A lot of people come to me for help building an online business with the express desire to escape the 9 to 5.
The 9 to 5 job can be a grind. I get it. It takes the best hours of the day away from you, week after week, year after year.
Sure, maybe your salary is good and it lets you buy nice things and be comfortable. But…for what? You don’t really have control and you’re mainly fattening the wallet of someone else.
As such becoming your own boss and escaping the 9 to 5 is a very human urge. It’s often the first inkling that someone wants to become an entrepreneur. I’ve written more about the entrepreneur mindset before.
If you are in this position and desiring a change then let’s chat about how you can actually go about escaping the 9 to 5.
Escape the 9 to 5 in four (not so easy!) steps
Quitting the 9 to 5 slog is simple.
Before you jump ship you basically you need to do the following:
- Work out your WHY. Why do you want to escape the 9 to 5?
- Work out much you need.
- Reduce expenditures.
- Increase other incomes.
That’s it. Once you’ve got these done (and we’ll go into detail about how) you are ready to quit the 9 to 5.
Easy? Not at all. There’s a lot of hard work ahead I’m afraid. But rest assured : it’s worth it. Let’s get started.
Step 1: What’s your why?
Escaping the 9 to 5 is a big decision. It’s also going to require working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life to achieve it.
Yes, your life will change. And very much for the better. But the next couple of years might be rough.
Sorry but there’s no sugarcoating this!
Because of this it’s vitally important that you know why you are doing this.
Simply “hating your job” isn’t enough. If that’s the only reason you’re probably better of going and finding a different job. This time a job you don’t hate. You may not need to escape the 9 to 5 but instead just find a different 9 to 5!
Instead you need a positive why. Negative whys won’t be strong enough to push you through. A positive why on the other hand will become a compass you can continue to follow every time you get lost.
A positive why helps you remember why you are putting yourself through the process of escaping the 9 to 5. When it gets tough you can always come back to your why and remind yourself it’s worth it.
What does a positive why look like? It might be the ability to watch your kids grow up instead of missing everything because you are at the office all the time. Perhaps it’s a desire to spend 9 months a year traveling, seeing the wonders of the world. Maybe it’s a dream of spending your time working in service of others through a charity you run.
Or maybe it’s something much more down to earth!
Perhaps you just want more time with family and friends. You want control of your schedule. You’re a night owl and want to work in the evenings but that doesn’t fit into the “norm”. These are all perfectly good whys too!
It doesn’t have to be a BIG Nobel Prize winning “open an orphanage” sort of why. But it does need to be more than just “my job sucks”.
How to find your why?
This is tricky one! Basically it’s working out your life purpose.
We all need to take this journey ourselves. And we’ll all have different methods that will work for us.
For some people the best process is by reading books and following the exercises. Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and Find Your Why are good places to start this. He’s also done a TED talk if you prefer to consume content that way. It’s more focused on business leaders but the work begins with your personal why.
Others may prefer to work with a coach/mentor to work out their purpose and what their whys are. If you already have a coach/mentor that’s fantastic. I’d recommend finding one outside of your 9 to 5 life if possible because that’s what you will be discussing with them. If they are a higher up in your current organisation that conversation becomes trickier!
If you are more visual look into the practice of putting together a “vision board”. It’s a little naff but has worked for me. Basically you collect up a bunch of images that represent your future. You can do this physically by cutting out of magazines (or more realistically printing) and collaging to a board. Or you could just set up a Pinterest board. You then fill your board with inspirational and aspirational images of what your future will be full of. Think of it as a visual reminder of your why.
How exactly you work out your why is going to be up to you. But hopefully there are a couple of methods to get you started! I’ll cover this topic in more detail in another guide.
Step 2: Work out how much you need
Next up we need a concrete figure of how much you need to escape the 9 to 5.
This is where the rubber meets the road. No wishy washy vision boards here!
For step 2 you need to work out your monthly expenditure each and every month. Tally up all of your regular outgoings as well as incidentals that pop up over the year.
A lot of people have never done this. It’s a vitally important exercise though as it’s the starting point in our calculations of how much money you’ll need to break free of the 9 to 5.
Basically before you can quit your job we ideally want to have enough to maintain your lifestyle as is.
So if you are currently spending £3000 a month to live how you live now then we want to aim to still live at that level of expenditure after quitting the 9 to 5. If you are currently spending £800 a month then we want to maintain that. If you are spending £10,000 then we maintain that too.
We want to basically work out how to escape the 9 to 5 without your life becoming misreable. What that exact number is depends on your entirely! We all live in different cost cities (he sighs from his London flat…) and spend different amounts of discretionary cash each month. It’s very personal.
So the second step is to work out your figure: How much do you need each month to maintain your current standard of living?
What if you have no idea?
Let’s say you have absolutely NO idea how much you spend each month of rent, food, clothing, travel etc.
Can you skip this exercise?
This step is (and this is important but boring…like most important things!) a good gauge of your overall financial awareness and control.
As you shift from an employed 9 to 5 person with a J.O.B to managing your own cash you need to have this stuff sorted.
Think of it this way. You don’t know your current personal monthly outgoings right? How are you going to know how to deal with money once it becomes more complex than someone simply giving you a paycheck once a month and you going off and spending it. That’s basically the same as pocket money!
Once you are off on your own, outside the 9 to 5 system, you might have multiple streams of income, multiple businesses, multiple accounts. It can get complex. So it’s important to be able to deal with the basic basic stuff now.
If this stuff scares the living beejeesus out of you I’d recommend checking out Ramit Sethi’s book I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It’s specifically for the US market but the lessons are applicable to the UK. And anywhere really.
Do you have your number?
OK – you’ve gone away and crunched the numbers and come up with your figure.
This is the amount you need to maintain your current lifestyle.
Currently this amount comes from your 9 to 5 job.
What we need to do is replace the 9 to 5 income with other sources. Enough that we can say sayonara to the job itself and happily maintain our basic lifestyle.
And remember – this is a base level. We’re securing a base level of comfort but can go so much higher once we have escaped the shackles of a J.O.B.
Step 3: Reduce Expenditures
Remember that Steps 3 and 4 are, respectively, Reduce Expenditures and Increase Income?
These are two sides of the same coin.
Let’s say that you need £3000 per month to maintain your lifestyle. That’s the figure you worked out in Step 2. If you have that much you’re solid and comfortable.
Now, we can focus simply on increasing income from other (non-job) sources up to that £3000.
That’s one way to get to the £3000.
We can also REDUCE that £3000 goal by looking at our current expenditures and seeing what can be done to reduce them.
This is a bit like moving the goal posts closer to us before we take our shot. We’re increasing our chances of success (replacing our income) by bringing the goal posts closer to us. If we normally spend £3000 per month but find a way to slice out £500 of that expenditure then suddenly we only need to replace £2500 of income. It’s suddenly become a lot simpler.
Extreme mode: Global Nomads and Income Arbitrage
The extreme version of this is income arbitrage. Basically upping roots and going to live in a cheaper country. I personally did this by heading off to live in China whilst starting my early online businesses.
Instead of living in London where a small flat will still set you back a few thousand a month I lived in Beijing where a 3 bed apartment in one of the top areas cost me £450 a month. Dinner most evenings was £1-2. A trip on the metro is 9 pence. Basically it was really difficult to spend the sort of money I would spend in London!
If you make money in expensive countries but live in a cheaper country you reap the benefits of income arbitrage. The business I was running at the time sold consumer products for around £50. Less than 10 sales a month paid for rent.
This is an extreme method of decreasing your outgoings but one worth exploring. There’s a great site called Nomad List that runs through the living costs of some of the top locations for “digital nomads”. Well worth checking out!
Keeping a budget
More likely you’ll have roots in a certain location so it’s tricky to just up and leave. This means that your expenditures will always fall within a certain level. There’s basically no way out of this. Certain items won’t vary that much: rent will always be more expensive in London than in Beijing for instance!
But even so there will be adjustments you can make that’ll help you cut costs. Keeping a budget is one of those. Again, this is an extremely boring and tedious subject but it’s one that will make a huge difference if applied properly. Check out YNOB (You Need a Budget) for a relatively painless way to put together and stick to a budget. Also, if you use some of the more modern banking apps (think Revolut and Monzo) they come with built in budget and financial control tools.
Step 4: Increase Income
So far we’ve worked out what level of cash we need to continue our lifestyle and also looked at how we can reduce this figure to make it more obtainable.
Now we need to look at other ways to earn an income so that we can replace the salary we receive for our 9-to-5 job.
If you’ve carried out the previous two steps you’re actually have a target to aim for. And hopefully by whittling down some potential expenditures you’ve managed to reduce this target to something more manageable.
This now gives us a target. For instance if my comfortable figure – after we’ve worked out some ways to reduce costs – is £2000 per month then we now have a goal.
We need a new sources of income to hit £2000 before we can leave the 9 to 5. Step 4 is about securing those new sources of income.
Cold turkey or on the side?
Mmmm turkey with sides…
Some people might be asking why do we need to build this income while still working in our normal job?
This is a good question.
For some of you it may be more plausible to simply quit your 9-to-5 job and work on building a side income immediately. You go cold turkey. You’ll be able to focus full-time on producing your own income because you won’t be working 9-to-5.
For others it makes more sense to build up your side income whilst continuing to work at your 9-to-5 job.
Which of these situations depends entirely on your personal capacity for risk and realities of your situation. I can’t tell you what’s best. And if any one tries to tell you what’s best for you tell them to hush.
If you are single, do not have a family or other dependents and have limited financial liabilities each month then it is more realistic for you to simply quit the job and work full time on producing your own income.
If however you have financial commitments (such as a family or a mortgage to pay) then more likely you’re going to have to be cautious. In these situations keeping your 9-to-5 job while building up a side income in your spare time makes more sense.
Keep an eye open for the possibility of moving from full-time to part-time. This is a nice happy medium hybrid model which allows you to shift your time and attention from your full-time work to a side income bit by bit. Thankfully flexible working hours are becoming more “normalised” nowadays which means there’s more room to potentially work a 4 day week and carve out time for Netflix. No! Your business! Bad Netflix!
How to build secondary incomes
There are many different ways to generate income.
So friend of mine, just follow my referral link to buy Bitcoin and…
…nah just messing with you!
Online business is obviously going to be the focus here simply because that’s what I know and that’s what I teach.
Again though, I’m going to be biased!
Of course I’ll recommend online business as the best way to earn an income! Much in the same way a network marketer will suggest you get involved in MLM or a franchisor will try to get you into a nice new Subway franchise. It’s what we know and do.
Therefore, take everything here (and on the whole site) with a pinch of salt. You’re an adult and you should be doing this with everything in life!
Online business is obviously not the only way to generate an additional income. It may not even be the best way for you depending on your circumstances, preferences and abilities.
In fact here at BBO we put together a huge list of different income generation methods online. It’s pretty sweet. You can find it here: Work From Home – The Mega Guide to Generating Income from Home
There’s an Amazon version if that’s easier but all the information (and supporting videos) are available for free at that link. Go nuts.
Building your own online business is one of the ideas presented there but there are many light touch, lower time investment methods you can explore there too. If you are still not ready to jump into an online business with both feet that list may have alternatives for dipping your toes first.
Personal recommendation: Online Business to escape the 9 to 5
I obviously recommend starting an online business simply because it’s the most efficient way to generate side income with a relatively low time and money commitment upfront. Also, if you follow our BATON model in our free online business course we walk you through it step-by-step so you can verify your business idea as you go along to make sure you don’t start a stinker.
Starting a business or online business is hard enough without having a method. Therefore I definitely look for a course or a plan that you can follow when starting your first online business. Our BATON model is one but there are others. I’ve written elsewhere about finding the best online business course for your needs.
I won’t go into specific details about how to generate this income. Simply put the infinite ways you could generate this replacement income. Me giving you any one single idea to focus on would not be of benefit to you.
Instead start with yourself. Your skills and what you enjoy. These will be the core of a successful business for you. Check out this article what online business you should start as well as this article on the best online business ideas for beginners. This is a good place to start if this is your first online business.
Now that you know your end goal and you have a few places to start working out how to generate your side income there’s really nothing stopping you from getting going. However I wanted to give a couple of extra tips here that I found have been helpful guidance for those looking to break out of the 9-to-5 slog.
Break your income goals into a number of smaller targets.
For example if your income goal is £2000 per month don’t go straight for this goal. Instead set a number of smaller goals, each one reaching slightly further than the last.
If my final goal is to have £2000 per month to cover my lifestyle costs then I would first set a goal to earn £100 per month.
Once that is in place and sustainable I’ll go for the next goal of £500 per month.
Again once that’s been achieved I’d raise my target to £1000 a month.
Only at this point and only when I’m hitting £1000 a month consistently would I think about increasing the target to £2000 per month.
For each of these I would probably give myself the same time period. For example, three months to hit the first £100, another three months to hit £500, three months to hit £1000 and then three more months to hit £2000 a month.
This is because the first pound is always the hardest to make.
At this point we are still proving to the market that we have something of value. And, if this is your first business, most likely you will also be proving to yourself that you have something of value to offer the world!
Once this has been done each subsequent additional pounds per month become simpler. Scaling is easier than the initial generation.
Focus on the recurring rather than one-time income
The next tip is to not get too enamoured with one time big payoffs.
Let’s say you’ve started your business and in the first month you managed to land a client who will pay you £3000 in one go.
First up,:Fantastic news. Good job!
However don’t be fooled into thinking that this is now going to be a consistent and repeating occurrence. Don’t immediately quit your 9 to 5.
Yes, that £3000 might carry you through a month or two but ideally we need recurring consistent income before we can be sure that we are in the right place to quit the 9 to 5.
I’d much prefer to have a recurring sustainable income of £500 a month rather than a one-off lump sum of £5000 a month.
The reason for this is recurring income is much easier to plan around than one off. And if you are planning a big move (for instance quitting your 9-to-5 job!) we need to have this kind of certainty in place.
This means when designing products and services with the intention of breaking out of the 9 to 5 we should prioritise those with reoccuring payments over one off payments.
Don’t talk about your online business initially
This is a weird one and one which many may disagree with. That’s absolutely fine but this is our blog. So: tough.
There are two reasons why you shouldn’t start talking about your online business just yet.
The first is that you’ll start to get unsolicited advice.
Most of the time this advice will be negative. You are, remember, still in the world of the 9 to 5 workers.
Chances are a few of your peers have tried to escape from the rat race already but they have failed. How do I know they have failed? Because they are still one of your peers in the job that you dislike.
Unfortunately it is human nature to lash out against anything that we find too difficult or have ourselves personally failed out. You see this a lot in all sorts of difficult endeavours.
For example the person who has been trying to lose weight for the last 20 years but has so far failed: they’ll focus on telling you all the things that do not work rather than what does work.
The exact same thing happens in the world of business: there are many who have tried and failed and are bitter as a result of this.
If you have a supportive group of peers who run their own businesses and have side incomes or even control their own income streams entirely then by all means talk to these people.
These people will become fantastic resources on your journey. They have already done what it is you are now setting out to do. These are the people you should share your story with. Not with Jo and Barbara at the office.
The second reason why I caution against talking about your online business is the sheer fact do you have not yet set it up.
There are far too many people spend more time talking about their online business than they do working on it.
These people will always remain wantrepreneurs.
Don’t be one of these people. Focus on doing not telling. The world is already full of talkers.
Instead spend your time (remember that precious time we have carved out away from the 9-to-5 world?) working on and grinding your business.
Wrapping up: escape the 9 to 5.
Throughout this article we’ve discussed the four steps that will help you escape the 9 to 5.
First up, you need to work out why escaping the 9-to-5 will make your life better. Do not take this as a given just because you have seen people on Instagram enjoying a self employed/business owner lifestyle. #hustle
It may not be for you! Instead dig deep and think about what it is that would make your life better if you were in control of your income and your work.
With this mental ground work laid down we moved on to the second step. Here we worked out the actual amount of money you need to sustain your lifestyle on a month to month basis.
Very few people get this far and work out an actual figure. Instead they tend to prevaricate and mutter something incoherent about “I dunno, like a thousand or two”. You, on the other hand, have an actual precise pound amount.
In the third step we moved on to reviewing your required cash per month. We looked to see if there are ways of reducing the amount of cash needed to sustain your lifestyle. The more we could cut from this amount the faster you escape the 9 to 5.
Finally, in the fourth step we reviewed different ways to start to build an income. We asked whether it’s better for you to quit your job cold turkey or (more likely) to build a side income. I then gave you some starting places for how to build a side income as well as some general tips that I have found to be useful for those in your situation.
If you dedicate yourself to working through these four steps you will be much closer to realising your dream.
Most people never have a concrete plan for escaping the 9 to 5.
You, unlike them, now have in your hands a step-by-step walk-through.