Alright it’s official, I’ve gone back to work as of last Friday(11/1/13). For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that I have been working online full time for the past three months while I looked for a new job. Well I found one a couple months ago but I wanted to push my start date back until November in order to get some things in San Diego sorted out. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to over the past few months has asked me what I’ve been doing this whole time so I thought I’d share it all here.
I knew about 2-3 months in advance that I’d be leaving my old job in San Diego but I didn’t really start looking and applying for new jobs in Orange County until about a month out. The reason why is that I wanted to take at least 1-2 months off in-between jobs. I ended up leaving my former company without a new job in place and everyone told me this was a huge mistake. Personally, I think this was one of the best things I could have done since in-between jobs is the best time to take an extended break. A huge reason why I’ve worked so hard at saving and investing over the past few years is to allow myself the freedom to do something just like that.
A Work Hiatus is a Great Thing
I think way too many professionals are living paycheck to paycheck without even knowing it. When I ask other people why they don’t take more time off in-between new and old jobs they undoubtedly say, “because they need the money.” I have friends in other countries who take large breaks in-between jobs but that doesn’t seem to be the case when you’re seeking employment in the USA. I would highly recommend taking 1-2 months off in-between jobs to relax, go on vacation or just recharge.
Most people will probably get bored after a few weeks anyways if they have nothing going on and they’ll be pretty excited to get back to work. Even though I’ve been working online for the past three months(albeit only four hours a day), I still felt a sense of excitement and anxiousness on my first day at the new company. It’s definitely a cool feeling to meet new people, take on a new challenge and prove to your new co-workers that you are a great employee.
Since we had to move an hour north so my fiancee could go to medical school, my work hiatus started at the perfect time. I had about a week off before we moved so I got to take care of a bunch of stuff in San Diego and then we moved up to Newport Beach the next week. Moving can be stressful so not having to think about work during this time was a huge bonus.
I ended up taking a week long vacation to Cabo with my family a few weeks after we moved too. We went down to Mexico and it was very relaxing and inexpensive for me since my parents paid for nearly everything(thanks mom!). Other than that though, I took a lot of one day trips down to San Diego to play golf and up to LA to meet up with friends during my time off. I even got to go on a short three day trip to Vegas for my brother’s birthday.
The cool thing about working online is that even though I took all those trips, I still did a few hours of work every day – whether it was for my blog or for my freelancing gigs. Except when I was in Vegas of course!
One of the best parts about not working a day job was the flexibility it gave me to exercise. I have always been very active but working a 9-5 job is not too conducive to exercising. I don’t like getting up early to work out and I like doing things during the day when the weather is nicest. I bought a couple hybrid bicycles on Craigslist and started doing a ton of biking. I also joined a few basketball leagues and basically did anything active – hiking, surfing, tennis, snorkeling, etc.
Building Up My Blog
Even though it might sound like my time off was all fun and play, I actually did a lot to build my brand during the past three months. I started networking and developing relationships with a lot more bloggers and I also started posting more frequently. Ultimately, everything I did in my 3 months off for this site was with the ultimate goal of reducing my workload as much as possible so that when I went back to my day job I would only have to focus on producing epic content for my readers.
I think I did a pretty good job of building up this blog and in the near future I’ll only have to focus on writing articles and dealing with advertisers. Here’s what I focused on during my 3 months off:
- Hiring Help – I tried out a few virtual assistants during my time off and I now use one on a weekly basis that saves me about an hour’s worth of work. There’s only so much one person can do and in order for businesses to grow you eventually have to hire people you can trust. If you want to run your own business, I think hiring VA’s is the perfect practice for when you become the boss or manager of a group of people.
- Hiring Writers – I tried out a bunch of writers over the past three months and I now have a small team of go to writers that can help me out when things get too busy.
- Automating Processes – I actually made huge leaps here since I do a lot of social sharing on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google +. This can be a very time consuming process or very expensive if you hire someone. But I ended up finding a reliable service that helps me automate a lot of the social sharing I do.
- Getting Organized – One of the things I learned from the corporate world that also applies to my online activities is something called 5S or lean organization skills. If you can’t find a particular file on your computer within 10 seconds, then you probably need to work on these skills. I spent a lot of time organizing all of my spreadsheets: payments, expenses, advertisers, links, advertisers, etc so that going forward I have defined processes in place. Every time I get a new e-mail from an advertiser, I’ll add basic info to my spreadsheet – name, e-mail, ad request, follow-up date, etc. It only takes a few seconds and it should help me stay organized for years to come.
Since I gained so much knowledge and experience from starting this site, I knew there would be a lot of lessons learned that I could apply to a new site. Taking time off allowed me to start a new site and get the ball rolling. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s more of a lifestyle blog with a personal finance twist at www.thefourhourworkday.com
The nice thing about starting a second site is that I can leverage all of the advertising contacts, virtual assistants and writers I use for my main site. Although I haven’t made any money off my new site yet, I’m hoping to monetize it in the near future. Going forward I’ll only be spending about 1-2 hours a week on it writing articles and an hour or less responding to e-mails so it shouldn’t take up much of my time.
Since I knew I’d be leaving my job a couple months ahead of time, I started applying to a ton of freelance writing gigs. I actually developed a pretty efficient system that helped me land several high quality jobs. I set up an alert for the main job posting site I use – so every time a new job was posted, I got an e-mail. Then I also set up 5-7 mini-resumes depending on the type of gig. If it was for a real estate blog or site, I would send them my real estate mini-resume. If it was for a health and fitness site, I would send them my health and fitness mini-resume.
During my time off, I actually landed two steady jobs(that I still write for) and I worked on four or five freelance projects. I think my application strategy was a huge factor here since I was often one of the first ones to apply and my e-mails looked customized instead of just a standard application template.
I really enjoy writing because you can work on the articles whenever you want and once you’ve established yourself, you can get paid pretty well. If you’d like to hire me, take a look at my freelance resume here.
Explore New Business Opportunities
Another thing I tried to do during my time off was network with a ton of people in my new area. I knew a few people in Orange County, but I wanted to meet people that could help me explore new business opportunities. I have a lot of experience and knowledge in a wide array of businesses so I tried my best to reach out to people in all sorts of fields – engineering, real estate, online entrepreneurs, financial representatives, etc.
I probably could have done a better job at this but it’s not easy to move to a new place and develop solid connections in a short period of time. I did end up doing some networking though and re-connected with a couple old friends to discuss some business opportunities:
- Real Estate – I reached out to one of my friends about a possible real estate transaction in another state but we never ended up getting into serious talks.
- Website Development – I met with a couple friends who were at various stages of developing their own websites and businesses but nothing more.
- Online Networking – Since I wasn’t having as much luck networking in Orange County as I hoped for, I started reaching out to other finance bloggers and discussing everything from revenue strategies to sharing ad contacts.
Explore a New Career Opportunity
Even though I went to school for engineering, I think my calling some day will probably be something related to financial management or real estate investment. I just enjoy it so much more than my day job and I’m also pretty good at it. The one thing I didn’t do enough of during my time off was researching a new career in the financial planning sector. I did apply to a couple finance jobs here and there but it would have been a lot easier if I connected with someone at the company instead of just applying online.
I actually met with a recruiter from Northwestern Mutual(through a networking contact) a couple weeks ago though. I talked to them about a possible career in financial planning and although the opportunity seemed interesting, the whole thing seemed a little ‘pyramid scheme-y’ to me. The salary would be 100% commission after you’re a licensed representative and when I looked up the starting salary it was nowhere near what I make at my day job. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t get into financial planning in the first place: you have to toil around in the 40-50k salary & 60 hours a week range for years before you can make any real money.
Ultimately, I feel like I accomplished a lot during my three months off from work. I harnessed the perfect balance of work, play and social activities all while maintaining a similar standard of living. I wasn’t able to make a ton of money but I ended up just about breaking even with income vs expenses in my 3 months off. Not bad for only working four hours a day.
Readers, what do you think about how I spent my 3 months away from work? Should I have done more? Should I have done less? What would you do if you had 3 months off in-between jobs?
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-Harry @ PF Pro