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Why I Quit My Cushy Job

I suspect I'm a bit of an anomoly in the film industry. For much of my 8-year career in video production, I have primarily had full-time jobs, sometimes with benefits even! I never really made a go of the whole freelance thing. And I realize that I am very lucky to have been gainfully employed in an arts industry, where making anywhere close to a living in your field is an accomplishment in itself.

So why did I decide to quit my full-time video production job with benefits? Well, let's first acknowledge that being in a position to chase your dreams and quit your job is an extremely privileged position. Yes, I worked hard, but I had a lot of advantages throughout life and some straight-up luck that helped me get to this point.

Next let's talk about the practical things that enabled me to move forward on this: First, I found a niche that made me feel running my own business would be more viable. There are so many video production companies to compete with I never felt I could go that route, but it was when I discovered virtual reality (360°) video that I felt I could set myself apart from the competition. Niche businesses are actually often more guaranteed to be successful. The last two companies I worked for had niches: one made videos primarily for trade associations, and the other made video and interactive installations for museums.

Second, once I set my mind on quitting and starting my own business, I saved money more aggressively and I found ways to make some additional passive (or quasi-passive) income on the side through the Sharing Economy (more on that in the next blog post! Stay tuned!). So it was not until I felt I had a decent financial cushion (that I could live for 6 months without making a single penny and without touching certain "emergency" accounts) that I quit.

...if I didn't make the leap my "side projects" would always be just that: SIDE projects.

Beyond finally being in a financial place where it seemed feasible, there are two main reasons I made the leap. The first and most important is because I realized that if I didn't make the leap my "side projects" would always be just that: SIDE projects. And I wanted these "side projects" to be just "my projects."

I know the above image/quote is cheesy, but it also is true. Those "side projects" are the things that would take my career in the direction I want it to go. Yet, I was spending more of my time and energy on things that would not help me reach my goals than on the things that would.

There is a great Onion article about this. My favorite quote from it: "Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do."

The second thing I realized was:

The only reason I could think of to stay at my job was because it was "safe."

Don't get me wrong, I loved my coworkers and even some aspects of my job. And I learned things and made connections. But I will keep learning and I can keep in touch with my colleagues, so the only thing really holding me back was fear of losing that financial security.

And it. Is. Terrifying. Emergencies happen and it's hard to give up the steady income and company-provided health, dental, and life insurance when you know that (and have experienced it firsthand). Plus, I just like having money (who doesn't?). I like being able to eat out or take cabs or travel from time to time, and to get to this point where I had the financial cushion to go solo, I had to cut back on a lot of those things. But that's a small sacrifice to reach my bigger goals.

Now I'm 5 months in, and I'll admit: finances are tight. I spend more time at home because I can't afford to go out. I haven't taken a non-work trip all year (and have none planned except for hopefully home for the holidays to see family). And things are moving in a positive direction but actually being profitable is still pretty far off on the horizon - and even though I knew that going into this, it still makes me terrified that I might fail. Things change in this industry - in the world, even - so quickly. Even if I become wildly successful, that could all fade away with the drop of a hat because of some big technological change. But, then again, I've also been laid off from steady jobs twice and seen countless others who have gone through the same thing. Bad things can happen to you anywhere, anytime, no matter how "safe" you try to play it. So this sounds pessimistic but I mean it in the opposite way:

No one is ever truly safe from misfortune. But that is one of the best justifications I can think of to take calculated risks.

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