This post was originally going to be a recap of where I am in my practice; however, I got to talking to another Dietitian, who was in a similar position to me before I left my full-time job, and realized that some of the things I was telling her I had wished someone would have told me. So, alas, this post is all about figuring out if you are ready to make that leap from full-time employee to a self-employed business owner and how to prepare yourself for it.
Signs it is Time to Quit
There are a ton of articles out there about when you know it is time to quit your job. This could mean you get another full-time gig or go out on your own. From my experience and hearing from other RDs, here are a few of the signs that it may be time to quit your job: no current advancement available, overqualified for your position, lack of autonomy, dreading work, feeling stressed/anxious about work on a daily basis, and having your overall health suffer (limited sleep, poor food habits, etc). For my situation, in addition to the latter, I also knew that I was at the point that I could not grow my practice without leaving my full-time job.
If you have ever seriously thought about becoming a business-owner, you will go through a lot of different emotions. I would spend hours agonizing over my decision and second guessing myself. Was I going to be able to do this? Would I let everyone down? What if I failed? While you may always have ups and downs with your business, I would highly suggest working through your emotions in a productive way. Figure out your fears (check out my blog on tackling fears), create a plan, and find support (family, online groups, fellow entrepreneurs, etc). It will really help in the long-run when you are feeling discouraged or overwhelmed.
Be prepared for the fact that you may not make the same level of income as you did in a full-time job. It may take 1-month or even a year to reach your financial goals. Everyone is in a different financial situation so the key here is to figure out what your comfort level is in terms of finances so you know the best time for YOU to make the leap towards becoming self-employed. One of the biggest things for me was knowing that I had built up a savings my whole life (thanks to my Dad) and I continued saving even more so during my last few months of working a full-time job. It also really helped to map out all of my financial obligations (rent, food, health insurance, etc) and determine how much I needed to make to either break-even or be able to save.
I used to hear from some of my friends and family to just quit my job and pursue my private practice. They had such faith in me and knew how hard I worked at everything I did. Despite their encouragement, it still took me months to commit to leaving my job and becoming a sole proprietor. One thing I learned is that you have to do it on your own terms. Yes, sometimes you are there and just need a little push; however, if you absolutely know you are not ready, they don’t be hasty and leap before you have a landing pad. I felt more comfortable taking the leap when I was already set-up as a provider (which included setting up my NPI, EIN, liability insurance, etc), had billed a few claims (successfully), figured out a method of taking payment (business and merchant accounts), had at least 1 referral source, and had set-up my social media/online presence. I am not saying you need to be totally sound and advanced at everything you do in your practice, because there is so much I learned along the way; however, if you are looking to stand on your own two feet within a month or so of being self-employed, you need to have some kind of base. Lastly, know yourself and your limits before taking the jump. Do you need to work on your organizational skills? Are you one to procrastinate? Know what your strengths are and play on them. Know what your weaknesses are and commit to either working towards strengthening or at least identify so you don’t fall into poor business habits because of it.
One last thing I want to leave you with is that you cannot do everything without having one part of your life suffer. For me, I wasn’t exercising enough and didn’t get to enjoy being with friends or family as much as I had wanted. I was constantly stressed and stretched too thin. Honestly, true success to me now is knowing what my limits are, allowing time buffers in my day, and having the flexibility to balance all aspects of my life.
Are you thinking leaping towards a full-time private practice? Leave a comment and let me know if this post helped you to figure out your next move!