Seven months ago I transitioned out of a corporate job in market research to work for myself full-time.
By the time I left my day job to become a personal finance coach, I had nine clients, $22,000 in savings to cover my living expenses and $5,000 in a business account.
This is how I did it.
Getting Ready to Go
The road to self-employment really began six years ago when I dug myself out of $30,000 in debt and radically changed my money habits. Once I sent in that last payment on my last card, I vowed never to go back.
As I started sharing my story with friends, they started asking me (quietly) if I would help them with their finances. At this point, I was self-taught through books and my own experiences, without any formal financial training. I made sure everyone knew I wasn’t a financial adviser or anything, and I certainly didn’t give investment advice. I was just a woman who struggled and turned things around. I was happy to share, so when my sister suggested that I teach a class on the subject, I agreed. Ten women—some friends, some friends of friends—showed up to the first event.
What started as a small hobby on the side began to grow into something I absolutely loved to do. I began to teach more workshops in the evenings, and afterward people would ask me to look at their finances privately. I became known as the “money lady,” setting up budgets and helping people get organized. It started with a friend asking me how to create her budget. Another woman wanted me to sit down with her to figure out how to use her tax returns and bonus to get out of debt. Another wanted to figure out how to save $10,000 to go back to grad school. Next thing you know, I had actual clients!
After about three years of slowly building up a private coaching and consulting practice, I made the decision that I wanted to do this full-time.
Because money can be a landmine topic for some people, I knew I had to learn more skills around talking about money without judgment. I got certified in coaching at NYU, and by some miracle my classes were approved for tuition reimbursement from my corporate job. After about three years of slowly building up a private coaching and consulting practice, I made the decision that I wanted to do this full-time. I wanted flexibility in my schedule, I wanted to ditch the 45-minute commute and I wanted to help more people, putting them first instead of squeezing them into my nights and weekends.
After working in market research for nearly 10 years, I was ready for a change.
Deciding When to Make the Leap
I love security and certainty—Richard Branson, I am not. Wanting never again to fall into the financial straits I had faced in the past, I decided to build a strong financial foundation first, before leaving my corporate job.
Over the course of a year and a half, I saved up about $22,000 through tax returns, two bonuses, taking the payout from my extra vacation days, and putting money aside out of every paycheck on top of that. I got married just before I started preparing to leave my job (who can deal with wedding planning and building a business at the same time?), and saved up enough to cover my portion of the household expenses for one year. That way, there wouldn’t be tremendous pressure on my husband, who works in the insurance industry, to pick up all of the slack if my income was shaky during the first 12 months on my own.