Why I decided to quit my job and go full time on my side business
Written in December, 2020
As many of you already know, I recently decided to quit my job and go full time on CyberLeads.
It's been a long time coming. I launched CyberLeads nearly one year ago. But it's been three years since I first started building products and dreaming about this moment.
If you want the full story of how this all unfolded, you can read this blog post.
But this blog post is different. It's an attempt to answer the simple question I have been asked by many people.
"Why did you decide to quit your job now? What changed?"
Well, here are my reasons.
1. I've had consistent results 📈
You can worry all you want. And you can come up with new excuses also. It’s easy.
But numbers don’t lie. CyberLeads has made more than my salary six months in a row.
Even though my systems are not ideal. Even though I still don’t feel like I’m standing on solid ground.
- Organic social reach is my main acquisition channel, which is unstable.
- I’m in a market with high churn.
- My revenue is wild and fluctuates.
- My growth is not as smooth as I would like it to be.
- People compete with me all the time.
- I make myself vulnerable by sharing all my numbers and strategies.
And much more. I could make up excuses all day long.
But numbers don’t lie.
My growth may be wild and unpredictable (because of the nature of social media) - but you can’t put a saddle on a beast. Actually, you shouldn’t. You should embrace it.
In a perfect world, I would like to have predictable, scalable systems that work while I sleep.
Be in market with super low churn and customer lock in. Have SEO for customer acquisition. Have smooth, predictable, stable growth. Have MRR as my main metric.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
I have to adjust, and look at things the way they are.
Yes, my business is wild. But it has been growing consistently.
2. I fell out of love with engineering 👨🔧
For years I thought that I loved coding. As soon as I started working as a software engineer, I realized that I didn't love coding, but creating. Software was just my tool of choice up until then.
Writing unit tests and coding internal dashboards is not what I call peak creativity.
Writing code for eight hours per day made me sick of it. Actually, that's the reason why many parts of CyberLeads are built with no-code tools.
Also, meetings about scalability, legacy codebases, updating our Kubernetes clusters and sharding our databases for peak performance were not my thing either.
The only thing I enjoyed talking about were product related stuff. Competition. Positioning. Features we should add or remove. Funding. Lucrative markets.
Higher level stuff. Not tweaking and perfecting small components of larger systems.
Maybe I'm not an engineer at heart.
3. I stopped learning 👨🏫
I hardly learned any new technical stuff. I just wasn't interested.
The things I learned and took with me were all intangible.
1. Like seeing what companies look like. Understanding that they are slow. That it's not scary to compete with them. And that most employees are lazy, including myself.
2. Or flipping my priorities 180 degrees. Instead of wanting to create a unique product that changes the world, I decided to change my world first. Make money and escape the rat race. Then, I can worry about changing the rest of the world also.
3. Or understanding that I don't have to work all day to progress. I only worked for two hours per day, and I made those hours count. Two hours were enough. It was mind blowing.
But, I learned those things straight away. In the first 2-3 months.
After that, I was just coding dashboards.
4. I was spinning my wheels 🚗
After learning all that I had to learn, my day job became mundane. I was present in meetings, and executed tasks that were assigned to me.
The only thing it gave me was a salary. That's it.
When I focused on my day job, CyberLeads' growth would slow down.
When I focused on CyberLeads, my performance would dip at my day job.
It was impossible to do great work, at both, at the same time.
5. I took the red pill 💊
There was a specific day that changed everything for me.
It was the day I realized that CyberLeads' monthly revenue surpassed my monthly salary. That happened in late July.
I shared it on Twitter, and things blew up there as well, resulting to even greater revenue.
Many people congratulated me and commented small nuggets of wisdom. But there is one specific comment that I will never, ever forget.
I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this:
"You’ll never be able to go back now. It’s one of those things that once you see it, you can never unsee it again. It happened to me as well. Many, many years ago."
I gained confidence. I knew there was another way now. And I knew that my days working for someone else were limited.
Every meeting. Every performance review. Every 1 on 1 with my manager. They all seemed meaningless.
I will never forget one day specifically, when my manager asked me what I want to achieve in the future. I didn’t know if he meant personally, professionally or specifically within the company, so I asked for an example.
With a smile on his face, as if he was proposing something I could not possibly resist, he told me:
“For example, you may want to become the respected, go-to guy for the `X company dashboard`.”
What. The. Fuck. At that moment, I wanted to laugh. But to be honest, if I didn't have CyberLeads, I would probably want to cry.
7. I want to embrace risks 📊
In this section I'll be quoting my favorite modern philosopher, Nassim Taleb.
His books really changed my perspective on risks, randomness and life.
Life is chaotic. And you shouldn't try to change that. Embrace it's unpredictability and make it work for you. Not against you.
You will have to take risks. But not all risks are the same.
With some risks, you should be super conservative.
Risks that will ruin you if they go wrong.
Like taking a loan. Or robbing a bank. Or quitting your job with no money aside. Or having unprotected sex with a `sex worker`. You get the point.
Take enough of these risks, and you will be lead to ruin.
But with other risks, you should be the opposite. Wild, experimental, and playful.
Risks that won't ruin you if things go wrong. And that will bring you a lot of upside if they go right.
Like starting a new business with zero capital. Or moving to another country. Or starting a new hobby. Or going to a party. Or, even tweeting. Best case scenario, you get customers, build an audience, and make friends. Worst case scenario.. well, there is none!
Take enough of these risks, and you will be "blessed with luck".
I loved this framework. Although I had been using it, I was never able to articulate or formalize it. I started thinking in it more deeply.
What does leaving my day job look like?
In which category of risks does it fall into?
Can it lead me to ruin, if things go wrong? Or not?
8. I've stacked the odds in my favor 🎲
Instead of leaving straight away, I decided to stay at my day job.
One reason was to honor the contract I had signed. I didn't want to leave the company and my team out of the blue.
If I knew how they would treat me when leaving, I wouldn't had stayed. But anyway, at least I have my conscience clear.
Another reason was to continue saving up money.
I managed to set aside $50k. Which means that even if for some crazy reason I was to start making zero dollars per month starting from tomorrow, I would still have enough runway for 2-3 years.
So now we have:
1. A business that's growing and consistently making more money than my salary.
2. Two years of runway, if everyting goes to shit.
If things go well, I am free for life. I gain my freedom. I scale CyberLeads. I travel the world. I set even more money aside.
If not, and for some reason CyberLeads goes to zero, I still have two years of runway to figure things out.
And again, even if for some even crazier reason I am completely incapable of generating a single dollar in the next two years, I can always just find another job and try again.
At least I will have a cool story to tell, and I probably will have travelled a lot.
Hmm.. That's a good bet. I'll take it.
9. I want clarity of mind 💧
The number one reason I’m leaving my day job is to have a clear mind. To stop having to think about things that are irrelevant to CyberLeads. Like meetings. Or sprint deadlines. Or what my manager thinks of my performance.
That being said, I'm not going to start working ten hours per day on CyberLeads, either.
My goal, from the beginning, was freedom.
Financial freedom. Location independence. Control of my time.
The same way I don’t want to be dragged into meetings all day long, I don't want to work on CyberLeads all day long, either.
Actually, I don't even think it's necessary.
We live in the age of the internet. Infinite leverage. Your inputs can be multiplied millions of times.
Taking a simple, correct decision and scaling it, is far more important than the number of hours your put in.
A calm, clear mind will outperform any person or team, on the internet, that is running around like a headless chicken.
I don’t want more time. I want clarity of mind.
10. I want to feel alive 🔥
The last reason I want to quit my day job, is to feel alive.
Sometimes you just want to throw yourself in the fire. This is one of those times.
I want a big change. Similar to how this time last year I left Greece and moved to Italy, to start this full time job.
Small incremental improvements are great. Small habits can change your life. Yes. But sometimes you are not looking for a small incremental change, but for a big earthquake that will shake your foundations.
That's when you have the best chances of growing exponentially.
Similar to how the conquerers intentionally burned their ships upon arrival. You either conquer the land, or you die trying.
Of course, that's a figure of speech. I could always just find another job.
Appendix: The time is never right ⏱
I'm very confident with my decision.
I took my time, and I didn't rush anything. I stacked the odds in my favor, and I honestly believe I will make it.
I had predicted that when the time is right, leaving won't even be a dilemma anymore.And that's how it is. I see absolutely no reason to stay. Having $55k, or $60k aside instead of $50k changes nothing for me.
So, why stay? It's not a dilemma anymore. But there is still that tiny bit of uncertainty.
You can think reasonably all you want, but at the end of the day, you can't predict the future. It's a risk.
Sometimes, you just have to say "fuck it" and go for it.