If you’re like most people, building a business on the side or developing a new income stream while you are working a traditional 9-5 job seems near impossible. There is no deadline to keep you on track toward your goal and you are just so tired when you finally get home from work. This is why you’re trying to escape in the first place!
If your goal is to drastically change your vocation or work for yourself, then the framework for this escape “bridge” might be your best bet.
The Minimum Income Hybrid: I want to completely change careers or start my own business, but I can’t get traction while in my current job.
This was my personal escape route and its one of the most flexible. It can also become a very rewarding in-between while you grow your income or develop the skills and reputation needed to break into your new vocation.
The idea is to step down to a minimum necessary work arrangement with your current employer or go out and find this option with a new employer. A minimum necessary work arrangement is simply the intersection between the minimum salary/benefits you need and the fewest possible hours with the greatest flexibility.
It’s a hybrid because this will not be your only job and it is not permanent. You aren’t going to be comfortable here, hence the minimum income idea – you aren’t going out to eat and your thermostat is at least 5 degrees in the opposite direction of comfort. You are now motivated to put in the time and effort to make your ideal work life a reality, but with the security of not going into foreclosure.
1. Know your strengths and uniquely valuable skills. This is crucial because it offers the leverage necessary to close the deal on a non-traditional minimum work arrangement. If you haven’t read and reflected on Part 1 of this series, go back now.
2. Figure out your minimum income. This is pretty simple if you have a monthly budget. If you don’t have a monthly budget, YOU ARE NOT READY. The good news is that a monthly budget is EASY. Hop over to Dave Ramsey’s website and download a budget form. It’s as simple as writing down all of your income and all of your expenses with a total at the bottom.
After you have your monthly budget, take out your personal paychecks and re-total what’s left. You should have a negative number (if you have a decent positive number, you may want to stay tuned for the next in this series and just jump in feet first to your new work life).
Now is the painful part. You need to both honestly and realistically remove discretionary spending that you are used to. The future rich and famous are penny pinchers.
First, consider what you would be willing to give up in order to do what you love every day, from the location of your choosing, and with the people you love.
Second, get out a red marker and commit to some cuts. Do you really need a Lexus? What about that cable television package? You will survive with just internet, I promise. I have for 5 years.
When you get down to your final number, that is your minimum income that you need to obtain. Note that it is an absolute must to have at least $500 socked away in case of emergency before you transition to a minimum income hybrid.
3. Do you need health benefits? I would suggest that even if you are a super healthy 25-year-old, you need at least catastrophic health insurance so that an accident or serious diagnosis doesn’t wipe you out. If you have kids, health insurance is absolutely necessary.
You don’t want the stress of a major medical expense when you are trying to take care of a sick child. Additionally, if you are a father and you even suggest going without health insurance to the mother of your kids, you’ll likely lose a whole lot of credibility; you kind of need her on your side while you jump ship from your “secure, responsible” job.
4. Match your uniquely valuable skills to an employer. Start browsing the job classifieds in industries that would be looking for your unique skills. You can generally get a sense for whether they are open to creative options by how they word the ad. This was the approximate content of the ad I responded to:
Asst Manager Opportunity
Local executive locker room and spa looking for an Asst Manager to market and grow membership.”
This job was posted at $10/hour, but the job ad was vague and targeted a unique skill set that can produce significant value: marketing.
Respond with a focus on how your unique experience and strengths could exceed the employer’s expectations for the position. Emphasize your willingness to be creative with compensation to secure a face-to-face conversation.
In my particular situation, I negotiated for health and dental benefits, a flexible schedule, and a minimum safety salary to ensure we could pay our bills while I developed my writing and coaching income.
If you need health benefits to make this work, you will likely be looking for a small to mid-sized business where you can negotiate directly with the owner who is flexible enough to make benefits happen for a part-time employee.
If you don’t need insurance or can pick up catastrophic coverage on your own, you will have more options and can pitch yourself as a consultant, reducing the employer’s overall costs while getting access to your in-demand skills.
5. Balance your two jobs. Your priority job is to get your business up to a sustainable and consistent income so that you aren’t reliant on your minimum necessary work arrangement or to obtain that degree or skill set that is holding you back from your new vocation. However, you also need to excel with your new part-time gig.
Use a calendar (I rely fully on gcal) and split up your hours accordingly. Tackle high impact tasks first each day (see my post on Entrepreneurial Work/Life Balance here). Set firm deadlines to meet your objectives and those of your minimum necessary employer.
Get creative, what kind of in-between minimum necessary gig could energize you or provide a whole new set of valuable skills? Crossing a bridge can be an adventure in and of itself.