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Quit the rat race, but have a day job to pay the bills

If you are considering leaving the rat race behind and to go freelance or to work for yourself, I strongly recommend that you read the book Escape from Corporate America by Pamela Skillings before you take the plunge.

Writing from experience of her own and years of consulting clients, she brought up a lot of relevant points- points that only a person who have gone though that can fully comprehend. The book is not about bitching talk of firing your boss, instead, it is a sensible book that provide a lot of invaluable advice- such as don’t quit the day job yet, how to find time to do the venture (which include taking a less stressed job), how to identify and know your callings, is your calling a true one or just a fantasy, etc. Even though I live in Malaysia instead of America, the contents of her book are so relevant because the typical corporate environment is very similar everywhere.

rat-race

New York or KL- rat race’s the same

In one of the chapters where she talked about following your creative dreams, Pamela mentioned some relevant points:

Day jobs get a bad rap. Most artists dream of a future in which they can quit their day jobs and focus full-time on their passions. That’s a great goal. But the truth is that a good day job can give you the best of both worlds, providing financial security and plenty of flexibility for your art

Picking the right day job is very important. A bad one can suck the life out of you and your creative endeavors. A good one doesn’t require a lot of overtime or leave you too exhausted or demoralized to work on your passion. 

Most mid- to senior-level corporate jobs don’t work well as day jobs. They usually take up too much time and energy- too many late nights, too much effort pretending you care deeply about fourth-quarter results or your boss’s golf game. 

She went on to provide tips on how savvy folks can make day jobs work for them.

Coming from personal experience, the above is really true. For instance, I have been blogging since I was in my previous corporate job. Previously, I exert almost all my mental energy at work- my mind worked continuously from the time I start work till after the sun sets- to think on our feet and solve problems, to write processes, conduct training, etc. We used to joke that we hardly saw daylight when we walked out of the office because we always finished late. So, I never had the energy to write with my heart- I still love writing, but I could never give my best.

Whereas now, I am having a day job that involves helping others (something always close to my heart), doing powerpoint presentations (something I really enjoy), writing procedures for my boss’s website with a lot of in between rest when I help to run an errand or two.

The job still leaves me with sufficient energy to either get up early in the morning or after work to do my blogs. My favourite time is to write blog posts while listening to Lite FM, which consists mostly of songs of the 80s and 90s which I grew up in. At the same time, I get to spend quality time with the family, do housework, catch up on reading.

As I live my life more aligned with my true and core values, I find that I am very happy and contented with less- I no longer need to spent and buy things to heal the numbness and emptiness inside.  I thought I would run out of things to write after a while, but by opening up my heart, inspiration just flow in- until I can’t keep up with the ideas.

On the practical side, unfortunately I still need to eat and pay the bills.

It makes a lot of difference and a huge relief- to have a day job that you enjoy (or at least can learn to enjoy) and not demanding but pays the bills. If you are a creative person, being pressured to produce just to put food on the table is a sure way of stifling your creativity. Because if your hard thought and worked ideas doesn’t work, not only it will set you back financially, but it will affect your sense of worth. You would seriously begin to doubt yourself just because no one wants to pay for your labor of love. And one day, you would just give up. Squash your dreams, go back to the life that you once loathed and be the person that you’re just not put on this earth to do.

(In my Health Blog, I am now writing more articles on mind body connection because I find that a lot of illness originated from the mind and manifest in the body.  Years later, what we deny or refuse to face will come back and haunt us in the form of an illness.  I am seeing too many of such cases- that health ailments  is not just that simple- if the mind is not treated, both conventional and alternative medicine will not be effective).

Or even though you love what you are doing, how often you can spend 8 hours or more literally everyday doing what you love- without variety, you will surely get sick of it one day. Remember, the stronger the passion, equally strong can the aversion be. Even though I had enjoyed crafting, after hundreds of hair clips later, I seldom make them anymore.

But if you balance it- your mind gets the needed rest and break. And your refreshed mind will naturally be inspired with ideas for continuous improvements.

So, consider having a day job to support your ventures which you can moonlight on the side- especially if what you love doing cannot give you enough money to feed yourself and your family initially.  But don’t go for a job that drained you so much that in the end of the day, you can’t even muster up a smile for your colleague you bumped into at the elevator or the train.

If you have faith in your venture, talent and hobbies, calculate your expenses then either:

  • Take a lower paying job that pays the bills so that it takes your mind off the financial worries and leave you time and energy to work on your little moonlight side venture, or
  • Take a paycut but the job is more like an apprentice in nature- where it is bridging the gap between you and your aspirations. For instance, if you’ve always wanted to operate your own bistro, then work as a manager for a bakery or restaurant chain. This job not only pays the bills, but from there, you will know for sure if it’s what you really want to do in life.
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  • Dila April 29, 2010, 3:45 pm

    Hi Yin Teing,

    I really like the point you quoted from Pamela Skillings about the importance of picking the right job. Right now I am contemplating on making a career out of writing but still not sure as a full time or part time. And yes, having a steady (and permanent) job helps to pay the bills.

    p.s: I’ve been to Manhattan, NYC. Love the city but not the weather around autumn 😛

    • Yin Teing April 29, 2010, 5:27 pm

      Hi Dila, the book is really good. I strongly recommend it.
      Freelance writing is quite competitive, and my concern is it’s hard for a writer here to make a good income out of writing- unless your work is being published and marketed overseas.
      It’s also important to consider if you can withstand doing the same thing everyday for 8 hours. I know I can’t 😛

  • Dila April 30, 2010, 12:14 pm

    Hi Yin Teing, who says anything about 8 working hours if you are doing freelance writing? You’ll have the whole 8 hours that you can manage in the 24 hours you have. LOL! 🙂

    usually if i took time off from work, i can be done with translating 60+ pages of ebook in 2 days tops. 500 word articles (with research) may take about a day. do it part time first. 🙂

    • Yin Teing April 30, 2010, 4:39 pm

      Clever way of putting it 🙂
      It’s very true. And if you can take time off work to complete it’s good. Great going there.

  • Bruce May 19, 2010, 9:51 pm

    Hi Dila, the book is really good. I strongly recommend it.
    Freelance writing is quite competitive, and my concern is it’s hard for a writer here to make a good income out of writing- unless your work is being published and marketed overseas.
    It’s also important to consider if you can withstand doing the same thing everyday for 8 hours. I know I can’t 😛

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