Self Development September 23, 2020

Unpopular opinion: you SHOULD leave your job to pursue your project

Dagobert Renouf @dagorenouf

note: This was initially a note for myself, but I think it could help others.

As soon as you have 18 months of runway (savings) ahead of you, you should leave your job and focus on your indie project fully. Doing otherwise will just increase the risk of your project never taking off.

When you just "have fun" on the side and don't care how long it takes, you will tend to do what's more comfortable. If you're an engineer, you'll spend your time refactoring the app three times. If you're a copywriter, you'll spend hours on a single sentence instead of putting out more content. If you're a designer, you'll overthink which font weight to use for every button type. And so on...

On the other hand when your life depends on becoming profitable, it forces you to go out of your comfort zone. You will find quicker and simpler ways to get to your goals. You will stay laser focused on the things that really matter. Even if you love to over-engineer stuff, you won't be able to. Your number one goal will be to make more money, not just enjoy yourself.

In 6 months you'll probably have a website, a few paying customers, and become clear on what you need to do to become profitable. If you keep your day job, in 6 months time you'll have finally figured out what color your "get started" button should be.

Take the plunge!
(Or prove me wrong 😄)

  1. 8

    I left my full-time job before I had any incoming revenue. Not having money coming in forced me to be more diligent about finding market fit. I don't think I would have made any meaningful progress if I kept my job and worked on my business on the side.

    Some caveats:

    1. I had about a year of savings
    2. I don't have children (by choice)
    3. I started a service business, which I would argue is easier than a product biz

    Where am I now? Doing well, and very close to replacing my previous 6-figure salary

    1. 2

      Oh, that's amazing.

      Is that for technical content services?

    1. 1

      Ahah yeah, that story is amazing. Very hardcore.

  2. 5

    This is the way of the warrior... Make it or die trying.

    Speed to market is overrated, product development is a sniper's game... You find your target and keep shooting...

    It does not matter that 10 people shot first, when they keep missing the target.
    You'd better not miss your target if you are starving.

  3. 4

    I wholeheartedly agree with this! I did the same thing a few months ago - even in the midst of the pandemic. I've been moonlighting trying to start side-hobbies for a few years now, and my day-job ALWAYS took priority. Finally decided if I was going to give myself a chance at succeeding, then I should give it my all. Yet to find out where I'll be 6 months in, but I'm sure I won't regret my decision

    1. 1

      That’s awesome, welcome to the club! We actually launched during the lockdown 😅. Really curious to see where you’ll be in six months.

  4. 3

    I can second this advice, although the 18 months of runway is neigh unattainable for a lot of people. I quit my job to work on JustSketchMe and Bear Blog with about 3 months in the bank (5 if I stretched it). JustSketchMe had started making enough to just cover my rent, and that is all I needed.

    I honestly can’t imagine going back to a job. In one month I will have been job free for a year!

    1. 1

      Oh wow that's a great accomplishment, kudos! Justsketchme looks super cool too, it's such a vertical product, congrats on making money with it 👍

  5. 2

    Only do this if you are honest with yourself about your skills and probability of success. Chances are if you have the skills to take a proper shot at a business, you have the skills to get another job in a few weeks if it doesn't work out. Don't quit to follow a pie in the sky idea that you are in no position to implement.

  6. 2

    I'd say it depends on the person, but majority will do better under pressure hence leaving your job is absolutely worth it. And if you fail, this exercise becomes your invaluable lesson.

  7. 2

    I agree. I had a part-time job for the last couple of months in the hopes that I would have time for writing my book and indie hacking. But in the end, the job still took away my mental energy and focus of the day and also provided a safe feeling of having money each month so I wasn't productive at all on my own projects.

    Starting next month I will put 100 % of my time and energy into my own things. I think it will be much better.

    1. 1

      Oh yeah, I noticed that it CAN work if your job is vastly different than your project. For example, if you're a bartender by day and app maker at night. Not the same part of the brain are required so you still have mental energy for it.
      Good luck for next month!

      1. 2

        Yes, only if I was a bartender! Haha

  8. 2

    I have ended up doing this (well, will be doing this after my last day in November). However the main reason for me was around the IP clause in my contract! A lawyer I spoke to pointed to a recent high court judgement (PROSYSCOR LIMITED vs Netsweeper Inc) meaning any patentable technology I would develop could end up owned by my current employer. Even if developed in my own time and on my own hardware!

    1. 1

      oh right, there's that too. Very good point.

  9. 2

    I've been thinking a lot (really a lot) about this. I start working on my full-time job, just thinking to finish the job to finally start working at the end of the day on what give me pleasure, that is taking decisions (and develop them) for my own project. It's not that my full-time job is bad, but is not motivating me anymore.
    I already released my first version of my product, but it's not profitable yet.

    The problem is, I'm a person that overthink about the worst scenarios, and when I think to quit my job to dedicate 100% on my project, I always think: "And if I'm not good enough to make money? I have ideas and motivation, but maybe I don't know how to make money". And so, I don't have the courage to leave my job and just thinking that I will only have that courage when I prove to myself that I know how to make money.

    But now, I spend almost half of my day doing something that don't motivates me and waiting for the end of the day (that I'm already tired) to work on what I enjoy to do. It's being hard to take that decision!!

    1. 1

      I hear you! I guess you can take baby steps. Maybe use your current job to save enough for, let's say, 6 months. Then try it for 3 months, and see how it goes. Worse case scenario you'll have 3 more months to find a new job. This heavily depends on your situation obviously.

      1. 1

        Actually I have enough money to live (relatively comfortable) for the next 3/4 years and also I don't have kids (and i just plan to have kids in 4 years from now). However, I'm in a good position on my current job and what I regularly think is, if I have to get back to what I was, but in a worst job it will be a regret.

        So, for now, I'm really struggling to make sure that I am able to make money with my own ideas (because I know that I am good technically, on the engineer and development side, but I couldn't prove to myself yet that I will be able to make money from my ideas).

        While I can't get this indicator, I'm always afraid to take the risk. Anyway, I'm planning to stay in this situation (full-time job and side project) for the next 6m/1y, then I have to decide if I give up to build my company or I take the risk

        1. 1

          It's interesting because you seem like you love your current life, so not really missing the big adventure of leaving to build your company. And yet you're on indiehackers, so that's gotta mean something too :). These decisions are hard 🤷‍♂️

  10. 2

    Yeah, I wouldn't be so quick to forcefully push this to someone with dependents, e.g. a family to support.

    But the overall idea, I agree. I worked with a team and spoken to other founders in situations where some of the team has quit their jobs / gone part time, and others haven't. The tensions around urgency, and who has time to be majoring on minors, it's a big one.

    1. 1

      Yeah exactly! It's very hard if people don't have the same urgency. Regarding dependents, I agree? It can still be useful to see how far you can push it without putting everybody at risk.

      1. 2

        100%

        Skin in the game helps a ton. I'm in that position atm. Left my full time when my second child was born.

  11. 2

    The founder of convertkit wrote about focus a while back. He was about to quit the product and move on and then after a conversation with Sujan patel he decided to give it a run, they do 1.5M MRR. Focus and having your back against the wall triggers survival instinct and gets you going hard

    I was always told this growing up (football) , Up like a rocket or down like a meteor. Either way its leaves a fantastic light because in start ups, if you're not going up, you're doing down (h/t Domm)

    1. 1

      That's a good one. Pro athletes know this instinctively: you will never learn as much by doing practice as you would in a real game. The amount of pressure and risk involved changes everything and makes you grow faster.

  12. 2

    I very much resonate with this. As soon as I quit my job this month, it hit me. I had to freaking make money to survive and the kind of focus you get that way is insane.
    Disclaimer: Not a good approach for everyone though.

    1. 1

      Yes, it's very hard. I think the key is to find balance, not too risky that you could literally starve, but not so comfortable that you don't even need it to succeed.

      1. 2

        Agreed. For anyone doing this kind of a thing, having a personal comfortable runway of atleast a year helps to free the mind. Doesn't put too much pressure but just enough to get things aligned. That's what I am doing currently. Lets see how this goes 🤞

  13. 2

    It really depends on how productive/organized you are. I've seen people succeed with this, others while keeping their dayjob.

    1. 1

      Was it a job in the same field as the side project? Asking because for me, when I was spending 5 days at a front-end dev job, doing it for my side project too was close to impossible. My brain was just too tired of it.

  14. 1

    Normally I would disagree with you, but when I read "As soon as you have 18 months of runway (savings) ahead of you" I changed my mind!

    1. 1

      Ahah yeah. Hard to build a startup without at least a roof over your head 🙂

  15. 1

    Agreed with your theory.

  16. 1

    I agree. You have to burn the bridge to go back if you want to win the fight. If you are in 100%, you will put all your energy and efforts in making the project successful.

  17. 1

    Yep - works great for people with no kids :)

    1. 1

      Obviously I don't have kids so I can't fully understand the situation. But I'm curious, what's the fundamental difference? Is it just runway? Cause I assume at some point it gets hard to save so much to take care of a family (let's say that you need 3-4x more than a single person).

      1. 1

        I'm not sure everyone feels like this, but for me it was impossible to take any major risk once a kid was dependent on me. So it wasn't really about "runway" it was about creating a secure foundation for my family - any thing else didn't feel good.

        But it never stopped me using my spare time to work on my side project stuff. The main difference for me was I had to learn to be quite patient about progress and let the whole side project thing happen in slow motion.

        So yeah, I do recommend for folks to run side projects in parallel to a career as you get 2x level up opportunities and a great sense of security. If you really need that - gun to the head feeling - there are other ways to achieve it.

        Like finding a great mentor or mastermind group and making time based commitments. Or starting a podcast and telling lots of people what your goal dates are and making public commitments.

        1. 1

          Yeah that makes sense. It seems like a fact of life that when you have kids, they become your priority, and therefore you tend to prioritize safety. It might be good to see how you can bring a bit more "risk" (in a controlled fashion) to make the project go faster still. But all of that are just my views, it can definitely work to grow a project on the side with the right mindset.

  18. 1

    why 18 months though. That seems like a lot 😣

    1. 1

      Let's say this an other way. How long do you think you need to be able to pay yourself and survive off your project? Now take that number and multiply it by 2, because we all suck at time estimates. That's the time you need. How long is it?

      1. 2

        In that case 18 months seems about right. I also know that I'll be far more motivated if I know I'll only have 6 months and If I don't make it by then I'll just have to get a new job.

        Same thing Dru Riley recently said in his IH interview.

  19. 1

    Can work for some. If you don't have any dependents for example it's easier. Also before quitting having a clear idea of what you want to achieve will help.

    1. 1

      Oh yeah, I'm not advocating leaving your job without any idea what to do next. However when you do have an idea + validated demand with a few people, there is no real reason to not go all in. If you have dependents it can change things, like the amount of runway you need because you're just spending more every month.

  20. 1

    If you're scared of going full-time on your project, it's because you haven't validated your market.

    Some projects require a complex technical MVP to get market validation.
    Others can be validated with a spreadsheet and charismatic door-knocking.

    I think the correct position on this spectrum varies but an important consideration remains critical for all: focus on getting people to buy your product - nothing solves your problems like growth.

    Whether that can be done part-time or full-time is a foolish thing to debate: it's wholly contextual - it always depends, no?

    1. 1

      I agree! There are quite a few situations where it wouldn't be the best choice. I think the right balance is to wait until you are convinced that your idea can work (because you've tested the waters). The risk is mostly if you never take the plunge, which can prevent you from growing beyond the side-project phase.

  21. 2

    This comment was deleted 22 days ago.

    1. 2

      Ahah it was the same for me! I was so involved with my job that I couldn't focus on anything else. At first I negotiated to lower my involvement to 4 days a week, but it didn't change much, so I had to take the plunge. Good luck!

      1. 2

        This comment was deleted 22 days ago.

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