Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
I’m officially a self-employed blogger now.
Yesterday morning, I turned in my resignation from my day job (I work with U.S. military veterans for the Guam Legislature). OK, it doesn’t actually take effect until the end of next week, but still.
It’s pretty liberating. And very very very scary.
My Dream Come True
Well, to be honest, this hasn’t been a lifelong dream. I never knew that I wanted to be a full-time blogger until just last year (2007), when Zen Habits began to do really well (March, April, May). I started to realize: it’s crazy, but I might actually be able to do this full time!
Blogging on Zen Habits was then, and still is, so much fun that I couldn’t believe it could actually become a full-time thing. But it became a dream of mine, and I thought: maybe by this time next year, I could quite my day job!
So I created a mantra for myself. It was one word: Liberate.
This mantra was repeated every day. Everything I did was geared toward that mantra — blogging became a way to liberate myself. New projects were steps along that path. And it has been an exciting and rewarding path at that.
So now that dream has come true. A few months early too.
How I Did It
I thought you might be interested in hearing about my path to make this dream become realized. Now, this should be obvious, but I’ll stress it here: this is what worked for me. It won’t necessarily work for any other human being on this planet. I share it only because I know I like to read the success stories of others — sometimes they’re instructional, and other times they’re simply inspirational.
That caveat aside, here are some of the stepping stones along my path to liberation:
1. Blog from the heart. I decided early on that while I would draw inspiration from many other blogs, from Lifehacker to Get Rich Slowly to Lifehack.org to The Happiness Project to 43 Folders to Dumb Little Man to ProBlogger and many more …. that inspiration would be simply inspiration, and not copycatting. I wanted my writing to be my own, true to myself, and from my heart. As a result, many people have commented that they enjoy my writing, which is gratifying … and even better, I have enjoyed doing it immensely. Writing this post for example … it’s pure joy.
2. Be insanely useful. My goal with every post is to be as useful as possible to my readers. Of course, I don’t always succeed, but it’s been a worthy goal. And I think the usefulness of many of my posts is what attracts readers, and attracting readers has been the key to the growth of Zen Habits.
3. Focus my efforts and my writing. This won’t be any surprise to you guys, if you know me, but simplicity has been central to much of what I’ve done. My goal is always to keep things simple, to focus my efforts on those things that I love the most and that pay off the most, to be able to focus on my writing instead of the money or the stats or anything else. Time with my family is very important, so I’ve had to make sure that I eliminate unnecessary tasks and projects so that my work doesn’t overwhelm my family time.
4. Ask for donations. A few months back, I told you guys about my dream to become a full-time blogger, and asked for your help. You came through, big time. In fact, I still get donations, and each and every one of those donations have helped bring me closer to my dream. I couldn’t have done this without you guys. Seriously. Thank you. (Btw, donations are still welcome!)
5. Write and sell an ebook. To ensure that I had multiple income streams, besides the ads and the donations, I wrote and sold my Zen To Done ebook. It turned out to be extremely successful. Again, your purchases have helped my dream come true. With the success of the ebook, I was able to finally eliminate my debt — see below for why that’s important. Again, thank you guys!
6. Focus my ads. I’ve been experimenting with different forms of advertising all year long. I’m still doing so. Basically, I have been continually dropping ads that don’t do very well for me. My goal is to have just one set of ads, to keep things as simple as possible. If you’re interested in becoming a Zen Habits sponsor, you’d be very welcome.
7. Interact with readers. Readers should be the focus of any good blog. Your interests, your needs, your comments, your emails. I try to make time to respond to comments and emails, although I have to admit that I cannot always keep up with the volume of comments, questions, requests, and emails. It’s very important to me, though, and I do my best.
8. Transition from day job. I decided, from the beginning, that I would do a gradual transition from my day job to full-time blogging. Slowly, I’ve increased my blogging income while making the day job less important. I’ve reduced my work at my day job so that I can focus on my writing. Today, that transition is complete.
9. Get out of debt, save an emergency fund. These two financial moves were prerequisites for me. I wasn’t going to quit my day job without getting out of debt first, and without an adequate emergency fund. It’s why I didn’t quit several months ago, when my blogging income was sufficient. I have a family to worry about. I have since eliminated my debt and saved a decent emergency fund, though it’s not as large as I’d like. I plan to continue to add to the emergency fund all year.
10. One other big thing I can’t announce yet. Something else big has happened in the last month that sealed the deal for me, financially. I will announce it within the next week. It’s big, for me at least. And while I could have quit my day job even if it hadn’t happened, it made it that much more sure for me. I can’t wait to tell you about it.
Where I Go From Here
So now what? What happens now?
Well, not that much will change, for Zen Habits at least. I plan to continue to focus on putting out the best content I can. I plan to continue to interact with you guys. I won’t be increasing my posting frequency, mainly because I don’t want to overwhelm you, but also because I have other projects planned.
I will announce two of those projects in the coming week. But my focus, as always, will be on writing. I don’t want to overwhelm myself either.
Financially, if nothing changes, I will be just fine. If anything changes, I anticipate it changing for the better, and if so, I will be making investments this year. But if it changes for the worse … I will always be able to find another day job. That safety net is always there … I know the market here on Guam well enough to know that I can easily get a job in a half dozen places … and I know that there are opportunities online that my success here at Zen Habits have opened up, so that’s a possibility too if necessary.
It’s scary, being self-employed. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a boss, and I don’t have an editor to answer to. I am my own boss, and my own editor, and I can do whatever I want. Failure and success are dependent completely on me.
Scary, yes … but amazingly amazingly liberating!
To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. – Anatole France