If every comedian I know had a nickel for every time they heard “Don’t quit your day job!” from some asshat heckler, everyone would have as much dough to work with as Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno do. Pursuing a dream is fantastic and wonderful and so adorably, quintessentially American. But having a day job is important, because, well, I don’t want my own taxes to go up to fund your need for attention or love of song or Pinterest-craft business. And because you probably have to pay rent and eat and all that jazz. So before you even think of maybe leaving your day job to chase stardom or entrepreneurship, be sure you have these bases covered.
(Of course, it also helps to just have a day job you like that’s also somewhat flexible. But not everyone can hit the employment jackpot.)
Be realistic and have a backup plan.
I’m not here to crush anyone’s dream, but just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s profitable. If you’re not lucky enough to have rich parents or a wealthy spouse or an awesome windfall or an insane amount of savings to back you up and cushion your fall, you need to have a backup plan, enough money in the bank to tide you over, and the ability to get employed again elsewhere (yes, another dreaded “day job”) you need to someday.
Dreaming is nice, but planning is what actually makes things happen. Make a plan, break it into tiny steps, and put it in writing. If your mind wanders or you get discouraged, you can whip that document out and get back on steady footing.
Create a budget.
And stick to it! Be sure to include some padding for unexpected expenses, such as accidents or workplace supply disasters (like an exploding printer, perhaps).
Network—and tell everyone you know about your idea.
Everyone should already be doing this anyway, but especially so if you’re venturing out on your own to start a business or pursue a lofty goal. You never know who your barista’s cousin may be. If you’re too scared to tell anyone for fear of theft of the idea (or failure!), then you’re not ready to get down to business.