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How to: Kiss Corporate Life Goodbye

Does the idea of a corporate gig give you that warm, fuzzy feeling? Is a raise of 6% per year until you retire to a $20 storebought cake and a Rolex your idea of financial well-being? Did you know that health insurance really isn’t all that expensive? Hey, college boy, do you run around campus to hit up interviews each spring?

Stop already! There are tons of myths out there that protect the corporate lifestyle, but you need not be fooled. If you want to be continually robbed of your freedoms, be my guest, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. On the other hand, if you want to know how to avoid the corporate rut forever, read on!

Got skills?

As long as you possess a transferable skillset, then you have everything you need to break free. Know Microsoft Office inside and out? Awesome. You can install five different CMS platforms on just about any server under the sun? Looks good to me. Got experience networking computers and wrangling broadband connections? You’re set.

What’s more, you don’t even have to be an expert at something right now in order to make a career out of it. In fact, if you’re interested in something, you should start learning as much as possible about it from this point forward. In three months (perhaps sooner), you’ll be proficient enough to spread your wings.

My point here is simple. If you can even be considered reasonably “expert” in a particular area, then there’s probably more work out there than you alone can handle. The only issue, then, is actually going out and finding all this work.

Fortunately, this is relatively easy, and it gets easier all the time.

My story

In October of 2005, I decided to build myself a little website that combined RSS aggregation with a blog. These two elements were of great interest to me at the time, and I thought I could get local people interested in the idea of a community blog site. Enter BlogLouisville.

In the beginning, building the BlogLouisville website was basically just a hobby, but I will admit to being keenly interested in the design aspect of things. During the construction phase, I was also running a retail business that had an eBay branch, so when I wasn’t fulfilling orders, I was hacking out CSS and XHTML.

As soon as I finished BlogLouisville, I was ready for more design, as it was far more appealing than sending out feedback to people who’d sent me $7 on eBay. How far could I go with CSS? Could I ever get as good at Photoshop as Veerle or Greg?

Looking back, I see that the answers to these questions weren’t nearly as important as the fact that I was interested in learning as much as possible about web design. I wanted to learn CSS inside and out; I wanted to explore Photoshop and develop as much proficiency as possible; and that’s all that mattered.

Within two months of launching my first website, I had developed a pretty decent skillset. A couple of fine folks took notice, and they asked me to design and consult on some sites. This was essentially my proverbial “snowball at the top of the mountain,” because after those two gigs, things really picked up steam.

It’s been six months since I launched BlogLouisville, and now I get at least three emails a week (lately it’s been five or more) inquiring about design work. To the casual observer, I’m sure that I look more or less like a web designer.

Truth is, I’m just making money doing something that holds my interest and keeps me inspired.

You’ve got the tools. Now what?

It really is all about who ya know.

In October of 2005, I didn’t know anybody. Now, I know lots of people, and those people (great folks that they are) routinely send business my direction. With a couple of notable exceptions, I have developed all of my contacts since January, and in that short amount of time, I’ve essentially built a design business.

If you’re reading between the lines, then you already see the good news here. Even if you don’t know anyone in your field of interest, you can’t let that minor detail stop you. Stick your nose out there and learn to play the part of the expert. A couple of months of networking could likely set the stage for years to come. Believe in the snowball effect, because I promise that it will happen to you, too.

The bottom line

Obviously, I wouldn’t be sitting here singing the praises of an entrepreneurial lifestyle unless I felt like it offered distinct advantages.

  • Freedom: If I need to take care of personal stuff at 2 pm, I’m on it like white on rice. If I want to go play golf, I’m so gone. I know that I’m going to take care of everything, and not having to worry about someone else coming down on me for doing things however I see fit is, well, priceless.
  • Motivation: Most intelligent people I know suffer from burnout. Spend too long on one task or at one job, and it’s bound to hit you like a ton of bricks. If this happens in a corporate setting, you could be in danger of losing your job or not getting that raise come annual review time. On the other hand, if you work for yourself, you can devote your time towards learning something new if you experience burnout.
  • Money: The guy you call “boss,” who incidentally wears a monkey suit every day to work, says that this year, you’re worth a 5% raise. Who the hell is he, anyway? Who is anyone, for that matter, to tell you what you’re worth? This seems like a ridiculous concept to me. Each day, you go out and determine how much you’re worth. You determine it by producing, by learning, and by creating more value in your life and your work.

While those points above might speak to you, I know something that definitely will. In the first four months of this year, I have earned more than I did in the first six months of last year. That may not be mind-blowing, but consider this: I literally dropped everything in my old life and completely started over in August of last year. Seriously, I ran from it like it was the plague.

The only thing I took with me was a little bit of money and the idea that I was going to forge a better life for myself.

Nine months later, I have what is essentially a new outlook on life. I’m free; I’m happy; and I feel like I can do anything I want to do. Now, wouldn’t you give up your corporate health insurance for that?

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126 comments… read them below or add one

Dennis Bullock April 19, 2006

Chris- this is definitely the direction I want to take and hope that it blossoms for me. I few weeks ago I landed my first client through word of mouth and just hope that this explodes to the point I need to turn people away.

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Gail Gardner June 23, 2011

I hope Chris doesn’t mind my encouraging Dennis and anyone else reading this to listen to his advice in this post. Another friend was just given until the next morning to resign or be fired. Why? She was right at that 20 years. Unusual. NO! Unexpected? No…that hospital is known for doing that – and so are so many companies.

While IBM never did that, they did decide to convert our real pensions to 401Ks – breaking promises we were given IN WRITING every one of my 23 years there. That and they did away with our non-contributory health benefits. If anyone believes they didn’t KNOW they were going to do that from the start I have a some ocean-front property in Oklahoma they might want to buy.

Way back in the early ’70s a high school friend’s Father worked for Lockheed. When he neared his 20 years they put him on swings, graveyards, had him cleaning toilets – anything to try to get him to quit. He told them nothing would make him quit; they’d have to fire him. (I don’t remember what happened but I hope he got his retirement.)

Since then I’ve seen this over and over. Another friend was a programmer at a big insurance company where getting rid of programmers just before 30 years was the norm. She was hoping that MAYBE she might not get fired before she got her pension – but only because she was a Cobol or Fortran programmer and they don’t teach those languages much these days. (True, but I bet there are plenty of retired programmers who need to go back to work to take her spot.)

Bottom line: retirement promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on or verbally given unless you can predict the future far in advance. At a minimum ask around and find out what your odds are! Probably not good.

IBMers knew they were underpaid but traded that for “security”, full benefits and a full pension. Hah. Joke was on us.

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Dennis Bullock April 19, 2006

BTW….I digg!

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COB April 19, 2006

Hey, that’s my briefcase!

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Matt April 19, 2006

Don’t forget – workign for yourself allows you to make room for “breaks” with the slut.

M

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Veritas April 20, 2006

Unemployment allows similar freedoms without all those pesky tasks like appointments, doing work and making bank deposits.

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Brandon April 20, 2006

You sound like one of those infomercial guys selling books on how to make ten grand a day for sitting on your ass and placing tiny ads in the backs of magazines. heh

I found another method of avoiding the corporate world that is better suited to the risk-averse geek: working in higher education.

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Stephanie April 21, 2006

Amen Brother. Amen.

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Stephanie April 21, 2006

Already was I thinking of going out on my own anyway. And truefully It is scarey and it is risky But this really has truely inspired me even more so now.

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Marc Macalua April 26, 2006

I jumped ship a few days back and if somebody asks me why I did it, I’d point them to this blog post :) excellent points Chris.

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Pamela Slim April 28, 2006

Hi Chris!

Great post – I love your story and support what you are doing wholeheartedly. I tried to leave a trackback, but not sure if it works between Typepad (my platform) and yours. Here is the post:
http://www.escapefromcubiclenation.com/get_a_life_blog/2006/04/real_life_examp.html

Best of luck to you!

-Pam

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A.J. May 8, 2006

my present job pays well and allows me the freedom to do other jobs, so am not ready to bite the bullet..yet. it’s hard to be deluded into doing something that might not work for everybody in the first place

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jangelo May 9, 2006

Took the plunge (entrepreneurship / self-employedness) late last year, and I’m loving every minute of it!

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Shanti Braford May 11, 2006

For everyone out there considering starting an entrepreneurial endeavor, I would have to encourage looking at “automatable” possibilities.

Which one is better:

50 hours initital legwork (figuring out how your consulting biz will work)
200 hours per month of ongoing effort
$5k per month income

200 hours initial legwork (figuring out the biz + implementing the app)
25 hours per month of ongoing effort
$0k per month at first
graduating towards $5k, $10k and beyond

Just my $.02.

Using these techniques I have over $3k per month in passive income. Only 2-5 hours per month are spent maintaining the projects/webapps.

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denzity May 23, 2006

This is very nice. You made me think about the things that I should do with my life. Thanx Chris!

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Salil Lawande June 8, 2006

Quite an insightful article.I must say, it gives a person a certain direction.

I am currently doing my Master’s in Business Admin. (Ya i know!), will be out of the college, fully prepared to be accepted as fodder for the mega corps.

Was contemplating striking out on my own, now i must double the efforts.

Thanks!

(p.s:by the way….can i add the post link to my blog page?? waiting for your reply)

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Chris P. June 8, 2006

Salil, feel free to include the link on your site. I’d consider it an honor!

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Monica Ricci June 18, 2006

Great post Chris!

Brandon, your comment regarding working in higher education reminded me of Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters. His character Ray Stantz, is speaking to fellow Ghostbuster Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) about the pitfalls of leaving academia. He remarks, “Peter, I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect RESULTS!”

Monica, blissfully self-employed in the private sector for eight years now

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Jono June 19, 2006

you can also just contract for large companies and charge them a bomb.

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Jason Brown July 2, 2006

Hey Chris,

Just found this post, but had to write.

I’ve been a web developer for over 10 years, but for other people. I always feel like kicking myself in the teeth after spending all those years working for someone else when I had a skill set that could have put me on pace to self employement.

I do freelance work on the side, to build up my client lists and such, but of course my employer has a big problem with this because it is related to what I do for them.

I am trying to create some passive income so that I can dump my day job and go full time with my interest, like Internet marketing.

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abhijeet July 25, 2006

It is advisable to gain 2 -3 years of experience in jobs before jumping in to entrepreneurship, where you will be paid for gaining that experience else you will pay for your experience. : )

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stephen October 9, 2006

It’s posts of this type that I am finding more of this new financial year – and I like them!
Having ‘worked for the man’ for the past ten years – and spending at least four of those ‘burnt out’, it’s truly inspirational to read stories that both invigorate and teach me the way to escape the rut and jump feet-first into working-solo.

PS.
For those who consider blogging a hobby not a career: It’s not blogging that maketh the site – it’s the quality of the content, the dedication to layout-design and color-scheme, the discipline to regularly post articles, and the ability to teach an audience with words-alone. All traits of effective, loyal and dedicated workers in any industry.

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hisaltesse October 23, 2006

Great post. I am at the point in my life where I have a lot of entrepreneurial ideas in my mind and the only thing that is slowing me from going full speed with what I love is my job, yes my time consuming job. I am still trying to figure out the right time to dive into my dreams…

Thanks for the inspiration Chris.

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Aaron B. October 23, 2006

Chris,
I just found your site today and I already consider it to be the best I have seen in a long time. I have wanted to get into web design ever since I wrote my first HTML page but I didn’t have a clue about where to start.

Now I know.

Your my hero!

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Matt Sielski October 30, 2006

Chris,

Nice site, and excellent post. I freelance, and I love it. It IS all about the networking however, and I really feel that how good you are at getting your name out makes all the difference. Glad it is working for you!

Monica, that’s the best Ghostbusters quote in a movie full of them.

– Matt

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Derek Arnold October 30, 2006

While this is a nice inspiration story, it’s a very skillset-focused and largely irrelevant feel-good piece than an actual set of instructions.

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Will October 30, 2006

I’d like to know what corporate job pays a 6 percent annual raise … and where I can sign up!

Every one of my ‘corporate’ jobs have paid 3-4 percent raises. And that’s for doing a “good” job–IT’S LESS THAN INFLATION (Which is 5% in a good year) So your actually loosing money staying at the company.

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Phill Kenoyer October 30, 2006

I jumped ship and made my yearly wage in three months. Now I’m working on my next big gig. I hope to double the last return.

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snowwrestler October 30, 2006

Chris, you forgot two of the most important things a person needs to strike out on their own like you did: youth, and love of self-promotion. Youth lets you go cheap on things like food, housing, car, health insurance, retirement savings, and security. When there’s a mortgage payment, kids, and big costs coming up (college, retirement), it’s a lot harder to ditch the regular paycheck and subsidized health care.

As for self-promotion, well, it’s the rare person who can make a good living as an independent contractor without constantly working to connect with new, high quality customers. One way to do so is to make sure you have a reputation…and one way to do that to pump yourself up on your blog. A lot of people will think I’m being negative here but I’m not…it’s the honest truth that you need to promote yourself relentlessly to make it on your own.

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Chris P. October 30, 2006

Snowwrestler,

Not so fast, my friend.

I had a house payment, a girlfriend, three dogs, and and health insurance to pay for, but I got so fed up with life that I did it anyway.

Regarding self-promotion, I did very little of that during the time I recruited most of my clients (January through June 2006). Outside of the PressRow Theme for WordPress, the only thing I “pumped up” was the idea of becoming an entrepreneur.

I, for one, believe that the quality of your work does all the promoting that is necessary to succeed. The Web tends to be a pretty organic medium — if you consistently crank out good stuff, people will take notice.

Finally, as far as youth goes, you simply have to want it. I don’t care if you’re 25 or 65; you’ve just gotta want it.

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ML October 30, 2006

Don Lapre in the making.

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JP October 30, 2006

Bloglouisville doesn’t seem to work very well in Firefox. I couldn’t get to RSS feeds or launch the Photo project.

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Patrick October 30, 2006

Hey Chris,

I am really happy that you struck out on your own. It is good to see a glimmer of hope from someone doing what they love making a living at what they do.

However I do have a feeling that what launched you into this position was mainly wordpress. I could be wrong but a big website like wordpress is going to obviously offer more hits than say a local town website so in a sense it was kinda’ luck.

Now at the same time I am not sure how hard it is to get layouts published but in the business world anything goes so if that’s how you become independent more power to you.

I am just saying it is not as easy as turning around and deciding one day to go out on your own. Most books I’ve read recommend at least a year of income before embarking on something like this. Most people can’t even get clients in the first few months they are open.

Anyway good story. It’s great to not have to do any marketing. I’d love to see a post on your design habits and how you go about designing your sites.

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Jake October 30, 2006

It’s nice that things have worked out so well for you, but you sure come across as a self-promoting, know-it-all jackass who thinks he’s qualified to hand out life-altering advice after tasting a small morsel of success.

The fact that you think having a girlfriend and pets is even remotely equivalent to the responsibility, expense, and time commitment of being married with kids is just one small example of your naivete. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t begrudge your success, but try revising this document after you have some real responsibilities and a few failures under your belt. It’s not always going to go so smoothly.

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Claudio October 30, 2006

I have been a freelancer until about 6 months ago, now I work in an IT corporate environment.
You point out many advantages of being self-employed, but as you already mentioned, you need to _know people_, or differently put, you need high social skills, no matter what.
What was really frustrating about my freelancer experience was, I had a high-value tech skillset, but still it was very difficult for me to get jobs.
The reason I eventually had to accept is, I have a severe lack of social skills.
By contrast, the company that employs me now interviewed me in depth, so they were able to get past the first impression, and see the skills and motivation I could put in service.
Corporate life is more suited for me, probably, even more because it shields you from a lot of the bureocracy (contracts issues mainly), and lets you do your job and only that.
I do work for a better-than-average company I must admit. So your mileage may vary.

Claudio

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Jon October 30, 2006

Jake, you must be a corporate “monkey suit wearer”, gotta love the negativity. I think going on your on is the only real way in life to follow your true bliss. You’ll always be making someone else money if your working for someone else, otherwise they wouldn’t have you as an employee. But I also think that you need to make sure that it is something you are truely happy doing, or your going to fail.

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taisuan October 30, 2006

really nice write-up. thanks for sharing.

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Jake October 31, 2006

Jon, far from it – anyone who knows me would laugh uncontrollably at my being described as a “corporate type.” But when somebody is blowing sunshine up my ass by saying “work for yourself, it’s easy and there is no downside!” I’m going to call it out. I’ve worked for both myself and others, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

Chris seems to have a personality and skillset that are suited for what he is doing, which is great for him personally. That doesn’t mean his advice is applicable to others, particularly when he’s writing what is essentially a self-marketing piece in a tone that conveys the unmistakable arrogance of youthful inexperience. Just trying to inject a note of realism to the conversation.

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Flying Puppy October 31, 2006

Yes, I stay home and play Battlefield 2142 all day, and I make around $40,000/yr. It is a great life.

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zack October 31, 2006

just visit your blog and very nice

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Joel October 31, 2006

Greetings all. Excellent post!

Not to be negative, however, I have read a few posts similar to this on the ‘Net, and while very motivating, I find that it might not be a bad idea to write a post about contracting/consulting startups that failed.

My reasoning for this is to learn exactly why they failed, so we can learn from others mistakes. While it is great to hear of the successes many have had, there are probably equally many that have feared trying for the sake of failure.

Have a look on my blog if you are interested in the post I have described above.

Thanks so much and I love your writing style!

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Brajeshwar October 31, 2006

That was a touching story and thanks for sharing. I share a similar story but mine is not yet ready to be told.

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Balakumar Muthu October 31, 2006

Hey, that was a good one, thanks for sharing !!

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jpea October 31, 2006

here here! very good write up. I ditched the day job a few years ago and don’t ever wake up completely dreading the day anymore :) It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to make your own destiny, and eventually, it seems to pay about 3-4x as much as a craptastic cubicle job. hooray!

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Dan Nichols October 31, 2006

I’ve been self employed since I was 18 (really before that but it wasn’t official). More people need to get off the bench and make things happen. We need to stop being a culture that says “they do that”. We need to know that “we do that”.

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Kris October 31, 2006

Yep, I did it. Went from fortune 50 company to consultant and did it for 16 years until my health gave out. It was shakey before I left Black & Decker. Still doing things occasionally but people tend to take advantage because after all I can’t get a real job.

Reality bites

Kris

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saotome November 1, 2006

Totally agree with you. Trying to go down the same path myself. I think you are underestimating the necessary jump from the cushion of having a scheduled paycheck to a sporadic one. This is especially important if more people than just yourself are depending on this paycheck.

In any case, no guts no glory. It needs to be properly planned, some money in the bank wont hurt, but definitely it’s the way to go. I’ll be sure to send you an email when I escape my cubicle!!

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Bryan November 3, 2006

With great risk comes great reward. Having your own business is a 7 day a week job, without a doubt. The hours are flexible though. :)

Best of luck to you, my friend. I shyed away from it and though, “hmm, a steady paycheck every week can’t be THAT bad”… and here I am, a year later, ready to go back out on my own.

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Kaboom Advertising November 4, 2006

To all the nay-sayers, I have this to say–stay in your cubicle and leave the fun for the rest of us. Yes, owning your own business is hard work and there are ups and downs but at the end of the day, if you fail at least you’ve done it your way and you can feel good about trying. Plus you don’t need to have a wife (husband) and kids to know what responsibility is or have bills to pay. Single people have mortgages and car payments too and animals are not cheap to care for–they aren’t covered under anyone’s HMO.

Some folks aren’t suited for entrepreneurship and some of us, myself included, aren’t suited for the corporate world. My last official day in the cube is gonna be 11/7 and though I’m scared I could lose my car, my home and not be able to feed myself or the cats I care for, I know I’m doing what’s right for me right now.

Chris:
I’m so glad you’ve had a positive experience thus far. My company, Kaboom Advertising, has done well enough that I’ve been able to leave my job within 4 months of starting the company and jobs keep rolling in. No marketing was done on our part, it was just shear luck that got us started and it will be up to our good work to keep the ball rolling.

For the rest:
The majority of employers in this country are small businesses, so if you have the dream to do so do it because we are the backbone of the economy.

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Nkrumah November 4, 2006

I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for helping people to unplug fom the matrix. If feels a lot better to have partners instead of supervisors and bosses.

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Kaia November 15, 2006

Very inspiring indeed. Thanks for the advice. Thinking of starting out on my own soon as I graduate in 2 weeks.

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ES November 15, 2006

great article.
I’m planning on quiting my job in 6 months. i’ve decided i want to try my hand at blogging and making money of ad revenue on investment sites. i currently dont have the time to devote to it so quiting my job should help!!!!
i’ll also keep putting together investment opportunities for people and keeping a smidgen for myself.[this only pays out if the investment pays off though]

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J November 18, 2006

Thanks for the article Chris. Came across it through Digg and it really inspired me.

I’ve only been professional for a couple of years now but seeing the massive profits my company is making by reselling my work has inspired me to leave and do the same! I’m sure it’s not quite as easy as you make out, but thanks for the encouragement for the rest of us wanting to make the jump.

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Viacheslav December 6, 2006

Pretty inspiring, too bad it’s so far away from realities on the other side of the globe ;)

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Life Lessons February 12, 2007

Chris,

Am I late for this? I don’t think So! Thanks for this GREAT Post. I already put it on my site for my subscribers to read

http://the-lessons-of-life.com/Motivational-Blog/?p=17

I read Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and one advice I held on dearly was: MIND YOUR WON BUSINESS!

That was what I did and I am still doing. I am passing on the message to so many people now.

Thanks man.

Adebola

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Life Lessons February 13, 2007

Chris,

Sorry for that. I have modified the article. Have a look at it and let me know if you like it the way it is and if you don’t let me know how you want it to be or I’ll yank it off.

All the same, thanks for this insight.

Much love.

Adebola

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Benjamin Jones February 13, 2007

lol, another winner! I couldn’t agree more with this post. I figured that since I was able to make money for all the other corporations I was wroking with easily, why couldn’t I do the same for myself? Alot of businesses don’t have your best interest at heart when you think they do, they would rather you be a dependent drone to satisfy their profit margins. It’s almost always a shocker when they soon find out that I’m not.

Some ppl are most comfortable with working for others and thats ok, but I think they should also know that realistically, there is no way in hell you could possibly make a true living from that lifestyle…and I think most ppl don’t expect it, just so long as their future is covered with the best HMO plans there is available.

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Pravin February 25, 2007

Damn..actually i have been working on CMS’ all the time and now it turns out that i prefer one click stuff to set everything..i really wanna get back to coding and rectify my stuff because i know html but xhtml never validates!
Damn…any inspiration…what should i do?how do i start again? should i start again, because currently i’ freelancing and making pretty good sites and pretty happy with it

and ya should i stop asking so many questions?? :P

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John March 7, 2007

Hi Chris,

I just wanted to say thanks for this article. You inspired me to quit my crappy job and start working for myself. It took a few months to build up my skills, but now I’m doing work I enjoy, and it pays better, too. Thanks again.

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Pravin March 7, 2007

^^ Good for you man.

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Chris P. March 8, 2007

John — That’s excellent! Once you cross the hurdle into performing sustainable work for yourself, you immediately wonder how you ever got by in the corporate world.

Especially when you consider your income.

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John Webber April 17, 2007

Brilliant article! I am actually in the process of leaving the corporate world to start a new business focused entirely on what I love to do. I tried doing it a few years ago but failed because I didn’t know much at all about running a business or getting work. To be fair, corporate life did teach me that, I learned more than a couple valuable lessons from “the guy in the monkey suit” that I will apply daily when on my own. I’m glad to hear it worked out so well for you! Wish me luck, my venture is adstreaminc.com

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Wealth Building Lessons April 17, 2007

great post. I’m trying to set up my own blog-publishing empire, starting with http://www.wealthbuildinglessons.com

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Erik May 1, 2007

Where have you guys all worked? They must not have paid very well.

I ran a software development consulting / contracting company for 6 years, and I never made as much money as I do now working for someone else, and I do half the work. Seriously. Don’t eat up everything in this post, being in business for yourself is *hard* work and I will tell you guys what was told to me when I was first warned about going into it, which I later found out to be dead-on true: you will spend 25% of your time on administrative functions. Accounting, collections, taxes, sales, etc… *Not* the fun stuff you wanted to do when you first started. That’s right, not everyone pays you. Many pay late. You have to hussle sales, b/c you aren’t the only contractor out there. This is only the beginning. Working for someone else, I can forget about that crap and focus on just what I like to do, developing software. I can also leave my work at the office, nothing comes home with me, unless I want it.

Just be warned, this post makes it sound a lot easier than it really is, be prepared. You might not feel it right away, b/c the economy is really good for consulting right now, but when the cycle turns, sales will slow down, your paycheck can go down in half, even more. At corporate, they have to pay you, and on-time. Of course, you can be let go, but then your job must not have been that valuable, or you screwed up.

What I recommend is either do what Shanti has mentioned above (recurring income), or educate yourself in a valuable “niche” skill (like Python or RoR) and get a high paying job at a small tech company, so two things will happen:

1. You can command a high salary, there are not many of you out there.
2. When times get tough, you will survive the layoffs, b/c they can’t fire you, your skillset is not easily replaced.
3. If you are laid off, repeat the process at another firm, or use the skills you’ve honed and do consulting / contracting until the market gets better.

Building wealth has more to do with what you do with the money you get (do you invest it or buy a new car?), rather than how you get it.

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Greg June 6, 2007

I think one of the problems that plauges many freelance computer people is they want to do all the technical work themselves.

A better approach is to outsource the mundane details as soon as you can afford it.

In Web Design, as an example, making a great layout in Photoshop is what your talent is for. Spending 3 days in Dreamweaver fixing every pixel and every bug is a waste of time.

A better approach would be to make the design yourself, send it to a coder, have them turn it into a working page. Saves you 3 days of work that you can use to tackle the next design project, relax from your daily stresses, or work on getting new clients.

And if you use overseas resources, the expenses are going to be less than you think so you can still stay near the same level of profitability (assuming you already charge your clients a living wage and aren’t one of those ‘I’ll build the next Amazon.com for $50′ people).

Afterall, you are now running a BUSINESS. You aren’t a “temp”, you are a business owner.

Basically the message here I have for those who are doing freelance work and feeling overwhelmed or those who are starting out and want to work SMARTER not HARDER is this:

Don’t think like “Joe Everyman, Web Designer”

Instead, think like “Joe Everyman, CEO”

That will make all the difference.

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Andy June 26, 2007

The other thing you want to do is focus on finding clients in your local community. Competing against low-priced labor on the other side of the world is NOT a cost-effective way to run a business (unless you happen to be that low-priced labor on the other side of the world).

After 15 years as a consultant, 80% of my income is derived from clients within 60 miles of my home-office. Almost all the clients I talk to want to establish a personal relationship with their freelancer consultants. Other freelancers I’ve talked with have experienced the same thing.

Posting on the big jobs boards also is likely to not be effective unless you want a contract and not a client. If you want clients (and clients pay better than contracts), then focus your marketing and networking efforts locally.

There’s a new site that’s been set up to help USA-based technical freelancers: FreelanceLocalTech (http://www.freelancelocaltech.com). It’s designed around the idea that local clients want to hire local consultants and makes it easier for clients to find those consultants. Check it out!

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Tsuro January 17, 2008

Hi Chris

Thank you so much! I couldn’t take corporate life any more and got out without a plan! I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’d decided to teach myself web development and see where that goes. I’ve given myself 6months to become competent enough to start making some money from it.

What advice can you give me on where to start? Ant advice you could give me would be really appreciated. Thanks again

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Jack Sass February 5, 2008

Hi Chris! I’ve recently decided to take my audio production and broadcasting skillset and break out on my own. I have a daily podcast geared toward the cubicle inhabiting corporate slaves. My subject matter deals with corporate lifestyle both from the perspective of dealing with if and breaking away from it.

Doing the podcast shows, “Jack Sass Radio!!”, every day has proved challenging since I’m typically up at 3:30am beginning production. I also have a fledgling stand-up comedy career which often means getting home at all hours….fun huh! But…I have a wonderful feeling of direction now that I have a clue of where I’m going and no longer aimlessly park in the vast parking lot of Corporate America every morning. I know that I’ll be able to use my obnoxiously loud voice and ability to induce laughter to help make a living helping others do the same.

I’m glad I ran across your site, keep up the good work and please keep me in mind for some collaborative work!

-Jack Sass

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SoccerMatrix February 10, 2008

I saved this link a few days ago under my “pending surfing” folder; I just got it tonight. I’m actually writing from the Dominican Republic, a beautiful Caribbean island. I agree totally with you. I think today’s world is driven more by technology than by anything else. If you know enough about the Internet, nowadays you can find hundreds of ways to make money. Now, if you spend a few weeks learning a new/old trend, then my friend now you have an edge.

I work full time with a government agency as a Web Developer; and on my spare time, by the way I work from home, I design web sites for other companies. How did that happen? In 2004 I Got out of the US Army Intelligence and landed a job as a contractor; a few months later I requested for me to work from home. From there on, I’ve had the freedom of the two worlds. I still meet my deadlines on my full time job, as well as all the others. However, the most important thing is that I can spend all day with my family.

So, anyways, I’m down here in Dominican Republic and all I can tell you is that IT IS POSSIBLE.

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hooter February 21, 2008

beautiful blog!

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RR March 20, 2008

Great article Chris!!
I couldn’t have put it more eloquently. The freedom aspect of “bolting” from corporate world is “who sweet it is.”

BTW- wanted to download you Cutline theme. Anywhere I can get more detailed instructions regarding this theme?

Thanks in advance.

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Dave March 23, 2008

When writing about how worthwhile being entrepreneurial is, you have to cover the problem-solving bases better than this article does. Linking to pages covering those topics is a good way to go.

While I’m sure Chris is telling the truth about his experience, it is nonetheless in the top 1%, and as such badly misrepresents the path to follow. This is one of the top blogs of it’s type on the internet. Don’t expect everyone to duplicate this experience.

Most entrepreneurs are definitely very unsmart about what it takes to succeed. Self-defeating habits and ignorance.

Quick test: are you running away from something, or running toward something? Very, very few people make changes for something better. Most make changes to get away from something they don’t like, and end up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

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Justin May 21, 2008

Great post! I have been on my own for eight years now and loving it, especially the freedom of schedule.

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Sarah Taylor June 30, 2008

You put into words exactly what I think and feel about life – bravo for such a fantastic, well-written post. I’m about to start my own company and to reconfirm what I believe in – from someone I don’t even know! – is so inspiring. Be well.

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Ed July 7, 2008

Chris P.,

I am not necessarily looking to leave the corporate world, at least not yet, but I am interested in the technology that is used in websites such as yours and how I can use it to develop my website(s) and improve the websites I have made for family and friends so far. Right now, I just don’t know what technology goes into a website. I have only used Joomla so far. What technologies should I start studying? CSS? AJAX? Plain ol’ HTML? thanks,

Ed

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Chris Pearson July 7, 2008

Ed — If you are intimately familiar with WordPress, HTML, and CSS, you have everything you need to start up a fairly substantial freelance design/code business. Sprinkle in some PHP and SEO knowledge, and you simply cannot be stopped :)

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Ed July 7, 2008

Chris,
Thanks for the reply… Would WordPress, HTML and CSS get me beyond WordPress templates/blogs etc. into websites that aren’t blog(ish). I guess what I am asking is if WordPress is suitable as a CMS?

Thanks again for the reply,

Ed

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Chris Pearson July 8, 2008

Ed — A lot of people ask that question, and honestly, if you know what you’re doing, you can make WordPress do anything. The real value for somebody like you, though, is that it’s easy to learn, and it will lead you into new areas of coding, content development, etc. To put it another way, it’s a fantastic contextual learning tool, and there’s lots of information on the Web that you can turn to for help when you reach an impasse.

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Ed July 8, 2008

WordPress sounds like a good path to take then…. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Ed

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Chad July 8, 2008

Love the site, love the articles, love the themes! I kissed the corporate world good-bye about a month ago and I don’t regret it even though I’m slow and haven’t started earning a dime yet. In a month I took your Cutline theme and learned enough to mod-it for my own site. It could be crap to anyone else, but I’m pretty happy with my first effort. Of course, I’m still tweaking it all the time. Your site has been an inspiration, a great resource, and guiding light.

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Chris Pearson July 8, 2008

Chad — Wow, I’m flattered, and I don’t even know what to say to that! Looks to me like you’ve already got a firm grip on a lot of the basic tenets that are going to allow you to turn your back to the corporate grind for good. Your site looks great, and I wish you the best!

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ed July 9, 2008

Chris,
One more question, then I am off to put some time applying your recommendations…. What is a good book, or website, that will help me learn WordPress. I am looking for something more than a users manual or reference manual. WordPress for dummies is probably more my speed. Ditto for CSS. I am already very comfortable with HTML/XHTML. Thanks,
Ed

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Chris Pearson July 9, 2008

Ed — I’ve never used a WordPress book before, so I can’t make any recommendations there. Regarding CSS and HTML, though, I am a huge fan of (and personally own) these two fine books:

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Richard July 30, 2008

Great post! You live the dream, my friend.

Btw, thank you for designing the Thesis theme. I love it!

I’m not exactly corporate–I’m government. That’s worse or better, depending on which way you look at it. But independence is the holy grail.

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Jean August 9, 2008

I just retired after teaching high school math for 31 years, because I starting learning how to design websites and just love it (besides it was time for a change). I have registered my freelance design and development business but that is as far as I have gotten. I was starting to wonder what I have to make people want to hire me to do their website instead of some ‘high school student who took a course’ or somebody’s cousin’s son or daughter. I found your article right when my self-confidence was at a low … so thank you very much! Thankfully I don’t have to depend on just the web for my income right now, but with a family to support, becoming successful soon is vital. What makes a starting-out freelancer better than the person next door in the eyes of potential clients?

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Chris Pearson August 9, 2008

Jean — Most good clients have been through the wringer enough times at this point to know that stability is a key quality that they should look for in a freelancer. As an older freelancer, you are undoubtedly more stable than the teens and twentysomethings who seem to dominate the freelance landscape on the Web.

In my own experience, being a thorough communicator pays huge dividends, too. Once you really take care of one client, you’ll set the freelance snowball effect in motion, and it’s pretty amazing to see how powerful this type of thing can be for a fledgling freelance business.

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Ride it like you stole it August 25, 2008

While I would love to leave “Corporate Life” behind; the income I make in Corp America allows me to grow my blog and business, for now anyway. Perhaps my other efforts will allow me to bail out of Corporate America, someday.

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Pinoy Tips September 11, 2008

Skill set is one thing to have but opportunities like those that came your way may not be as good for those like me who reads your story. I hate to believe that there has to be an alignment of the stars before things go your way so you will be able to get that freedom from 9-6 (or 8-5) work that many of us is getting tired to wake up to.

But then, I personally enjoyed your story. I hope more people will be inspired by your fate when they read this post. As for me, I believe I am on my way to kiss corporate life goodbye… I hope so…

Thanks.

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Nathan September 18, 2008

Great inspirational post. Everyone says they’ve done it, but I really like how you put a personal spin and bio on the topic. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something you are good at and you enjoy. I’ll be here often.

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3faycom December 23, 2008

I couldn’t agree with you more.

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perrita March 15, 2009

I liked the post and your writing style. I’m adding you to my RSS reader.

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Crazyhorse August 6, 2009

I just like to answer the question about how to kiss corporate life goodbye. In real life I have just kissed my corporate life goodbye. I would like to share my point of view about this topic. I would say, at first if you do not have other resources just keep your job and save money. If you are planning for an early retirement on your corporate life just make it seriously and plan well. Once you have enough money with determination in doing what you really love to do after the corporate world just keep on your plans. Put up your own business or before doing that you should have a rolling thread or business that eventually could sustain your financial needs before quitting from the corpoworld!

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Sherry Harris August 17, 2009

I have got to say that I love the article. I have been working hard to break free from cubicle hell – Permanently! I agree working in corporate america for 40 years does not sound

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Meow-Mii August 25, 2009

Thanks Chris, it is something that I really wanted to do and lately I’m thinking of quiting my job but I can’t coz I have some important commitments. Well, just like some of the ppl here says, stay on for 1-2yrs to get paid for the experience instead of me paying for the experience.

Can I add the post link in my blog? Thanks.

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Davina September 29, 2009

You are so my hero right now. I’ve been vacillating between getting a corporate gig and freelancing as a writer. Also, I’m loving PressRow. Thank you!

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fas October 15, 2009

Very well said, specially the part about the monkey suit. Remember all are in the same suit :p

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Forela Creative November 18, 2009

Love this – nice to just see it laid out, but it really takes courage to make this happen. Big risks involved. Nice article.

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Rob McCance December 29, 2009

Love the post. I worked for The Man for two years right out of college, then that was it: that was 15 years ago.

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Dave Mars January 6, 2010

Man, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.
I know there’s a better way and the 6-Pack Abs site is just a start.
(And I’m actually teaching something I know about)
The whole internet marketing learning curve is the most fun I’ve had since writing early OS code *and* I can get my stuff to market waaaay sooner.

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Kerry Stenson February 3, 2010

I used to be part of the corporate rat race, until I was offered a MLM opportunity by a friend. Now I am working when I want and earning far more money! It’s the best decision I ever made! I have a brilliant up and down line and couldn’t be happier with my life now x

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lubos February 15, 2010

Hey Chris, I love what you have done with your life – despite the fact you went to the “other” Tech. I have a MS in Aerospace Eng. from VT. I am currently working on my PhD. However, about 6 months ago I started posting illustrated Slovak recipes, and I gotta admit I find this so much more fascinating and interesting than conducting my research (hopefully my adviser won’t see this post! :) )

Anyway, thanks for posting all this info and working on the Thesis theme. I use the HeatMap theme on my site, and I probably won’t be buying from you. Not that HeatMap is in anyway superior to Thesis, it’s just that I like to tweak with the underlying PHP code and do the design myself. One of these days I plan on doing complete redesign and your theme has given me good ideas. Thanks again!

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Rich Bianco (a.k.a DisplacedGuy) March 25, 2010

Hi Chris,
Of the millions of Blogs out there yours really caught me hook, line and sinker. You are my inspiration. I am recently unemployed for the first time in my life from a comfortable six figure income. I was great at what I did and worked long hours, and as you mentioned, I burned out badly. I’ve decided to commit to one year away from the corporate world to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. I am finding that the Ad-Sense thing that had me all fired up is racking up impressions but not more than a couple bucks a week. I am motivate and NEED to succeed. The thought of going back to the corporate world makes me consider a bullet to the head, or a more blissful ending after downing a bottle of Roxi’s and a bottle of Jack. You have given me some hope, but you are so talented at writing, my most popular articles so far sometimes take me a full day to finish at that rate I’m doomed. And your WP Theme is so eloquent and unique… I have not found anything that seems perfect. I’m also starting two other Blog sites, and will advertise and try to help small business that cannot afford an IT department, even assisting them with installation and setup of Open Source solutions. I’d also like to do web design as my skills are rapidly improving. My plan is to narrow the scope in the second month because I’m spread too thin right now. I would be so grateful to learn from you.
Sincerely,
Rich (a.k.a. DisplacedGuy)
p.s. I am new to Blogging and assume that IF I had I linked to my site, that it would be considered inappropriate, and deleted. Is that true?

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Tanya April 21, 2010

Love this post. The black boxes are so annoying.

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Jeff Fisher May 18, 2010

I commend you! And yes it is possible and yes it is powerful!

I really love your what you have to say and I can see that it really resonates with others.

Cheers!

Jeff

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Shauna Robar July 5, 2010

Chris, I wanted to tell you that this is a truly great article. So inspiring for those who want it, but don’t know where to start. Simple, but true… :)

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Geoff Franklin July 17, 2010

Awesome article Chris! I can truly relate to much of what you mentioned above.

I recently resigned from my full time corporate job to further my career and opportunities with my own business. I’m one of those guys who can “do a bit of everything”, i.e. web and graphic design, Flash, web development, CMSs, audio and video production. That’s due to a combination of a couple of things:
1. I’m interested in learning new things and expanding my skillset all the time, and
2. I took on multiple roles and multitasked when I worked for my previous employer, when initially I was hired as an Animator.

Long story short, I finally bit the bullet and left, but on good terms. The opportunity is still there for contract work with them, but now I’m out there on my own, taking it one step at a time, hoping for that “snowball at the top of the mountain” to start rolling down for me.

Thanks again for the great article. It really helped boost my confidence and reminded me why I set myself free.

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Kim July 31, 2010

Inspiring and insightful article Chris. It seems I have come across this at just the right time, as the reason I initially visited your site – was to look for the Pressrow wordpress theme which seems long dead – as I just ditched the 9-5 and started up my own events coordinating business. This is the perfect pick me up and answer to all the knockers. Keep up the good work!

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Damo October 22, 2010

hi,i have just started my new lease of life by joining MBA after serving for a Govt organisation.Your blog is intrestingfor those who those who got deep into corporate life and have a decent earnings to back-up until they come to know what meaningful and intresting thing they can do.But i appreciate ur spirit of taking risk andd searching for ur passion.hats off.

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Alex November 9, 2010

This article hits me on every level. I’m in a corporate job now… I don’t have passion for it. At all… I started a web design and marketing business in March of this year, after doing it only as a hobby previously… I make money on what I do, but not enough to drop everything at the job… The question is: how long do I wait? Will i achieve success that I want if I only do my business part time? Ugh. Thanks for the great article.

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Jeff Fisher November 15, 2010

Hi Alex,

I just caught your comment and can safely say that I know the dilemma personally. Although I’m a coach that helps professionals with this type of challenge I’ve personally gone through the challenges myself. In my mind planning is absolutely key. Whether you take a year (or more or less) it’s important to be really clear about what you will do to reach the level of success that you need (financial and otherwise) before you decide to leave the corporate world behind. That being said, the whole process of creating a game plan can be pretty exciting, particularly when you know that you can be free of a challenging environment.

That’s my 2 cents.

Good luck with it!

Regards,

Jeff

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Jeff Fisher November 15, 2010

By the way Alex, I’ve written a few things about the perspective I just provided at http://www.oneyearandout.com

Regards,

Jeff

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Evelyn February 8, 2011

I came across your website and your blog title caught my attention. This really questions me every time I think about this matter. I am a working person, working in a big firm but only working in a low position. A few people that I know always question me this: “When are you resigning (from current job) and take over the 2nd job that you are currently doing?”. I always ponder to this question. It really is tempting to leave the firm but to think back, there is also another question in mind: “What happens if 2nd job is unsuccessful?”. I will be trapped jobless, right? Gosh! It’s difficult!

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Alex February 11, 2011

Hey Jeff,
i am just now seeing your comments. I appreciate the link, too, man. Thank you so much! It’s a grind but I know I can do this…. It’s the whole “how” part. You know, the minor stuff. =)

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Jeff Fisher February 11, 2011

Hi Alex,

It’s funny Alex, since I wrote my comment to you I have changed what I’m doing. I’m still a coach and a therapist but I’ve moved more in the direction of doing the kinds of things that you are doing (Marketing Therapists and Coaches). It’s about following your heart and going with what energizes you. I think the most important thing (as I said before) is planning and timing. Take care. By the way, I’d be interested in seeing what you are doing in marketing. Where there is a will there is a way.

Jeff

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Oluwabamise February 24, 2011

This is great motivation for me as I am presently made up in kicking the slave rider I’ve been involved in for the past 9 years without much results, I’m bent on going out by March ending. I know it will be well!
Thanks 4 a good post. I”M OUT.

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MarkP April 26, 2011

I agree wholehearted with your post. I cut loose almost 9 years ago, started my own company and haven’t looked back. I go through slow periods, but I can earn in 6-9 months (4 day work weeks) what would take me a year to earn as an employee. Every once in a while I toy with the idea of working for a company again, but I won’t ever be able to give up my three day weekends. There is no job that will let me take a month or two off between engagements.

This life is not for everyone. There are times when it is mildly terrifying, like being the sole breadwinner (at times) with four mouths to feed and there is no new work in the pipeline. Sometimes there is too much work, which is unbelievable, but true. I have no paid sick or vacation time, which means I have to build this into my rates. Depending on where you live, insurance can very expensive, or not very expensive at all.

One thing I disagree with is that we set our own value in the market. This is partially true, partially false. Depending on your skill set, the market often determines the rate you can bill or prices you can charge. There is a fine art to setting your billing rate. Too high, and you price yourself out of any work. Too low, and you’re devaluing your work.

Bottom line is that it comes down to quality of life, and there are few corporations that can offer that to their employees. This was the second best choice I’ve ever made in my life (marrying my wife was my best choice).

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Dan F June 9, 2011

Love these comments. Am 55 and completely over the corporate world. Have considerable marketable skills except confidence and have that fear you cannot leave that environment because of that “security”. Joke by the way. I just wish that people in the corporate world could stick together to improve what has happened the last 20 years with job security, benefits, etc. Not pro union, not my motivation here but dang, we are doing the work of 2 or 3 people now, have no personal life anymore and why do we take it???? I cannot remember the last time I seriouly heard someone state how much they loved their company and job. What’s the answer corporate world employees???

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Jon Mitchell June 22, 2011

So a friend of mine and I are wanting create a consulting company that goes in with a client listens to their problems/concerns/questions about a particular business issue and then we sit with them and throw out ideas (product, process, procedure, etc…) and then they can take an idea that they like and run with it. It’d be that simple. We see ourselves as being valuable because we could give them an outside perspective that isn’t tainted by their own “group think”. I feel like we could really get this type of consulting business going with a good branding effort and professional presence online. Anyone have any suggestions on how I could get something like this going?

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Vijay June 22, 2011

Hi Chris,
Nice insight, I am trying to quit corporate rat race for last 2 years but I am so far not successful, I got motivated after reading this.
Let me give the “REQUIRED” push it deserves.

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Outta university into corporate July 21, 2011

Excellent post – There are possibilities of coming into corporate with grand ideas and ambitions to change the world only to get shot down by burnt out corporate settlers that have been around for years and regard there time in the building as leverage to say it will never work.(Their trump card) The idea of going out on my own is something I think about everyday – the question is however, when do you ever have the right amount of experience to do that?

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Justin August 12, 2011

Great article. This is all so true. I’ve been working for myself for years and worked a “corporate” job after finishing my Masters for 3 years. Compared to working for yourself, corporate jobs are the worst but it is important to work in one I think after college so you know what you are up against. Half of the people in the corporate world do not know much. A lot of them front with their degrees and name drop. Real recognize real. They get hung up on CCs in emails, payroll nonsense and OMG your 6 minutes late. Killjoys. The man or woman that started the business is the smart one. They know this.

You gotta hustle though and don’t listen to the non believers. Small business to Big business and working for yourself is where its at. The web is where it is and where it will continue to go. We are still in the beginning of all of this.

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Ron January 1, 2012

Fantastic article here, I to was in corporate life for sixteen years until one day I woke up to all the stresses and irrational decisions and the blame game that was constantly being played by the head executives.

So on New Years Eve 2001, (thats right I have been free as a bird for 10 years) I walked into my boss and gave him my notice I have been working full time online ever since and have never looked back.

Working for yourself is the way to go, just take the leap and see where you land it can not be any worse than having a corporate job.

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Dwayne S. November 23, 2012

I can’t tell you how disgusted I am with management in a corporate workplace especially with the outsourcing companies I used to work for. They really had my blood boiling when they fired me. But it’s ok though I really deserve my time at home and my freedom.

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Asad January 3, 2013

Chris thanx for the writing and motivation.
Being in a Finance Role, I at the Centre of the Corporate System.
And seeing the Boys club and outsourcing companies is sickening!!!!
So I shall embrace my freedom, and let you know of my progress!

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Barbara Saunders September 5, 2013

What some of the naysayer comments ignore: not everyone does well in corporate. It’s one thing if you’ve got a relatively secure job that pays the bills, decent benefits, and you can pretty much manage your life. What if your job barely pays the bills, is precarious, and is literally making you physically sick from the stress?

Sunshine up the ***? OK. But sometimes the choice is really between a hard, difficult path to self-employment or an early grave.

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Chris Pearson September 5, 2013

A somewhat chilling comment, to be sure…but I suspect this will ring true with a significant chunk of readers!

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Hoot and/or Holler

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