The decision to leave a steady paycheck for full-time blogger status is highly personal and depends on a variety of factors, including everything from the amount in your savings account to your experience in marketing, PR or sales. If you've been toying with the idea of quitting your job, or are interested in putting together a strategy to help you get from here to blog-as-business, the considerations below will help you to clarify if now is the time.
As a caveat, I believe that the biggest benefit your blog provides is the platform from which you can explore doing the work that is most meaningful to you. As a long-term strategy, a blog that supports you financially through advertising revenue alone may be a challenge, but as a living portfolio, it offers the opportunity to pursue work and create passive income far beyond what is available in the traditional corporate trajectory.
Consistent monthly profits that cover your basic expenses
The biggest reason we delay leaving our jobs is money. When I left my job I had saved up about a year's worth of income (assuming I went back to living like a broke college student!), and was consistently earning about 70% of my monthly expenses (mostly royalties from my book and advertising). Part of this is due to the fact that my rent is super reasonable, I own my car, and I don't have any credit card debt. However, by quitting I also had to start paying for my own health insurance and had to make some significant investments in my site in order to get it to a place where it was suited to supporting me full-time. The key here is consistency – you could have a great month or a big sponsorship deal – but how much are you earning consistently month over month?
First Step: Get super clear about how much money is coming in, how much is going out, any investments you need to make, and perhaps most importantly, how much money do you need each month in order to not go into scary, scarcity freak-out mode.
An influx of opportunities, partnerships and events that you are unable to attend due to your 9-5
Are you getting all sorts of opportunities but aren't able to take advantage of them because your required to be in an office Monday through Friday? If you are having to turn down opportunities or unable to attend big industry events because of the inflexibility of your current profession, chances are pretty good that you will easily be able to transition to the life of an entrepreneur. You simply need to make some extra room and take advantage of more time to take meetings, join campaigns and attend events. Also, if your workplace doesn't see the value of your blogging efforts and doesn't encourage and allow you to pursue these opportunities, that's another sign you are in the wrong spot.
First Step: Make a list of opportunities you have had to turn down, or opportunities you wanted to take advantage of but weren't able to because of your job.
Spending the equivalent of 20-30 hours a week on your blog
If you are spending 4+ hours a day writing posts, managing your inbox, developing social media and blog content, etc, you're basically working two jobs. I did this for about six years and it became normal to spend my lunch hour blogging and managing everything into the wee hours. This is not sustainable, at least if you want to have any sort of a life! If your blog is taking up this much time, it's also a sign that with a bit of effort you could probably transform your blog into a full-time gig.
First Step: Begin to track the time you spend on your blog each week to get an accurate picture of how much time you are devoting to your passion project.
A plan for how to augment your blog income
As I mentioned above, relying solely on ad revenue is hard. Instead, ramp up your passive income and think about what other type of work you could do to increase your monthly profits. Perhaps you can offer some sort of consulting option or do some freelance graphic design work. Hell, maybe a few hours at Starbucks to cover your rent is exactly what you need to feel good about giving your blog some extra love. When I left my job I reached out to friends in the industry and let them know I was available to support on projects. I also scored a sweet speaking gig at Florida State University. In combination, these efforts helped ease my transition from a director-level salary to a much more modest income.
First Step: Identify 2-3 ways you can make money in addition to ad revenue. Are you willing to do freelance work or create a product offering?
You've created a marketing and PR plan to help you achieve your goals – and it's working
In order to have a full-time blog you need to have the traffic necessary to attract big brand advertisers and enough readers that are willing to become your customers. If your marketing and PR efforts are working, it's a sign that you are on the right track.
First Step: Take a look at current traffic and newsletter/RSS subscriber trends for the last year. What press have you landed in the past 6 months and what do you have in the pipeline. What's working? What could you improve upon? Psst: If you need help with a PR plan, you can get a free template when you subscribe to PR Couture emails (see what I did there?).
A willingness to experience the uncertainties of self-employment
Time for a little self-honesty. Are you interested in being an entrepreneur? Because that is what being a full-time blogger is. It is a willingness to stay level-headed in times of economic uncertainty. It is an enthusiasm for hard work, for taking on all the aspects of running a business from the fun stuff to the not so fun stuff. It's paying estimated taxes and being your own publicist. You will work harder than you ever have in your life – I still cannot believe that I went from essentially two jobs to one, and yet I am putting in immense hours into growing my business, fine-tuning the site and serving my audience.
First Step: Think back to a time in your life when you struggled financially. How did that feel? What did you learn about yourself through that experience that could help or hinder you this time around?
What is the ultimate payoff for you if you quit your job? For me, it ultimately became a decision between staying with what was comfortable, and a desire to explore a different experience. I just wanted to see if I could do it – and what would happen. For you it could be to land the cover of a fashion magazine or to segue into getting a regular column, or to create your own magazine. It could be to learn the technical side of blogging, to successfully grow a fabulous online community, or to create and sell a business by your 30th birthday. If you decide that not only end result, but the process of pursuing your vision is entirely worth doing, it just might be time to quit that job!