How to Escape Your Cubicle and Live the Dream Life
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
I’ve been fortunate to live in some pretty amazing places. They include a small tourist town in the Canadian Rockies surrounded by some of the bluest lakes you can ever imagine, a remote bayside town in Alaska with office views of multiple glaciers; and “classic” paradise on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, from which I could gaze upon palm trees and the blue ocean while at work. Presently, I work in Sedona, Arizona, with views of towering erosion-sculpted red rocks.
Feeling envious? The point is, you can do it too, and you don’t need to be rich. You just need to believe in yourself.
Related: 10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job
For years I worked as a design engineer for Texas Instruments spending the biggest chunk of my life in a tiny cubicle. Then one year on vacation, I went backpacking through the spectacular Canadian Rockies. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty and tranquility. During that trip, I decided I didn’t want to spend my life in a box, that I wanted to live and work someplace spectacular.
But I figured that the only way to do that was to get rich in the stock market. So I began taking some ridiculous investment risks, in the name of breaking free from the daily grind. That strategy was a big mistake and a year later I was no closer to breaking free of my cubicle; in fact, I was further from it.
Then I became an entrepreneur and everything forever changed. Instead of taking investment risks on random companies, I took a chance on myself. There really is no better investment. The transition to entrepreneur is by no means easy; antcipating the loss of a steady paycheck is daunting and stressful if you don’t plan appropriately. Some of things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Save money before quitting your job.
Better yet, continue working your day job while you develop your new business. Any new business takes time to build, and you can usually expect at least a year of hard work before making any significant income. In fact, a hardware product startup will almost surely require several years' worth of up-front savings to build up any sizable income. Attaining financial security almost always takes much longer than you expect, so be prepared.
My first product startup took me about three years before I made any income; (fortunately I was able to support myself by doing engineer consulting for my former employer). Most of us can’t afford to work for years on something full-time without seeing any monetary reward. But that really is the pattern for a hardware startup. Not only do you fail to draw any income for a while, but you can burn through your savings rather quickly as you're developing and marketing a new product, especially if you have to pay someone else (e.g., an engineer) to actually develop it.
2. Start a service business to generate immediate income while working on your new product.
All new businesses require time to become profitable, but that process is many times quicker for service companies. With a service company you can begin selling immediately, whereas product startups have to first develop the product (which requires spending money, not making it).
Whether you are an engineer, or a marketing professional or a programmer, you surely have skills that others need. If you have a job now, that’s proof you have skills someone wants.
I highly recommend you start offering your services using outsourcing websites like Elance, Guru, or Upwork. These websites allow you to begin bringing in an income almost immediately. Some of the categories of work available through these websites include translation, data entry, website design, engineering and various administrative tasks.
3. Begin building an audience as soon as possible.
Whether you plan to develop a hot new tech product or start a consulting business, to be successful you need to have an audience. Using websites like Elance allows you to get work if you don't have an audience, but eventually you’ll want to expand beyond these websites. That's where audience-building comes in.
Guest blogging is widely considered one of the best methods to accomplish this. Regardless of your skills or desired industry, sharing your knowledge with others is a proven method for building your audience. Find publications that your desired clients/customers read, and become a contributing writer for them. If you can prove yourself to editors, you can begin proving yourself to their readers.
There is no better investment than yourself, so begin believing in yourself now, and live the life you’ve always dreamed. Dreams do happen, but they require hard (and smart) work, and most importantly a confidence in yourself. Believe in yourself, and anything is possible.