Guest Post: Is it time to leave the day job?


Today’s guest post is from Amita Murray, author of Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer

Is it Time to Leave the Day Job?

This is an excellent question, and one that most writers and artists who love doing what they do will ask at some point. I asked myself this question repeatedly (some might say, obsessively) for over a year before I left my full-time job about three years ago, went part-time/freelance, and decided to spend more time and energy writing fiction. By this time, I’d written (not published, just written) about three-and-a-half novels, and a handful of short stories.

In the last three years, I’ve told myself there were many reasons for this move, but when it comes down to it there was just one. Writing novels felt natural to me – having a full-time job that I wasn’t happy in felt depressing. It was like not only my mind but my body was reacting against the situation I was in, like I was physically fighting a war – a war between doing what I craved and staying in a job that just wasn’t working for me.

About a year ago, a top London agent took on my novel The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress. At that time, leaving a full-time job felt like the best decision I’d ever made. It was complete vindication. But then publishers turned it down, saying they loved it, it was compelling and beautifully written, but it didn’t fit a clear market. At that time, leaving a full-time job seemed like a very, very bad decision.

So, is it the right thing to do? Here are some of the things you need to think about.

What is your financial situation?

When I left my job, there were a few things working in my favour. I’d anticipated this move, so I had some savings (not loads, just some.) I had some part-time and freelance work on offer.

So, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have any savings?
  • Do you have any part-time/freelance opportunities?
  • Might you need a mortgage in the next few years? (Sad though it is, it is harder to get a mortgage if you are freelance than if you are on a salary, even a part-time salary.)
  • Are you likely to need maternity-leave in the next few years? (Remember, no salary, no maternity leave. Only a maternity allowance, which you will have to do a fair bit of paperwork to get.)
  • Do you have a partner with a more stable job than yours? (Not crucial, but it can help.)
  • Are you likely to need further training in doing the thing you love?

While you’re asking yourself these questions, think about this. Why do you want to leave your job? Is it to get more time to focus on the thing you want to do? To have more energy? Because it’s more satisfying doing what you love? Or just because you don’t like the job you’re in? None of these are bad reasons. But it takes a while to make it as an artist in any discipline. If you can find the time and energy to do what you love, while working part-time, then that’s a pretty good middle ground.

One more question – are you actually good at the thing you love doing? Are you getting really good feedback from people who know what they’re talking about? Or is it only your mum that reads your work? If so, then you may need more training. For which, you may need more money! And, therefore, some sort of salary.

Is your creative side going nudge-nudge and is it starting to hurt?

Okay, so, leaving a full-time job is not so great for your finances. But what about your creative side? I have to say that even though I’ve been a little sad (read, in a death-wish inducing panic) about my finances at various times since leaving full-time employment, I’ve worked on some fantastic freelance projects. These have had variety, really cool people to work with, had me thinking on my feet, and made me resourceful. Meaning, even the work I have taken up that was not related to writing novels was fulfilling and meaningful.

So, in terms of your creative side, leaving a job that is not working for you will definitely free up energy and time, give you more time with family and friends, and make you resourceful. But it can be very tough on your finances, and that can unhinge you, given enough time spent on decisions about whether or not to buy eight-pound pantyhose.

Remember one more thing. Leaving your full-time job may not be a permanent decision. You can rethink it as you go. In some cases, especially depending on what you’re doing part-time, you may have the option to easily go back to full-time work. In other cases, it may be harder.

Check out my romantic-comedy Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer – think Six Feet Under, but more slapstick, with a dash of The Royal Tenenbaums – on Amazon. Publishers Weekly says the book is randy, fascinating, and very funny. And get in touch! I’d love to hear from you. Get this book for 99p on a Kindle Countdown deal on Amazon, from June 16-22, 2014.

Get in touch @AmitaMurray and I’d love to hear from you.