Things that happen when you quit the 9-5

I love anniversaries. I love looking back, remembering dates, triggering memories and marvelling at all that’s changed in between. It also reminds me how fast time flies by and why I, you, all of us, need to make the most of every moment. Can you believe that it’s been a year since I quit my full-time job? I’ve come so far since this time last year and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities that have come my way and for the life I’ve been able to create. I’ve learnt so many new skills (seriously, so many) and have redefined what success means to me in, quite honestly, a pretty short timeframe.

And it’s been freakin’ hard. While it’s no secret that my poisonous full-time job left me perpetually exhausted, I’ve never worked harder in my life than I am right now doing the whole solitary thing over here. But you know what? I’ve never felt more inspired, energetic or happy and there isn’t a shadow of doubt in my mind that makes me think I shouldn’t have taken the leap. If you’re on the brink of quitting your job, here are 10 things that will happen when you quit the 9-5:

Niramaya Villas & Spa, Rooms

1. People will tell you what they think (but you don’t have to listen)

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and chances are, they’ll have an opinion about you quitting your job. Most will be excited for you but there might be a few others who aren’t so enthusiastic, thinking it to be an irresponsible or unconventional decision. Try to surround yourself with positive and encouraging influences. Making the decision to go against the grain in search of a new purpose is hard enough as it is.

2. You’ll be hard on yourself 

After you quit your job, a cold, hard reality sinks in. Nobody is responsible for your ultimate success or failure except you. You can’t blame the quality or quantity of your work on your workplace conditions or an inept manager. If things go downhill, it’s all on you. You’re in the driving seat and that’s a scary, yet incredibly motivating thing.

3. The 9-5 becomes 24/7

One of the things I miss most about working the 9-5 is that time of day when I’d clock off, leave the office and make my way home to switch off and relax. When you freelance and especially when you work from home, the lines between the two can get pretty blurry. You’re free to plan your day exactly as you like and when your office is in your home, it can be tricky to strike a balance between work life and home life.

Also, let’s not forget that this thing you left your job for is your passion. You’ve constantly got about seven million ideas swirling around inside your head that you can never really switch off — proof that what you’re doing creates meaning, excitement and is absolutely the path you’re supposed to be on. Oh and isn’t there a quote that goes something along the lines of ‘if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life’? Yeah, true story.

things that happen when you quit the 9-5

4. You realise how little you need to be happy

Money and possessions don’t buy happiness. When you throw yourself into the deep end and you have to be careful with money for a little while as you find your feet, you adapt and realise how little you need to be happy. You don’t need expensive clothes or to eat out all the time. This actually doesn’t contribute to your overall happiness, but just might make you feel a little better for a short time. Real happiness comes from creating a life that truly makes you excited and one that isn’t defined by anyone else except you. I would gladly sacrifice that new pair of shoes for that feeling any day!

5. Hustle baby

Even though your job may be sucking the life out of you, it’s still pretty darn nice to have that same, healthy paycheck deposited into your account every month. Suddenly you leave that stable income behind when you leave your job and you’ve now got to work harder than ever before to earn it. You will be so far out of your comfort zone and you better get used to rejection because it will happen a lot. The opportunities aren’t going to simply land in your lap — you’ve got to fight fiercely for them.

6. You won’t get anything done without a dedicated workspace

Thinking you can create amazing work in your pjs on the couch with Orange is the New Black on in the background is sadly unrealistic. Been there, done that. Believe me when I tell you that there’s no way you can be productive without having a specific place to work that is free from distractions. After I quit my job and still lived in Berlin, I spent my days working from cafés and since I moved back to Melbourne, I made sure I could set up a workspace in the apartment we leased. While it’s still far from my dream studio, it does make a big difference having a working zone.

Things that happen when you quit the 9-5

7. You need a tax accountant

Back when I worked full-time, I really didn’t give my taxes a single thought and why would I? Tax would be automatically deducted from every paycheck and at the end of the financial year, it would always be pretty simple to lodge my tax return myself since there are so many free tax calculators and estimators available. When you’re self-employed, however, you suddenly become responsible for your own taxes and it gets pretty complicated! Hiring a great tax accountant was the single best business decision I’ve made. He’s a huge help in advising me about how to make the tax system work for me within my legal boundaries.

8. Mondays become your favourite day of the week

When I worked full time, my job wore me so thin that I thought I might break. The sense of dread would set in as early as Sunday morning at the prospect of starting a whole new week. I often couldn’t sleep on Sunday night and would start the week tired before it’d even begun. I would somehow, miraculously make it to Friday afternoon but would get home and promptly collapse on the couch, not wanting to move for the entire weekend except to get coffee. Jobs that have that effect on you are poisonous. This wasn’t a life. But now? I get a little too excited by Mondays. I can’t wait to open my planner on a Monday morning and start mapping the week out. My schedule energises me now, it doesn’t deplete me.

Larwill Studio, Melbourne, Bed

9. You need to say yes to everything

Any opportunity that comes your way, respond with a resounding ‘yes’. Even if it terrifies you. Even if you don’t think you’ll be able to pull it off. One of the single greatest quotes I’ve heard has been from Richard Branson on the power of ‘yes’:

If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later.

Makes sense, right?

10. You realise how unhealthy stress is

Even though freelance life is by no means an easy gig, it’s a hell of a lot less stressful than my full-time job. Looking back, I cringe just thinking about how stressed I was, day in, day out. I was constantly exhausted and would come home, pour a big glass of wine (or sometimes three, depending on the day) and be caught in a battle between wanting to crawl into bed but then not wanting to because that would mean waking up sooner and having to do it all again. Gosh, I could never even fully relax during holidays because my mind would be ticking down the days until I had to go back to ‘that place’. Stress took a huge toll on my body and I often couldn’t sleep, my head would be foggy and I’d get sick way too much.

While I still do feel stressed from time to time now when I’m juggling deadlines or I’m working for a big client, it’s a healthy, rewarding stress that stems from the flood of opportunities I’ve created for myself alone. And that’s freakin’ empowering.

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Are you a freelancer? What lessons have you learnt since quitting the 9-5?