the art of esc-apology

3 signs that you’re ready to escape your city job:

  1. your anxiety dreams always involve a lot of corridors, large rodents and only being able to run backwards in slo-mo
  2. you quiz the servers in Starbucks or Waitrose on their hours, pay and general job satisfaction
  3. your pee is hazchem yellow, courtesy of Berocca, but you’re still ill every time you take holiday

I knew I wanted out pretty much from the in.  Sure, I was seduced by the free Monday night bar, the mid-week softball games and power dressing.  But that stuff wears off.

Maths was one of my strong subjects and it didn’t take me long to figure out that:

Then you realise:

Are they hiring us for our brains or gullibility?  But don’t worry, it all makes sense because of the career satisfaction and the quality work and the job security.  Oh wait……

my escape route  

Ok, so I’m still feeling my way through this business lark and I can’t claim any financial success yet (give me a break, it’s only been 2 months and I spent most of that time partying in Ibiza and watching the Olympics…).

But here’s how I did it and some tips if you want to come join this brave new world.

  • Big firm pedigree:  I started my career at a big, prestigious firm.  That tells people that I must be incredibly smart, well trained in my specialism and know how to be professional.  Which helps my credibility nowadays when I turn up for client meetings in denim shorts and floral trainers.
  • Small firm experience: I never ultimately wanted to work for major banks or corporates.  My target client base was fashion designers and other creatives.  So I downsized after 3 years to a firm with these types of clients.  The benefits: massively increased client contact and autonomy and no real salary drop once you factor in tax.
  • Industry expertise: I wanted to be in business, but not in the business of providing legal services to lots of clients.  So I stepped sideways with a twist.  I went to work for a fashion comms agency in a hybrid legal/commercial role.
    • I set up a new company division doing licensing deals for fashion designers/celebs using the commercial experience (deal structure, royalty rates etc.) gained from doing exactly that whilst in my small firm; and
    • I was global legal counsel for the company, which meant that I was intimately involved with the running of the business and helped the founders with their decision-making.  That meant I got to practise business skills with someone else’s money and reputation.
  • Financial independence: I saved some money to cash-flow me for a set period of time without a salary whilst I’m starting up my business.  Let’s face it, when you’re working all hours, you don’t have time to spend it, so that bit should be relatively easy.  If it’s not, then you need to take a good, hard look at your ridiculously frivolous lifestyle and trim the fat.  Gents, ditch the gadget addiction.  Ladies, stop kidding yourselves that shopping is a legitimate hobby.
  • Safety in numbers: Before I quit, I spoke to loads of people who don’t have a conventional office-based working life, to find out how they cope.  Weirdly, practically all the new people I’ve met since I decided to escape the slog are part-timers, freelancers, semi-retired, remote-workers and business jugglers.  The fact that none of them are living on the bread line and all seem to be enjoying quite a nice lifestyle, thank you very much, encouraged me to join their ranks.

There are lots of resources/communities online for non-traditional working lifestyles.  Check out Escape the City for information and inspiration.

  • Tell everyone: There’s nothing like announcing your plan to quit to actually force you to do it.  So tell your friends, your family, your colleagues, your bosses (that last one kinda counts as no going back).  I gave my employers 6 months’ notice.  It gave them time to figure out how to replace me.  It gave me time to get used to the idea of not working and to plan for it.  It meant that I left on great terms with everyone and with a lot of people wanting me to succeed and who can possibly help me in my business down the line.

And that was it.  I left my job with nothing to move on to.  It felt like the right time for me to do my own thing and give freedom a whirl.

And in the words of Dumb and Dumber: “I like it. I like it a lot.”

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