How to stop working for others and start working for yourself

I’ve met with a few people recently (you know who you are) who would love to do something entrepreneurial but cannot imagine themselves leaving the security of their current jobs. As a result, I decided to write this blog to inspire them to prepare for the transition and help them make the seemingly impossible, possible.

3 different exit strategies

Crazy as it may sound to some, I didn’t have a plan about what I would do prior to leaving the company. In fact, that would have been virtually impossible for me to do. Over the years, I have seen 3 distinct paths for people who left the companies I was working for:

Collaborative economy Belgium

  1. They found a job while they were in a job. The job they found was more or less doing the same thing in a different company. In general, they stay within the same sector and hope to get a pay increase to mitigate the risk of moving
  2. They get fired and quickly position themselves as a consultant. They leverage their skills, knowledge and network either independently or within a consulting firm. Basically, they change organisational structure but in many cases they continue doing the same kind of job for more money and less politics
  3. They get fired, go through a shitty phase of questioning themselves, their value etc… eventually they get back on the horse via options 1 or 2 above. The period of time it takes can be from weeks to years

I chose not to choose any of those options. There were fleeting moments where I did think about option 2 but seldom about 1 or 3. The reason is simple. There was a little alarm bell ringing inside of me telling me that I needed to do something different with my life. Though some of the options above would possibly bring me short-term fulfilment, as the company, colleagues and customers would be different, I don’t think it would lead to longer-term happiness. Option 2 would result in possibly having more money, but I don’t see money as an end-product, it’s a means to a greater end. As a result, I had to go to option 4………………

Time, Money, Risk and Well Being – the 4 things to manage on the journey

Change is about risk mitigation. If you are in a job which doesn’t make you happy and may not be sustainable in the long term (economic and/or personal reasons), change is simply a question of time (see previous blog ). I have identified 4 key success factors in making the transition.


Now, don’t tell me you don’t have any …. Time is not something which you need to create, it already exists. You are simply using it to do other things. Once you decide that you want to invest in thinking about your future, you need to decide to stop doing other things. Step 1, create the time you need to plan for the future. You don’t need to cut your work time to 4 days a week (though that is always an option) but you could use some of the time you spend on the internet or in the evenings. If you don’t, options will not fall out of the sky and hit you on the head.

Once you’ve created the time, how do you use it? In options 1 or 2, you will do a CV, update linkedin and probably subscribe to and browse job sites like Monster. None of these things will help you in Option 4. One of the first things I would recommend is to do a “Happy Canvas” to understand what you want to do before you start looking for it.


Change has a cost but you can also view that as an investment. If you want to do something entrepreneurial, start while you still have a job. There are subsidies available, such as the “bourse de préactivité” in Belgium which enables you to get up to 12500k to help with market analysis, prototyping and other things. I would also start your own “insurance” and create a savings fund for yourself where you put some money aside for the day you leave your job and need those savings. It can take 2-3 years to build a business up and during that time, you don’t live on air. It’s important to start something entrepreneurial from a position of strength rather than as a reaction to loosing your job. Having a little money aside helps. Start saving and look for subsidies to help you get started already.


I mentioned above that change is about risk mitigation, in other words, reducing it rather than avoiding it. Think not just about the risk of changing, but also the risk of not changing. When you decide, you are in control so can plan the transition. If your company decides for you, you end up dealing with the risk of change anyway but perhaps without the luxury of being able to plan for it. Risk is as much a reason to do something as it is to not do something.


Perhaps the most important. Too many people measure themselves based on their title, their salary or the size of their company car. If you are unhappy in your job that negatively effects your health and probably your relationship with family and friends. There is no guarantee that following your entrepreneurial drive will make you happy either but I would suggest that doing something which you are passionate about is likely to improve your well-being. The offers good tools to help you get started. Your job shouldn’t define you, so start looking at other indicators of value beyond the money. Is that idealistic? I think its necessary as the rates of burn-out and low levels of productivity resulting from unhappy employees has broader economic effects beyond the person. We need more entrepreneurs !!!!!!!

Get inspired

I came across the website below a few months ago which traces the steps of some of the best known entrepreneurs. In all cases, they have tried lots of things, it hasn’t been easy and not everything succeeds. I’m sure they would have lots of advice to give on the transition and probably would do it the hard way. Address the 4 points above and you’ll make things a little easier for yourself. Let me know if you need my help and I’ll give you a push!




2 responses to “How to stop working for others and start working for yourself

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s