How I Did It: I Left My Corporate Job to Work for Myself

Jill Beirne Davi

starting own businessSeven 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.

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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.

  • Michelle

    Your story sounds so similar to mine, almost like I just read a story about myself! I love this :)

    I am leaving my day job this week (turned in my notice one month ago), and turning to full-time self-employment. We just finished paying off $40,000 in student loans in order to make this possible.

  • Amie W

    What an inspirational story! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Amber

    What a great testimony of hard work and independence! Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.

  • Andrea

    So inspiring, thank you for sharing! I just started a corporate job, and I’m already thinking of starting my own company, but I have major debt to pay off, and hearing that you did all of this is just awesome and lifted my day, thank you!

  • Faisal

    Great story thank you for sharing. I almost imagined myself saying good bye to my coworkers. I enjoyed your reference to Richard Branson. If only we could emulate him and his life :)

  • Bonnie Jane

    This is such an inspiring story. I love how well thought out your exit plan was. You’ve given me so much to think about, thank you!

  • C.C. Lee

    This article came at the right time since I have been thinking about generating new sources of income. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Mike

    A fine article! I’m glad to see someone find their niche and execute well enough that it becomes a real business! Well done!

  • Marbeka Malek

    Agree, very inspiring. It’d be good also to hear from any mum who has made in self employment with kids and no financial help from hubby or relatives.

  • Melissa

    Thank you so much for sharing! You are doing exactly what I have a passion for and I’m going through the “I have no idea where to begin” phase. Thanks for sharing what you did and I now know what to do!

  • Andrea Brundage

    Excellent article, Jillian. It’s so good, I have shared it on my social media outlets.

  • tjvincent

    I don’t know you, but I am so proud of you and what you are doing! I enjoyed reading your article and it’s another testament to the American Spirit and entrepreneurship this country was founded upon. Many blessings to you and your new career!

  • Lana

    Amazing story! I’ve been attempting to open my own business for about 6 months now.. But I keep stopping because I’m nervous or scared of the outcome if its not what I want. But this has definitely inspired me to take a leap of faith and just do it.

    Thank you!

  • Lori

    Hi, This is a great article, but seems geared to people 40 and under. I’m in the 50+ group, do you have any suggestions for those of us in that age group?

  • DianeK

    This article was so inspiring to me! I am currently in the same situation of running my own health and wellness consulting business. I struggle with fear and self doubt all the time..including the “sweating when discussing pricing” with clients :) it’s definitely a big risk but I also find the benefits of having my own schedule and being my own boss absolutely priceless.

  • evr

    Great story. However, would love to hear more from people who go into business with less than about $1000 savings — because for about half of America, that’s reality. What this woman did was great, but I want to see more stories about people who didn’t wait to have 22K saved up, especially because many people literally can’t save that way given their wages.

    • Johanna

      I started a job paying $19/hr 2 years ago and already have over $35,000 saved up this also included money saved up from tax returns and also I pay my own rent I have no roommates to split bills with (by choice) and also managed to pay cash for a very good quality used vehicle. I only had $800 before this job and was on the brink of broke. It’s possible to dig yourself out from a rut!

      People just look for excuses not to make it or accomplish anything in life. In January 2014 I started my own eCommerce business that brings in $1200 – $1950/month 4 months ago!! I plan on growing it this business and leaving my job by September 2014. People it is POSSIBLE!

      • Adam12

        hi i was wondering what eCommerce site you used. Ive been investigating time to learn i really like the concept….i was wondering if you had a minute to share your story my name is adam and my email is Thank you anyways even though short i like your words! Take care !

  • Nicki

    Hi Jill – thank you for sharing your inspirational story. I resigned from my corporate position 2 weeks ago and my last day is January 6. I am venturing out on my own to start my own coaching and consulting practice also. I got over the nervousness of losing the bi-weekly significant pay cheque and am now confident that I will be successful. I have a great plan and will take your advice to help support my success. All the best with your business.

  • Jan Shir

    Good for you! Many of us are not that able to save anything and are stuck in employee hell, unable to escape with any savings.