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Ask Nicole: Did You Ever Leave Your Day Job to Run Your Business Full-Time?

Blog Post

In 2014, I wrote the blog post “Am I On the Right Track? Evaluating Nicole Clark Consulting“.

I received several reactions, summed up in these ways:

“I didn’t know you were working full-time!”


“How are you running a business while working full-time?”

Since that time, I’ve been asked about my progress on the goals from that post, primarily on this goal:

Transition into Nicole Clark Consulting full-time by January 2016

Starting today, June 1, 2016, I am running Nicole Clark Consulting full-time. Yes, I’m behind on my goal by 6 months, but better late than never.

I set the wheels in motion on October 1, 2015, and on the morning of January 1, 2016, while overlooking New York City skyline on the observation deck of One World Trade Center, I knew I was ready. Honestly, I had forgotten that January 1, 2016 was my original full-time date, and decided that June 1, 2016 would be the day I would be full-time in my business.

I submitted my resignation letter to my supervisor on March 31, 2016, with my last day being May 31, 2016. I didn’t mind staying in my position for the extra 2 months as it ended up taking 2 months for my replacement to be hired and trained.

Outside of some family members, a few friends, and some colleagues (both entrepreneurs and my office co-workers), the only people who knew about my resignation were my Raise Your Voice newsletter subscribers. I also wanted to make sure that all of my client contracts were finalized before submitting my resignation as well.

Let’s go back over my progress:

In my 2011 post, “Career Leaps, Insecurities, and What’s Next“, I had the following goals:

  • Quit my day job and begin working full time as a consultant, writer, and speaker (DONE: 6/1/16. Though I wouldn’t say that writing in a major part of it now. I’ve included more trainings in my services.)
  • Submit the paperwork for my own non-profit business that focuses on sexual and reproductive health of young women of color (NOPE. I dropped this goal soon after declaring it. I’m still able to work on sexual and reproductive health and with young women of color, but more so on my program design, evaluation, and workshop models)
  • Get my LMSW (license to practice social work) (DONE: I passed my exam in March 2014)
  • Become a certified life coach (NOPE. Like the nonprofit goal, this was dropped soon after declaring it.)
  • Double my annual income and having multiple (and sustaining) streams of income (by way of speaking engagements, writing, coaching, and consulting (DONE: I was definitely able to do it while in my day job, and I landed enough client opportunities to make me feel comfortable with resigning from my day job this year.)

In 2014, my goals were:

  • Upgrade my image by January 2015 (blog redesign, new head shots to use for social media platforms and promotional purposes, etc.) (DONE, though delayed. In October 2015, I had my first professional photo shoot with photographer Jen Painter, and between October 2015 and November 2015, I transferred my blog from Tumblr to WordPress, chose the WordPress premium theme Avada to design my blog, and relaunched my blog in mid November 2015.)
  • Increase my Raise Your Voice newsletter email list by 50% and increase my open rates (I can do this by being more consistent with sending out newsletters, developing a new freebie as gratitude for signing up, updating the current freebie that I have, etc.) (IN PROGRESS. While I did increase my subscriber count by 50%, I wasn’t very consistent in connecting with my subscribers, resulting in lower open rates. When you’re not consistent, people forgot about you. Also, while I haven’t developed any new freebies, I did update The Revolution Starts with Me! self care zine that subscribers get when they sign up for my newsletter.)
  • Gain more exposure (promote availability for media requests, gain advice and insights on speaking to the media, speakers fees for conferences, demand for travel and lodging expenses to be paid for, etc.) (IN PROGRESS. Most of the conferences I’ve attended since 2014 have been a mixture of me paying for my travel and lodging expenses or the host paying for me. Most of my speaking opportunities have been unpaid and at free events or at conferences, but I was paid to co-facilitate a webinar on Reproductive Justice 101 for Social Workers for Reproductive Justice, and I have another paid training event in the next few months. Now that I’m full-time, I want to shift into doing more paid trainings and speaking events.
  • Build up my clientele list to gain more leads and pay-for-service opportunities (This will eventually replace my full-time employee income) (IN PROGRESS. This is an interesting goal. My original intent was to gain as many clients as possible, but then I realized that my time is much better spent with having a smaller yet quality list of reliable clients, especially since I’m a one-woman show. Look at it this way: I can make $60,000 from 12 clients, who each pay me $5,000. I can make the same amount with 6 clients who each pay $10,000. I can also make that amount with 3 clients who pay $20,000 each, or even with 2 clients who pay $30,000 each. I can play it whichever way I want, and pay attention to my ability to provide quality work.)
  • Transition into Nicole Clark Consulting full-time by January 2016 (DONE June 1, 2016!)

When people discovered I was building my business on the side, I was asked what was day job consisted of.

I was a case manager with Housing Works, a national nonprofit whose mission is to end the dual crises of HIV/AIDS and homelessness in New York City and nationally. I started with Housing Works in August 2010, 3 months after finishing graduate school. While the organization has a great reputation, and I got a lot of joy from seeing my clients make progress on their goals, the desire to be on my own became too overpowering.

As my responsibilities in my day job increased, so did the opportunities for my business. I took Rosetta Thurman’s advice and used vacation days to meet with clients and facilitate workshops, worked from 6am-7:30 during the mornings, worked after coming home from the office, and used my weekends on work on my business.   It wasn’t easy at all, but I knew that if I wanted to see today happen, I needed to buckle down.

When I submitted my resignation letter, I felt an enormous sign of relief, but also some fear. Well, a lot of fear. But I also noticed that many things began to shift to make way for this transition. I landed another client, and my first paid training opportunity, and the major work I was told was going to take place with my current clients was shifted to June.

Also, people who I have admired, and who I thought were already working in their businesses full-time, recently left their day jobs or they are planning to leave soon.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned a lot on this journey.

For starters, there is never a true arrival. Yes, I completed my goal of being full-time in my business, but the true work begins now.

Secondly, there will never be a “perfect” time. Every time I made the goal of leaving my job, and every time that date passed, I grew frustrated with myself. But at the start of 2016, I knew in my heart that it was time, even though there was a tremendous amount of fear attached. You can sign up for all the webinars, trainings, programs, or buy all the books, but the more you think you need to have everything perfect, the more you procrastinate. Yes, make sure you have enough income to sustain yourself. Make sure that your business idea is something that you can provide value with and profit from.

But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is this:

One day, your desire will make you so uncomfortable, you'll have no choice but to chase it. Click To Tweet

Having this dual identity, of being an employer and a business owner, became so uncomfortable that I made the decision to do whatever needed to make my dream a reality. In spite of all the fears I still have, I’m so happy to get to this point, and I’m excited for what’s to come.

Spread the Word!

I would love it if you help me spread the word about my business! If you know of any organization, agency, or business that are looking for the services I provide, please share my Design, Evaluation, and Speaking services.

And if you would like me to work with your team, tell me more about your project by filling out my client questionnaire. When you’re done, be sure to set up a phone consultation.

RAISE YOUR VOICE: What long or short-term business or life goals have you check off in 2016?

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