I'm contemplating quitting my job without anything lined up
August 13, 2017 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for perspective on how bad or good of an idea it is to quit my current job without another job lined up.

My brain is all sorts of flustered trying to decide whether to quit my job. My company has not been doing well and have let a few people go in the past few months. Morale is basement level, partly due to finances but also bad management and other issues. There is a lot of resentment from employees towards certain parts of management.

I personally feel I have been pushed aside because new bossman has taken a liking to the other person who also does what I do. Most projects have gone to him lately, so not only am I sitting at a job I don't enjoy anymore, I'm not even working on anything that could add to my portfolio.

I've been job hunting for the past year, but there's not a lot of full time positions for what I do (video editing). Most people freelance. I am considering quitting now to try to freelance while still looking for full time jobs. My worry is that I will have a hard time finding contract work because I don't have a huge network in the industry. I've done a few things in the past on the side, but not a whole lot.

I was planning to quit next week but now I'm getting cold feet. I have six months pay saved up, plus six figures in savings/investment. My bf has also witnessed my misery for so long and says he can support me if I quit, although I don't think I'll really need it, at least for a while. I guess I was feeling this was the right time to quit because I'm in between projects and can exit easily. At the same time, the work is easy and I often have time to work on my own things at work. It's just the feeling of getting snubbed that is getting to me.

Should I just do it and then focus all my energy into finding new work/networking or should I play it safe and continue looking for jobs while getting a paycheck but feeling resentful? Help me parse out the feelings.
posted by monologish to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who has always quit before having something lined up, I don't recommend it. You want to freelance, but not having a network is often fatal to this plan. It's going to be very difficult to get on your feet, so be sure to have at least 6 months of savings (if not a year, really). Do you have a portfolio so that you can try to grow your network before you leave this position? Any meetups or anything for those in your industry, or, more lucratively, those who use your skills (weddings, podcasters, etc.) will introduce you to the people who may become clients.

I think it might be a better use of your time to teach yourself not to take your job seriously. The company may lay you off, they may not, but see if you can take a step back and not internalize your job so much. There's really no reward, especially since you can see the limits of the company's loyalty to its employees. Just grind for the check, because, full disclosure, I wish I had a job I didn't like right now instead of hunting for clients and despairing in the permanent job hunt.
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on August 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Milk getting a paycheck for as long as you possibly can, I say. These days people can go years before finding a position (and I do mean *any* position, even part time at Starbucks). Don't quit because of hurt feelings, it's not worth the lack of money.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:36 PM on August 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

Stay on the job. Keep hunting for work. But more importantly, focus on the thing that can help you the most: your contacts. Milk the ones you do have, and actively try to engage with others, whether that means attending industry events or...whatever will help. If a great job turns up (full-time or freelance), you can resign and take it. If you get laid off, you'll be eligible for unemployment, which is a bonus.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:43 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

If work is easy and you currently have time to work on your own stuff, I would use this time to build up what you need to for successful freelancing. So, make an awesome portfolio, build a website that will attract clients, reach out to people to get coffee and chat, teach yourself some skills that would help you get more freelancing gigs, etc. Then you can quit more confidently and have more of a plan in place for leaving. This also puts you in a better position if you do get laid off.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:53 PM on August 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

If freelancing is what you want to do, it's best to hold out in the job as long as you can while putting your highest priority on building your network and lining up some freelance work. Even having one reasonably regular client can make quitting a job a whole lot less anxiety-provoking.

If, on the other hand, you really are looking for another full-time job, I've always found it acceptable (and sometimes more than acceptable) to prospective employers to say that you wouldn't feel right continuing to draw a paycheck from your old company while putting so much energy into job-hunting. Especially if you want to network through the people at your old company.
posted by DrGail at 3:17 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm going to provide counterpoint and say "Do it." If you had dependents or were living from hand to mouth, no, it would be a bad idea, but your situation (money saved, partner willing to help if need be) is ideal, and you'll feel better being out of there. I've quit under much worse circumstances and had to scramble for another job, but I didn't regret it. Being able to say "I quit!" feels great.
posted by languagehat at 3:29 PM on August 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm going to the nth the counterpoint idea, plus nth the hybrid (if you can, I'd hold out for the hybrid, but only you know how much you have preperaed, etc.). I'm adding random information as a person who freelanced fulltime for many years.

If you have the free time at work (and are frustrated), use that to drive you towards setting up your freelance business. That could anything from making a web page, researching companies, contacting former coworkers who like your work, etc.

Also, I quit and jumped into freelancing when I had only a few months saved up plus one person who said they would throw work to me. They did not start handing work to me until I officially quit. For the record, i would not hire someone to freelance unless they were free of the employer, because it is hard/impossible to balance that many people (for me).

Also, once I quit? Boy did the idea of needing work, money, etc., drive me to find clients and reach out to people. It wasn't that hard to drum up clients in my industry, but i don't know much about your particular niche or industry.

Feel free to memail if you want ideas as to how find clients, but I'm not sure if my industry would translate to your niche/industry.
posted by Wolfster at 3:49 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'll share a little of my story with you; when I was unhappy with my job and quit to freelance without much of a network, being at home alone all day and having very little income took a huge hit on my psyche and put me into the worst depression in my entire life. After a year or so I finally gave up the idea of freelancing and went to a temp agency to take anything I could get (which wasn't great for my self-esteem either but at least there was a paycheck). After that I was in counseling for three full years. That was more than ten years ago and there are still significant repercussions in my daily life today, both in my personal life (it drastically affected my SO's trust in me) and in terms of my earnings.

If I had it to do over again I would have started freelancing much much more while I was still working until I got to the point where I was turning down freelance gigs left and right due to being too busy before I quit my job. Freelancing is running a small business; that business has got to be viable before you can realistically hire yourself as a fulltime employee.
posted by vignettist at 4:09 PM on August 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

From what I've observed, freelance video editing is very much a who-you-know job. I've had the resume hose briefly directed at my inbox, and the number of freelance video editors flooding the feed was astounding. But the people who get hired - it's always somebody who knows somebody.

There's an advantage to the fact that your company has been letting people go: Some of those people may have been already hired at other companies, and that means you've got contacts. Contacts who are bitter about the company you want to leave, and will be glad to grab lunch with you and commiserate and will totally understand and sympathize with you wanting to get out... and who may just happen to be in a position to put a good word in for you somewhere else.

Get in touch with those people. Have lunch with them.
posted by clawsoon at 5:07 PM on August 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think it will take longer than your saved 6 months' pay to start pulling in any kind of livable income on your own even if you had clients right away (not to mention health, dental, etc. coverage you may get from work.) Is the savings your retirement savings? I am filled with panic at the idea of touching a cent of retirement for something like this. I don't have a partner to support me but even if I had that offer I would not count on it.

I'm sorry you're miserable at work; I've been there and it drains the life out of a person. But maybe if you can get over feeling snubbed you can use them for the check, the benefits, the easy day, the free time, and the potential contacts. It's easy to detach from office politics when you know they're just a paycheck to you and that you're actively working toward being out the door.

I hate to be all "in this economy," but in this economy, unless you're really really REALLY fuckin rich I can't see leaving steady income with nothing lined up over something like this.
posted by kapers at 8:36 PM on August 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Quit in your head, but not to your boss. This gives you the mental benefits of quitting while still getting a paycheck. Coast along and prepare for whats next. And if they let you go, you can collect unemployment.
posted by 445supermag at 10:42 PM on August 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

The advice I always give, based on past experience, is that if you get through most or all days of your job without crying or vomiting (or whatever your body does when stressed to the max), take advantage of the pay, the benefits, the opportunity to interact with other human beings, etc., and start working on your plan to get a new job. You can freelance from 5p to bedtime and all day on the weekends to augment your funds, build your relationships, and make contacts at lunchtime or even breakfast meetings. Incrementally increase your freelance jobs until it's to your advantage to quit, but not a moment sooner. That's my advice.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:18 PM on August 13, 2017

Middle of the road answer: can you convert your current job into a freelancing arrangement with this company, perhaps with a guaranteed minimum monthly? If they're failing, they might actually prefer this arrangement, and it would be good for you to have a client and known revenue stream as you launch.

Practical warning: have you figured out how you would handle health care, if you live in the US?
posted by carmicha at 10:13 AM on August 14, 2017

I have never regretted quitting a job before having another lined up, and I've almost never found a job while currently employed, counter to popular advice. There are never any guarantees, of course, and that's stressful in its own way, but a soul sucking job takes the drive out of me like nothing else.

Every time I've done this -- including during the 2007-09 depression -- I've later looked back with enormous relief and pride in myself that I prioritized my own emotional and professional well being over conventional wisdom.

Good luck whatever path you take!
posted by spindrifter at 3:11 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am one of those people who will wholeheartedly support your gut instinct to jump ship before you're made to bail. This is why: that feeling you are having now, it will only get worse. It will progress to a burnout. You will be resigning in a defeated mode instead of from a place of power like you would be now. You have budgeted well, you know what you have at stake... and here's the thing: there are jobs out there. There are entry level jobs in logistics that will totally take a career conversion from a video editing background and give you a livable wage. There are other companies you can approach - small companies! Big companies. Niche fields that maybe you haven't though about.

I have quit every job I've ever had without a safety net lined up. I'm not saying this is the most practical route, I'm saying this is what I have done. I have swallowed my pride, lived spartan-like, stayed with family, etc. You have to adjust this narrative to fit your own life but... what's the worst thing that could happen that your cold feet are trying to scare you from? Realistically, maybe it takes you longer than expected to find the caliber of compensation you are accustomed to. Maybe you have to downsize. Maybe you have to adjust your lifestyle. Maybe you teach how to do what you do for a living, instead. In all honesty - what is your actual happiness worth to you? Is it fighting the stoic fight and staying for a paycheck, or is it owning your lot in life and making moves that bring you to not look at the clock everyday, ready to run away from Slate Rock and Gravel like Fred Flintstone when the whistle blows?

Life is too damn short. You've been checked out on the job for a year if you've been hunting. Finalize the decision to leave.
posted by missh at 6:24 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

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