How I Quit My Job and Became an Accidental Entrepreneur

is course worth it

Today’s post comes from writer Melanie, who recently quit her day job to start her own freelance business. She shares more of her journey on her blog, Dear Debt.

I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur.

I hardly knew what the word meant and didn’t think I had it in me. I thought that entrepreneurship was for other people, not me.

Several years ago, I was working in the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles and running errands all around town. I would see hip, young people lounging at coffee shops with their Macbooks, looking like they had nowhere to go. I would see this time and time again and my thoughts were always the same:

Who are these people? What do they do? Don’t they have a REAL JOB?!

Yeah, I was judgmental (see jealous). I resented the fact they could hang out in coffee shops and work from their computers all day with no apparent responsibilities. I was baffled by how they could make money.

I tried to feel better by convincing myself that they must not have student loans like I do. I put myself on a higher level because I was changing the world, one kid at a time. What I was doing was important!

Making tough decisions

I continued working in the nonprofit sector, working long hours for low pay. While I learned a lot in that job, I realized that all my energy working in arts administration was helping others fulfill their creativity, while mine was on the back burner.

I stopped writing, stopped singing, and stopped performing. While I was around art and creativity all day, I never used that inspiration to work on my own stuff.

I made a big change a few years later and left my steady job to move across the country to go to graduate school at New York University. At this time, my student loan debt tripled, but I was determined to focus on my creativity (lesson learned: you don’t need to get into debt to do this). I wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine: getting a master’s degree.

Living, working, and studying in New York was a vibrant time filled with new experiences and creativity. I was performing, teaching, trying new things, and growing as a person.

The bubble burst after I graduated and had a difficult time finding a traditional job. I was mired in debt and had a ton of interviews, but no offers. At this time, I learned the art of the side hustle, because I had to. Side hustling is what kept me afloat during this difficult time and helped me learn new skills and meet new people.

Another move and many months later, things didn’t seem to be improving. I was getting by, but definitely not thriving.

My creativity once again took a backseat to actually making a living. I cleaned houses, worked events, pet sat and did any other odd jobs to make a buck. I started to feel like I was at the end of my rope.

Starting a blog changed my life

I never imagined that I would struggle so bad to find a job. My brain was in this constant negative loop and I couldn’t step outside of myself. I was spinning and losing hope. My partner and my parents were extremely supportive, but I could tell I had wore out my welcome.

People can only handle so much negativity and complaining about the same thing again and again. Truth be told, I was sick of myself. I was desperate for a change, something, anything to reclaim my purpose.

After months of following personal finance blogs, I decided to start my own blog in January 2013 focusing on my own life and financial journey. I started it so I could keep myself accountable in the debt payoff process and find a community of like-minded people.

I started to write openly about my debt, my frustrations, my experiences and my hopes and dreams. I started to make friends in the personal finance community — and these people were rooting for me.

They were encouraging me to get out of debt and reach my potential. My blog has changed my life in so many ways, but I have to say the community has been the greatest gift in my life.

My blog gave me confidence as a writer and offered a creative outlet to share my ideas. After ten months of writing, I was offered my first paid writing gig. I was thrilled!

It is absolutely true that getting your first client is the hardest. But once I got the first one, it seemed like more doors started to open. Writing, which was my unpaid passion and hobby for so many months, was now becoming my main side hustle. I started to become the person I resented, hanging out in coffee shops, writing and being my own boss.

Becoming an accidental entrepreneur

I realize that the turning point in all of this was starting my blog — doing something that absolutely terrified me at the time. I was planting the seeds for future opportunities, I just couldn’t see it yet.

We often think of progress as immediate and if things aren’t happening right away then we are failures. I have found that is absolutely not true. You can plug away for months or even years and see nothing and things can change overnight. It takes the right timing and opportunities, but persistence pays off.

Considering I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, I’ve made all the mistakes (and am still learning). I didn’t save enough for my taxes and this year I owed money for the first time in my life. I’ve missed out on opportunities because I was unprepared or didn’t ask the right questions upfront. I’ve taken on jobs with low pay that ended up taking me forever. I’ve taken things way too personally.

Being an entrepreneur has a unique learning curve, but I love the challenge. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility it offers,  and it allows me to learn new skills, while working on a multitude of projects, so I’m never bored.

I now realize that everyone has the potential to be an entrepreneur. I know it’s not for everyone, but the potential is there. If you focus on your skills, dream big and live your passion, you too can become an accidental entrepreneur.

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