How to Know When to Quit Your Day Job and Work from Home Full Time

Taking the PlungeThis is a big one. Maybe the big one.

When I asked what you wanted to know about being a home-based entrepreneur, this one came up a few times. I’m not surprised. It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked.

I like the way Chris put it in his comment:

How do you know when you’ve reached the right point to fire your day job…?

So that’s the question, let’s look at some indicators…

Mr. Day Job, I’m Afraid We’re Gong To Have To Let You Go…

Notice I didn’t say “let’s look at some answers.” That’s because no one can tell the best time to quit your day job. More to the point, they can tell you, but you won’t listen.

I know this from experience. Some people are natural risk takers, and maybe jump too soon. Others are risk-adverse, and tend to hang around longer than they really need to.

Like so many other things associated with finding your passion, living your dream, and working from home — it comes down to a gut thing. It’s a pure sense of knowing. No formula or expert advice is going to outweigh that sense of knowing.

It’s a tipping point — a time when that feeling of rightness offsets the feeling of fear.

I can’t tell you when that tipping point will be, because only you know. It’s your gut, not mine. That sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not. Anyone who tells you that they have the definitive answer is either trying to sell you something, is naive, or just doesn’t get it.

We can help you come to the conclusion yourself though, with…

Gut Check Indicators

When you need gas, there’s an indicator (fuel gauge). When you’re hungry, there’s an indicator (stomach growling). When your 2-year old pees in her Pull-Ups, there’s an indicator (disappearing stars, for example).

When your gut is trying to tell you something, there’s an indicator as well. It’s just a little harder to read sometimes. Here’s some common indicators regarding making the leap to full-time self employment:

  • Physical Signs – Your job may be making you physically ill. The body does a great job of showing you what you need.
  • Cash Flow – An obvious indicator is when you’re making enough money to quit. The problem is determining what enough is. Is it what you make in your day job? More? Less? Money is an important consideration, but shouldn’t be your only consideration. Maybe not even in the top 3. If you are doing work you love, and are providing something of value, you’ll make money. If money’s the only thing stopping you, think about alternative ways to supplement in the short term.
  • Fire in the Belly – There’s that burning, tickling sensation that epitomizes the phrase “gut feeling.” It’s butterflies in the stomach, meets puppy love, meets heartburn. All warm and fuzzy. When that happens enough while working on your home-based business, and is blatantly absent in your day job, you jones for it. The Fire in the Belly addiction can drive you right out of your comfort zone and into full-time entrepreneurship.
  • Desperation – There will be a clear peak of sheer desperation — where you just can’t do it anymore. That sense of desperation is so immense, it’ll be hard to miss.
  • Severe Loathing of Your Boss or Coworkers – If you can’t stand to be in the presence of those who represent your day job, it’s a good sign that you need to get out.
  • Ton of Bricks – Sometimes the signs are subtle. Other times they’re not. The Universe, God, Your Gut, or your Fairy Godmother may have to resort to drastic measures to get you to budge. Look for obvious signs that you need to make the leap. Call it coincidence or synchronicity. There may be some signs beating you over the head that you may be ignoring.
  • Ask Your Spouse or Partner – When all else fails, look to a higher power — your better half. If you’re in a good relationship, chances are they know you better than you know yourself. Ask for some honest feedback, ask them to suspend their own fears temporarily, and then listen to what they have to say. My wife has yet to give me bad advice. I’ve talked to lots of others who also happen to be hooked up with their best advisor.

When the workday is done, it comes down to you. Your call, your decision. No one can follow your dreams for you. It’s all up to you.

The cool thing is, you already know. It just takes some time to realize it.


  1. I knew it was time to quit my job when I began to feel stressed out as soon as I stepped into the building. I was always in a bad mood. I began having migraines. Deciding to quit totally comes from your gut. It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made but it worked out well. I realized that my happiness was way too important.

  2. I knew it was time to quit one of my jobs when I found out (through one of my friends inadvertently printing out everyone’s salary on the wrong printer and leaving it there for us to see) that a woman who taught half the classes I did and didn’t get good evaluations as I did got paid
    $12k more than I did.

    I simply told the VP, whom everyone knew to be a tattle tale who would tell the main boss everything, that I knew everyone’s salary and was quitting because of it. The next day I got a $12k raise. But, you know what; even that was not enought to get rid of the gutt feeling I had telling me I should be doing something else.

    The gut trumps money every time.


  3. Eartha – Those physical symptoms are pretty common. The stress and pain of doing work you hate can take its toll on your body. Glad to hear it’s working out.

    Alfa – That’s one of those thing you realize when you see that all a job has going for it is the money. Suddenly the salary stops looking so great.

    Shane – Sounds like you made the right decision. Your gut does a great job of guiding you.

  4. I made the mistake once of jumping too early and I would not recommend it to anyone! Your own business is a lot sweeter when it can actually cover your bills.

  5. Brian – That’s true. You’re the one who ultimately has to be comfortable in the decision.

    Priscilla – Great advice. Just don’t get too caught up in the money side. I’ve known lots of folks who use the “when I have enough money” excuse to never take a crack at their own business. Be practical and realistic, but not overly cautious.

  6. Tony, Thanks for answering this one so clearly.

    I’ve got so much I could say about my own situation right now but it would come across as so much whining so I’ll skip it this once. 🙂

  7. This is an excellent list of indicators – well written. I particularly liked the last one – I must remember to ask “the higher power” more often – and take more notice of my wife.

    Many of the other indicators resonate with me too. Illness was taking its toll on my performance and I couldn’t stand the boss – nor could anyone else. (He’s since been “relocated” elsewhere in the organisation where he can’t cause any harm).

    Perhaps the clearest indicator for me was the gut feeling. I just knew it was time. In fact, I consistently heard an almost audible voice within saying “the time is right.” Sounds weird but it worked for me.

  8. The best time to quit your job is when you’ve got your expenses down low enough so you could survive for the amount of time it will take to get your salary back up to where you are accustomed.

    You will make better business decisions when you aren’t being motivated primarily by the fear of losing your house.

  9. Chris – You’ll know when it’s right. Let me know if I can help 🙂

    Trevor – That doesn’t sound weird to me. I’ve heard it myself. I’ve had the most success in business (and in life, actually) when I followed my instinct and intuition. Logic is an amazing tool for working out most issues, but nothing beats that feeling of rightness. It hasn’t let me down yet.

    Mark – Great point, and one that is often overlooked. Lowering expenses can be a good way to offset the initial difference in income.

  10. I had mayn collagues who had problem with their jobs. I advised them to get profesional help. Many of them told me that the real problem was not their job, but their self-confidence. Anyway, what I am triying to say is that you should try to discover the roots of your problem before quitting your job and taking a risk.

  11. Excellent advice for everyone. I especially liked your referencing a “higher power”. Sometimes we forget that spouses and partners may not share our enthusiasm for taking this kind of plunge. If it’s going to be successful, you’ll want to have them in your corner.

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