Many of us probably grew up with the notion that making a lot of money meant success. Or, that making enough money to live quite comfortably was the desired outcome after going to college, completing that internship, or taking the study abroad opportunity.
If you’re like me, you might have felt a certain pressure: that in order to have really made it as an adult, money must surely be steadily, stably flowing in.
And it must be offering enough for you to live comfortably, or you need be at least climbing a career ladder to reach your desired level of comfort.
Can I share something with you? Although this is the reality for some, and the comfort that comes from financial stability is very real, money is not everything. We can have plenty of it, and still feel unaccomplished and less than successful. We can sometimes feel the weight of internal conflict so heavily - sure that our stable career is keeping us afloat, because on paper, we should be comfortable, right? But internally, we might know that this stable career without passion makes us feel so deeply that something is missing; that our wellbeing isn’t as well as we’d hoped when we got into this. A steady and stable career path that “provides”, can simultaneously become a source of resentment and lead to burnout and exhaustion. Have you felt this before? Are you feeling this now?
I work with women entrepreneurs a lot, and the most pressing question I receive is about the financial concern of becoming a full-time entrepreneur, or the discomfort of cutting back financially when switching careers after a decade in their respective industry. “What do I do? I want to change career paths, but what about the pay cut?” If you find yourself in this thought process too, I want to encourage you: you can do it. You will survive the change in pay.
If you’re going after your own dreams as an entrepreneur or freelancer, you’re not irresponsible, you’re courageous.
I’m writing you here to share with you some tangible steps for addressing the pay cut concern.
Commit to Changing Direction
First of all, my hope for you is that if you’re on a career path that is leaving you mentally, emotionally, or physically drained at the end of each day, you will make a commitment to changing direction. No matter how much money you might be making, no amount is worth putting strain on your relationships, your health, or your mental state. It’s too easy to stay in a career that offers the comfort of financial stability, but conflicts with your morals, values, or just leaves you feeling excessively stressed and spent.
I encourage you to take stock of your priorities, values, and non-negotiables.
What makes the top five priority list for you in the workplace or in your work? Do you want to work 35 hours a week, max? Do you want to work solo, or in community with other like-minded individuals? What are your values and some non-negotiable factors? Do these items you’ve listed align with where you are currently? If not, my hope for you is that you have the courage to start making moves toward a change.
Be Ambitious + Make a Plan
My second hope for you if you’ve decided to change directions in your profession or career path, is that you’re somewhat realistic, somewhat optimistic, but mostly, ambitious. Know that the journey of transitioning careers, especially moving into a different vocation altogether or starting a business of your own, may not necessarily be comfortable - in fact, it’s usually pretty uncomfortable, but girl, it. Is. Worth. It.
Grab a piece of paper (maybe that same one you just used to gather the courage toward making a change) and make a list of alternatives to your current career path, as well as some specialty skills you have. (P.S. Tenacity is totally a skill - so if something interests you but you’ve never tried it, add that to the list, too. This is just to get you thinking of what’s possible!) Really think about it. What are you doing in your daydreams? What have you tried before and thought, “Hmm. I wonder if I could make money doing this?” Write it all down!
From there, choose three of your first-choice alternatives and maybe highlight some of the skills you already have that could help kick-start you toward one of these chosen, potential directions. Draft out a loose timeline for each alternative path, writing in some practical, actionable steps you would need to start taking, and realistic quarterly goals that would span the next year. After you’ve written your alternative options down on paper, thoughtfully assess them - this could take a few days, weeks, or even months. Where are you headed next? Once that becomes clear, use your timeline as your game-plan.
Create a Budget Strategy
If you’re still reading, my guess is that your vision of success is not becoming wealthy from sticking it out in a career that doesn’t fill you up, but rather, you are dreaming of what could be. You’re strategizing about what comes next. (And sidenote: don’t get me wrong here, you can absolutely become wealthy from doing something you love, but typically that transition period is challenging so it’s best to be prepared.)
So here’s the scariest part: you will have to cut down your coffee dates, set some spending boundaries for yourself, and accept that you are probably not going to be able to afford the same luxuries as you did when you had that full-time, full benefits job. On the flip side of that though, you will find a sense of purpose and fulfillment that you likely had not known before making the transition. There is something beautifully terrifying, but insanely empowering about leaping into the unknown, shaking up the familiar and moving toward a career that aligns with your vision of success.
Write down and plan on sticking to a mostly-necessities budget. Pencil a savings goal into your timeline before you take the leap into what could be. Anywhere between one to three months of your current salary is a good place to start. Be willing to humbly accept that you may have to pick up a part-time job alongside your new career endeavor to make ends meet as well. No shame, but realistically, you might.
Financial concern is completely legitimate, but don’t live in fear that because this transition challenges you, it’s not worth going for.
Challenges force us to grow. Big leaps of faith force us to grow. Take a moment to decide: what does success mean to you?
Money will come and go, but your spirit, your sense of wonder and what sets your soul on fire, are worth protecting.
Photos by Eun Creative