The warning signs were all there: hitting the snooze button multiple times, getting easily annoyed at the office and counting down the minutes until I could get my ‘after-work life’ back.
The irregular hours of being a full-time journalist, meanwhile, meant that I was finding it increasingly difficult to set aside time for my two greatest passions—yoga and travel.
So, as clichéd as it might sound, in 2012 and at the grand old age of 28, I left my job. As it turns out, I had unwittingly placed myself at the forefront of a trend toward individual self-determination. A 2014 study by Harris Interactive and CreativeLive found that 67 percent of employed millennials want to leave their traditional workplaces and become self-employed.
Today, this freewheeling, entrepreneurial startup mentality is practically expected in the young. But when I made my huge decision, it seemed that I was quite the outlier. People mostly responded to my choice with a mix of surprise, grudging respect and a healthy dose of pragmatic concern. ‘You have so much potential for career progression at this age,’ they said. ‘How are you going to earn money?’
I mostly shrugged off these comments with the wide-eyed optimism of a yogini-in-training. ‘I just want to be happy. I’ll find a way,’ I would often reply with wholehearted earnestness and a vague idea that I would teach yoga and write to get by.
Fast-forward to the present day and while I am no self-made mogul by any measure, I have never been a happier, more productive and more involved member of society as both a freelance journalist and a yoga instructor. At any given time, I’m likely to have a few articles in progress for various publications, be teaching a yoga class or finding my way to fitness and inner peace during my own practice.
In this new life, I’ve made time for epic adventures including a high-altitude pilgrimage in Tibet and an exhilarating safari adventure in Botswana, and will soon be taking a monthlong road trip around the Pacific Northwest in the United States. I’ve even found a small way to give back by caring for and adopting two orphaned kittens, and teaching a charity yoga class to raise funds for a local animal shelter.
In retrospect, my path to a sustainable self-employed lifestyle took more than blind faith and good luck, even if it didn’t feel that way as I muddled my way through. To figure out how it happened, and to hopefully inspire other like-minded individuals who may be contemplating the same, I’ve reverse-engineered the process of going from unemployed to self-employed.
1. BE FINANCIALLY PREPARED
Have at least six months of accessible savings before you leave your job. Doing this helped to allay my anxiety of not being able to pay for my next meal or bus ride, and allowed me to sit tight while waiting for late paychecks to arrive. Start now by saving a small amount every month that you can tap into in the future.
2. DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!
In the immediate aftermath of unemployment—when you might be unsure of what your next step will be—seize any opportunity that comes your way. I left my job with no concrete plan, but I used that free time to indulge in an epic bout of wanderlust instead of staying home and vegging out on the couch.
I struck visits to Bhutan and Sri Lanka off my bucket list and, most importantly, signed up for a yoga teacher-training course. The latter especially turned out to be a worthwhile investment that gave me the ability to indulge in my passion while earning a living from it.
3. EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY
I’m not going to lie; in the first two years of freelancing—both as a journalist and a yoga teacher—there were times when I would have absolutely nothing to do. There were times when I had to resist the urge to send my resume to the closest job recruiter, and I would advise you to hold off a little should you be in a similar position.
Instead, treat this sudden pocket of free time as a luxury and pick up a new book, visit a museum or hit the gym to work off excess energy. You could even start a blog or set up a nice Snapchat or Instagram account that can serve double duty as an online ‘resume.’ Almost always, a new opportunity will find its way to you when you learn to let go of the need to have a packed schedule.
4. EXCEL AT FREELANCING
My favorite author, Neil Gaiman, says there are three essential qualities every freelancer should have, no matter their field of expertise: they do good work, they are easy to get along with and they deliver the work on time. To keep working, he says, you need two of these three qualities. I challenged myself to meet all three and I guess the hard work has paid off since I now have a steady pool of repeat customers.
The rest is up to you. Now go forth, and live your dream!
Share your own freewheeling experiences with #momentumtravel.