6 Ways to Go from Salary to Start-Up
Katie Manwaring, the fashion blogger behind Katie’s Bliss, tells us how she took the leap.
It took months of deliberation but Katie Manwaring finally did it—in April 2016, she quit her full-time job at a top New York City PR agency to focus completely on her life and style blog, Katie’s Bliss. In January of 2016, Katie had no plans to leave her salaried position. For four years, she had balanced both going to work everyday (as first a PR assistant and later, an account executive) and the responsibilities of her blog, which she started over six years ago in college. As a self-proclaimed morning person, Katie would wake up two to three hours before her commute to write content, respond to emails and work on the website. On the weekends, she would document her outfits with her boyfriend while exploring the city. The combination was sustainable, but Katie wasn't content. In the first three months of 2016, stressful workdays turned into sleepless nights. She realized she had to take action. In March, she decided to seek new opportunities. “I went through a few rounds of interviews at different agencies for roles that would have been dream jobs if you had talked to me a year or two out of college,” says Katie. “I would’ve killed for any of those positions. But I just remember leaving the meetings feeling unexcited and having this gut feeling in my stomach that it wasn’t the right move.” Noticing that her personal goals—growing her business, maintaining a healthy work/life balance and making time for travel and exercise—no longer aligned with her chosen career path, she began to consider exclusively focusing on her blog more seriously. Her blog was already her primary source of income, largely due to affiliate links and sponsored partnerships. The timing felt right. Her decision proved fruitful. In 2016, she more than tripled her blog earnings from 2015. She attributes her success to the fact that she was able to elevate her brand due to more time available to spend on it. She raised the quality of content, began posting more frequently, started pouring over analytics and devoted herself to outreach instead of just being content with the inquiries coming her way. "When I had a full-time job, a lot of the opportunities I took advantage of were purely reactive because of lack of time to plan and research," she says. To find out exactly how she made the risky switch from salary to her own start-up, read below:
1. Envision a scale in your head
Anybody can take a leap of faith, but you also need to be responsible about it. Everyone has bills to pay. You can’t just impulsively leave a steady position. Give yourself a few months to weigh the decision, the pros and the cons. Track your finances and income. I personally monitored my expenses for a year and once I saw the steady growth in my income from the website, I knew I could sustain my lifestyle with only my blog. It’s important to make an educated decision, considering all the different factors.
2. Crunch the numbers
I made sure I was earning incrementally more money from my website each month before I considered leaving my job. I had to be diligent about tracking everything. You’re getting paid from a lot of different companies; it’s not just a direct deposit that goes into your bank account every two weeks. I have a spreadsheet where I track all income. It has separate tabs for every month and has columns for the company I’m expecting payment from, the date, the amount, the method (whether PayPal, check, etc.) and notes referencing what the payment was for. When I was working full-time, I also included my salary in this document as well. I have a separate sheet for expenses set up by date, a description of the purchase, the amount and notes for whether it was a blog-related cost or something personal. Of course, I include my regular monthly expenses like rent, my phone bill and utilities.
3. Ignore the noise
A big struggle was announcing that I’d quit my full-time job to people publicly. Everyone in my life knew, but it took a while to reveal it on the blog because there is still a stigma in the blogging industry when people quit their corporate 9-to-5 jobs to freelance or run their own business. I had anxiety about being judged. I went to college for four years, I have a degree and here I was at 26 blogging full-time. I worried about what other people would think, but now that I’ve gotten such immense positive feedback for doing so and sharing my story, I wish I would’ve done it sooner.
4. Formalize your setup
When I left my job, I made a separate bank account for my website. I pay myself from my earnings and don’t just deposit all the money I earn from my blog into my personal bank account. I speak with my accountant weekly and pay taxes quarterly. I also established my own LLC. It’s better to protect myself in the event I'm ever audited.
5. Stick to a schedule
I still wake up at the same time as when I was working. I pretty much sit through the day at my desk until it’s five o’clock. From my years as a publicist, I know how frustrating it can be to get emails from people late at night or super early in the morning so I like to maintain normal working hours. I feel it’s more polite and shows professionalism to reply to emails when the publicists and brands I work with are actually in the office.
6. Stay organized and own your new position as boss
It takes a lot of self-discipline. I definitely needed those few years at a corporate job to instill the importance of time management, being meticulous in my everyday tasks, staying organized and utilizing good email etiquette. All the things they don’t teach you in college that you learn on the job.
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Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo