Some people just up and quit. Others start their businesses on the side and keep their day jobs. There are many options in between, of course, and no single path fits all. Emily Bennington spent two years working after hours on her business consulting practice, Professional Studio 365, before making the full-time leap. She was a successful marketing leader at a Top 10 accounting firm, known for generating creative ideas to help new hires thrive at a competitive company. Higher-ups praised her work, but they rarely allowed Emily to actually put her ideas into action. Instead, they hired consultants to swoop in to execute them. Time and again, she watched from the sidelines as those ideas came to life. Finally, she'd had enough. Her passion for her work was too strong to allow others to do what she craved.
But Emily also had a family. She had bills to pay and didn't feel that she could leave her job without having steady income to re- place her paycheck. So she chose to work at her business on the side. She used vacation days to give speeches and attend conferences, spent evenings writing a book and, yes, stole spare moments at her day job to post blog entries and correspond with key contacts using her personal email.
It was after Emily attended a 2011 Spark & Hustle conference in New York that she says she was inspired to make the leap and leave her full-time job earlier than she had originally planned. She learned from the other women there that it's much harder to grow a business on the side than when you throw yourself into it 24/7. Her original goal was to replace her salary, but when she hit half that per month by doing side projects, she knew it was time to leave. After months of cutting her expenses and squirreling away money in savings, a nervous but determined Emily went for it. Her must-haves included health insurance, a few regular clients, a great website and affordable day care.
Today, employers call on Emily to teach them how to recruit and retain the best entry-level talent. At human resource conferences, she shows companies how to develop programs to help new hires succeed. She gives speeches on college campuses and at women's events about how to be a rock star on the job. Emily also writes extensively and pitches herself to the media as a college-to-career expert, which has generated national attention for her work, along with clients and referrals. Emily's doing what she does best: getting paid to generate ideas and programs that inspire others.
Be an Emily. Don't wait for someone else to tell you what to do. You have to make the decision based on your financial situation, personal circumstances and ability to handle uncertainty. Financial guru Suze Orman has said you should have twelve months of operating expenses in the bank before launching a business. I love Suze, but that's not very realistic for most aspiring entrepreneurs. If I had waited until I could bank even half of that before starting Women For Hire, I would never have gotten it off the ground. I barely had a couple of months of cash when I took the plunge. My guess is that most entrepreneurs are in the same boat—I know the ones I work closely with sure are.