Alright, so you want out of the 8-5 life. That’s great. Knowing that is ground zero for everything else that follows. For several years, I teetered back-and-forth with the thought of breaking free. Some days I didn’t want it, most days I did. On the days that I did not want out, I wondered what it was the kept me. I realized that most of the draw to the 8-5 life centered around stability, teamwork and purpose. I enjoy being a part of something bigger than myself, working together with good people to accomplish goals and the relative stability of working for someone else.
But, I can also enjoy all of those things – with the exception of the stability factor, possibly – working for myself. Most, if not all, of the business possibilities that I entertain are about more than myself and would require a team (even if just a small one) to pull off. The stability factor is a strong influencer for staying in 8-5 work, I won’t lie. It’s terrifying to think of stepping out on my own. But I think that’s one of the reasons I need to do it. So, as I begin to take serious steps towards breaking free, I find myself considering the questions below to sort out the personal side of leaving 8-5. These questions, I believe, will help me determine what I’d rather do instead, as well as, discover a little more about myself.
Who am I?
About a year ago, I wrote a post* about it being possible to be remarkable in your average life. In that post, I touch on this “Who am I?” question saying that it is vital to know who you are before you can live that remarkably average life.
The same is true for breaking free. The difference is that, when it comes to breaking free, knowing who you are allows you to determine what you’re not willing to do. There’s an older country song that says “you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” Knowing who you are is the basis for not “falling” for business ideas that contradict your morals, goals and convictions.
Staying true to yourself may sound cliche’ but it’s also important. Additionally, if jumping ship before certain things are in place will make your anxiety rise to alarming levels, you need to know that before you jump ship; not after. It will do you know good to trade one life of stress and frustration for another.
One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I can’t do nothing. I have to have something else to fill my days once I leave the 8-5 life behind. Sure, having a few days here and there of literally nothing on the agenda except binge watching Poldark on Netflix is nice. But only for a (small window of) time. I need a purpose. Otherwise, I get bored and restless and fat and lazy. None of those things are appealing to me so I must find something else to fill those now “free” hours of my days.
What do I enjoy?
This question can be more difficult for some to sort out than for others. Personally, it’s been one of the most difficult questions to answer because there are so many things that I enjoy. Identifying them all has been (and still is) a difficult process.
I think that’s ok, though. It’s ok to not have it all figured out. That’s partly what this discovery process is intended to define. But, you have to ask the question and be committed to finding the answer(s). Doing so will highlight avenues in which you might be able to pursue income producing opportunities.
Don’t strive for perfection or even for the “solution” here. Just get (all) the thing(s) down on paper. List each of them out and identify why it is you enjoy that thing. Don’t limit yourself to tangible ideas either. Allow yourself to think about the more intangible ones, too. For example, I enjoy doodling (tangible) but I also enjoy teaching (intangible). Give yourself time and space to sit with this question. Don’t rush it.
How could I turn it into a business?
Some things we enjoy lend themselves to business ventures better – or, at least, easier – than others. Let’s just be real about that. However, that does not mean that those “others” cannot be made into (successful) businesses. It just might take more imagination, work and commitment.
Regardless, you need to think about how what you enjoy could also become what brings income into your household. As I’ve been considering my own interests and business possibilities, I’ve been asking myself the following questions.
- Is there a need that your interest could supply? When Scott and I started Kaleidoscope a few years ago, it was because we saw a need for other ministries, missions organizations, churches, etc to have an affordable, yet still professional quality, option for photography and videography services. And, since starting the organization, we’ve been able to help multiple local, domestic and international organizations receive the photography and videography products that they need at little-to-no-cost to them.
- Is there a want that your interest could supply? Some businesses don’t fulfill needs as much as they meet the wants of others. For example, one of the things I’m heavily considering is offering “petography” through my photography business. Wedding, family, newborn and other “people” photographers are a dime a dozen in my area and more seem to pop up every day. However, there aren’t many, if any, pet photographers in my area. The way I see it, I love animals (I mean, I do have four dogs, a chameleon, a horse and even a snake, for pete’s sake). I love photography. And other people love their pets. Why not combine the two and fulfill an (admittedly perceived) need for others in the process?
- Is there a combination of want and need that your interest could supply? Perhaps your interests could straddle the line between want and need. An example that comes to mind is the clothing industry. Everyone needs clothes. Going out in public without clothing leads to unpleasant interactions with neighbors, communities and law enforcement. However, not everyone needs certain kinds of clothes. The style, make, cost and other components of clothing vary wildly among individuals based on their unique tastes. I think this is why small boutique shops can be just as successful in selling clothes as the big box stores like Target and WalMart.
- Can you create a want, need or combination of the two via your interests? This might be the “holy grail” of business ventures because instead of filling an already existing need, want or combination it creates one. An example of this might be the snuggie**. As much laughter as they may bring, snuggies have been wildly successful. According to a Gizmodo article, gross snuggie sales reached $400 million in 2013. And why do you think that is? Because people didn’t know they needed what essentially amounts to a backward robe or blanket with sleeves until it was created.
Not everything you enjoy needs to become a business. In fact, unless it satisfies one of the questions above, it probably shouldn’t become a business. But, it is far more likely that what you enjoy could answer one (or more) of the questions above so give it a think. Sit on it, mull it around, ask friends and family about it and then, if you think you’ve got a good business idea, start figuring out how to start that business.
Why do I want to even try?
Simon Sinek has a popular TED Talk on the power of “why” in leadership and business. Essentially, he says that people don’t buy into what a person or business does as much as they buy into why it is done.
I think this rings true with our personal lives, as well. You need to know your why. Why do you want to put the time, effort, work and sweat into leaving the 8-5 life behind? What is that you really want to accomplish? Long after the novelty of the what(s) wears off, the why – if well defined and strong enough – will be what keeps you moving forward.
I’m still chewing on my why. I know that, overall, I want freedom. Freedom to pursue the things I’m interested in without 40+ hours of my week being obligated to someone else’s interests. However, I’m not sure that this freedom compiles the entirety of the why. So, I continue to think and pray on it and look forward to seeing what may come out of that.
So, that’s it. At least for now. In this journey toward breaking free, I think these questions are important to help give direction and boundaries on what to pursue instead. Discovering the answers might not be easy but nor can they be harmful so why not search them out?
*my blog had a different look, title and feel when this post was written