quickly gather) all your personal belongings. They may not let you back in the building for something you forgot. On the other hand, your boss may offer you a slew of things to either stay longer or to not quit at all. You may suddenly find yourself with additional vacation time or a nice bonus. Are you committed enough to quitting to refuse these offers when they come? It’s definitely something to think hard about.
- Get your benefits straightened out. Know what you’re eligible for and make sure you get it. Are you entitled to be paid for unused vacation or sick time? Will you receive information on COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act aka health insurance)?
- Stay in it to win it. There’s really no point for you to stay two weeks if you’re already mentally checked out. Make sure to wrap up all old projects (without taking on new ones) as professionally as you can.
- Have a transition plan written down and in place. Know what work you’re going to have to do in order to make the money you need. You may have already been writing copy on the side while working the dreaded 9-5 job and that’s great! What do you need to do to ramp that up to become a full-time income? Who do you need to network with? Who is your ideal customer? How are you going to market yourself? The list of possible questions is a mile long and I don’t have the time to type them all out. But you need to have these things written down before you put in your notice.
- Make sure your finances are in order. I don’t care who you are, moving from a steady paycheck to the ebb and flow world of freelancing will require some financial planning on your part. It’s wise to have 3-6 months worth of expenses in the bank before you put in your notice. If you don’t have that much, do the math and see if what you do have will be enough to cover you until your copywriting income picks up.
- Read Gary Halpert’s letter re becoming a copywriter and do exactly what he says to do. You can read the letter here. Do it.
- Hustle to get clients. No business can work without clients. Figure out who your ideal client is and then go where they are. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Join networking groups on Meetup. Tell everybody you know (or meet) about what you do in a concise elevator pitch. (If you don’t know what that is, Google.)
You should also try to connect with a person of influence within your target area. If you can bring value to him/her and his/her contacts, then he/she might be inclined to let you pitch your services to his/her list. Remember, value is the name of the game. You really have to shine and be helpful for this tactic to work. Make sure you exchange services with the Influencer – meaning you get a guest post or something in exchange for the help that you give him/her. Include this proposition in your pitch.
There. I’ve given you the information on how to get things done.
Now it’s up to you to do it. Get busy. Quit your despised 9-5.
Your copywriting career awaits.
How did this post help you? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks.