For the past 5 years, I’ve been asked the following question over and over again…
Steve, why do you still have a day job? Why do you work when your businesses generate so much money?
Well several weeks ago, I finally gave notice at my job. Soon, I will no longer be an engineering director of microprocessor design. Soon, I will be giving up a skill that I’ve studied for as long as I can remember.
After working at the same company for 17 years, all of a sudden I’m going to have an extra 32-40 hours free that I’ll need to figure out what to do with:)
The funny thing is that most people don’t like their jobs but I can honestly say that I loved mine. All of my colleagues and peers were all Stanford or MIT PhDs and I was consistently challenged every single day.
In fact, I’ve written at length in the past on why I never considered quitting, but a couple of recent epiphanies finally pushed me over the edge.
For one thing, I’ve come to realize that my kids are getting older at an insanely fast pace and I don’t want to miss any of it. Right now, they are at a golden age where they actually WANT to hang out with me and who knows how long that will last.
In addition as they’ve gotten older, their activities have grown exponentially and I want to be more involved. I’m even considering coaching some of their sports teams.
Bottom line, I started all of my businesses to spend more time with family and I don’t want to lose track of that vision. But it’s been tough.
Even though my businesses don’t require more than 12-15 hours per week to maintain, I’m constantly bombarded with new opportunities that are difficult to turn down.
For example I started my conference, The Sellers Summit, with my friend Toni Anderson on a whim because it was something that I’ve always wanted to do.
Now that I’m no longer working as a hardware engineer, I’ve also been searching for something technical to fill the void.
So starting sometime in July, I’ll be working with a friend to start a small software company. Actually, calling it a “software company” is a bit of a stretch.
Initially, we plan on creating some tools to help ecommerce sellers with their businesses but it could lead to something bigger.
Anyway, I’m definitely at a crossroads in my life and I wanted to take a quick moment to reflect on some of the major lessons I’ve learned leading up to this point.
Here are some words of wisdom from a random Chinese guy on the Internet:)
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Always Have A Backup Plan
Even if you are happy with your job and the current status quo, you should always have a backup plan because you never know when your priorities will change.
For the past 17 years, I’ve been very happy at my day job and could have realistically worked there for another 17 years. But my kids completely changed the picture.
If you want to be in control of your own destiny and if you want flexibility in your life, then you need to have an alternative income on the side. NO EXCUSES!
There are 168 hours in a week. You spend roughly 56 hours sleeping, 40 hours working, 36 hours eating/showering/taking care of yourself which still leaves 36 hours to do whatever you want.
Take advantage of this time to plant your seeds of wealth BEFORE you need the money.
I started MyWifeQuitHerJob.com 6 years before I needed the income. My wife and I started BumblebeeLinens.com a full year before my wife knew she was going to quit.
Anything That Is Easy Will Not Lead To Long Term Success
After running my blog for the past 7 years, I’ve encountered so many people who want to get rich quick. And their first question to me is always…
What is the fastest way to make money? What’s the easiest way to start?
Unfortunately, this is the absolute wrong way to approach a business. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the easier your path, the less sustainable your business model.
Let’s take blogging as an example. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have started blogs in search of great riches because it’s so easy to do. All you need is $3.95/month and you can launch your own wordpress site.
But because the barriers to entry are so low, there’s a ridiculous amount of competition and you have to do something extraordinary to stand out in the crowd.
The people who succeed at blogging today are those who either started when it was much less saturated or those who are doing something incredible that makes them stand out.
The world of ecommerce is no different.
Right now Amazon is hot but I give it a few more years until the platform becomes completely saturated with random sellers. You can either hop on early (right now) or you can wait until it gets much more difficult.
When my wife and I started Bumblebee Linens, we made a commitment to sell products that were a pain in the butt to fulfill. Doing custom embroidery sucks. Not only are the machines expensive but it also requires some expertise to stitch out embroidered designs in volume.
But custom embroidery on demand is a value add that allows our little shop to stand out.
The design of your website matters and I was just reminded of this important lesson 3 months ago when my mastermind colleagues ripped my site to shreds.
If you have your own brand and web property, you can’t neglect the aesthetics and usability of your site.
Customers who shop in your store evaluate whether they are going to buy from you within the first 5 seconds so you really have to make those seconds count.
By having an attractive and usable design, you can drastically increase the likelihood of a purchase.
If you haven’t read my post already, I recently wrote about how my last site redesign resulted in a 42% increase in conversions. Check it out.
Never Call Yourself An Expert
When I first launched my ecommerce course back in 2011, everyone started calling me an ecommerce guru and I fell into the trap of playing that role.
But here’s the thing.
As soon as you start believing that you’re an expert in your field, your mind instantly shuts off. All of a sudden, you find yourself less willing to learn new things because you feel like you know everything already.
And what’s worse, being an expert makes it difficult to openly admit that you don’t know something because everybody expects you to be a master in your field.
So here’s my advice even if you are awesome at what you do. Tell yourself that…
- You don’t know everything there is to know about a subject
- You can learn from everyone regardless of skill level
- You are a student just like everyone else
- You must keep up with the latest trends in order to stay relevant
If you tell yourself these things everyday, you will keep an open mind and constantly learn.
Do Something Different And Better. Do Not Follow
While I love the opportunities that Amazon has presented to us in the ecommerce space, I’ve found that there are way too many people out there just throwing up “me too” products online.
Go on Alibaba. Find a product that has a decent profit margin. Import said product as-is with no changes. List the product on Amazon and make short term money.
While this formula does in fact work right now, it’s definitely not a good long term strategy. If you sell stuff and don’t make it your own, it’s just a matter of time until someone will find the exact same vendor and copy you.
So instead of throwing up a bunch of “easy to source” products, take some time to design a better mousetrap. Take some time to create your own design or to provide a value add that no one else is providing.
Do something different and don’t follow everyone else. The same principle holds true with all of the “how to” advice on selling online that is circulating around the web.
If you follow the same rules for niche research and sourcing as everyone else, you’ll end up selling the exact same products as everyone else.
So take all of the guidelines and strategies you learn with a grain a salt and find your own path.
The Best Way To Succeed Is To Care About Others
First off, I want to emphasize that it’s impossible to run a successful business in a vacuum. Your ability to achieve your goals will largely be dependent on your network and your ability to work with others.
That’s why I’m such a HUGE believer in attending conferences. Even though I have 2 kids and run 4 businesses, I still find the time to travel to 4-5 conferences every year.
In fact, none of my businesses would have taken off had I not put myself out there to meet other like minded entrepreneurs.
But establishing new contacts at networking events is only half the battle. If you truly want to foster lifelong relationships with your peers, you have to care.
What does it mean to care?
- It means being willing to help without expecting anything in return.
- It means trying to get to know someone personally instead of treating them as a resource.
- It means delving deeply beneath the surface of small talk.
If you want grow your business, start by helping others first and let reciprocity take its course.
Be Bold And Amazing And People Will Seek You Out
I spent the first half of my blogging career as a complete unknown and no one gave me the time of day. Why? It’s because my content was pretty bad and I focused on quantity over quality.
I wrote middle of the road pieces that regurgitated what other entrepreneurial blogs were already writing about.
In fact, it wasn’t until I started writing more personal posts did people start taking notice. I started expressing my opinions more and incorporating my personality into my writing.
In short, I stopped caring about pleasing everybody and just let the words flow.
So today, I try to be different and write whatever comes to my mind instead of the water downed fluff that a lot of other entrepreneurial blogs put out.
And whenever I reach out to influencers with larger audiences than my own, I usually go all out and take a few risks. Here’s an example of an email I wrote to Tony Horton of P90X to make myself more “memorable”.
Editor’s Note: If you aren’t familiar with Tony Horton, he created P90X which is one of the best selling workout videos of all time.
Hey Tony, Shawna,
Awesome interview today! Unfortunately as a podcaster, I’m forced to perform extensive due diligence on all of my guests. And here’s what I uncovered after just a tiny bit of Googling.
Shawna, you were incredible in helping arrange the interview but I’m not sure that I can air the episode in light of the following scandal. (See press release below)
Tony Horton Caught In Junk Food Scandal. Fitness Career Over
Brentwood, CA, April 1, 2015 PRNewswire – Tony Horton, the award winning creator of the home exercise hit P90X, was spotted today on an epic junk food binge.
Tony (pictured below) was photographed chomping down on McDonald’s french fries in a room littered with dirty junk food wrappers.
Judging by the amount of trash in the room, experts estimate that he’d been consuming filth for approximately 4 weeks.
“First I gave up carbs. Then I stopped eating sugar. And enough was enough!!!!!”, Tony was quoted as saying as he shoved a handful of fries into his mouth.
His fitness career over, Tony was last spotted trying out for the Chippendales Senior Citizen tour.
Maintaining an impeccable body and being a role model for mens health was too much for Tony which just goes to show that even well known fitness stars don’t always have their act together.
About Tony Horton Fitness: Tony Horton’s mission is to helps millions of people stay in shape and eat right. His next book “Eating Like Sh$%” is due to hit bookstores later this year.
The moral of the story is to be bold, stand out and don’t fear the consequences. Let your personality shine and stop playing it safe.
The Difference Between Success and Failure Is Just A Decision To Keep Trying.
This last lesson is definitely a cliche but it’s the most important lesson of them all.
When I first started my blog, I had zero readers for over a year. In fact, it took me well over 3 years to generate any sort of meaningful income. If I had given up early, I would have missed out on making 700K last year.
When I first launched my online store, I had very little sales for the first month. My wife and I wanted to give up and call it a day. But we kept with it and managed to replace my wife’s salary in a single year.
The key to succeeding in business is not to give up at the first roadblock, or the second or the third. Give yourself a 3-5 year time horizon and understand that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.
47 thoughts on “Why I Finally Quit My Job And 8 Life Lessons I Learned In The Process”
I wish all the best with your new opportunities, some time is refreshing have a change in life.
Having the freedom to spend more time with the family is the most inspiring part of a man’s life journey.
Thanks Rudy! My plan is to work in the mornings and hang out in the afternoons.
Steve, as inspiring as always! Bravo for being bold and being true to yourself and priorities.
As always, your friend in Toronto, Alexa
Wow Alexa! Still with me after all these years. Great to hear from you!
Congratulations on quitting your job! How exciting! And thanks for sharing your lessons learned along the way. I can definitely relate to so many of the things you described. And that letter to Tony – too funny!
Thanks Andreea. Too bad we didn’t get to meet up this year. Next year you better show up!
Congratulations on your employment freedom! So will you know call it Steve Quit His Job? Lol
Awesome. Congrats on the success and interesting article considering I just put in my 2 weeks yesterday to quit my job as a System Admin. I’ve been working on the side building up my own niche ecommerce store for the last 3-4 years. Didn’t plan on getting rid of the job until I decided I needed to increase my goals for the business.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what you come up with this year. Hopefully, soon. I’ll attend one of your conferences.
Thanks for sharing!
I’ll be visiting your site and implementing much more strategies once my 2 weeks is over.
This is very encouraging Steve and I wish you all the best. Yours is definitely a unique story as you actually liked your job! Most work side-gigs to get away from their FT. 🙂 Continue the great work you are doing. You’ve helped spur us on too.
Awesome post, Steve. My website now has pretty regular sales. Not enough to live on yet, but I could never have gotten even this far without your help. Thank you for being such an inspiration.
Congrats on what I know what a big step for you! I am in a similar situation to what you are (were?), where I love my day job and don’t plan to leave it, but also feel like j need to build alternate income streams to create financial independence. It keeps me from going down too many rabbit holes since my time is limited, a discipline I’m sure you have hones over the years.
I’ve been following your podcast for months and I opened this blog post from an email I received from you because I’m considering quitting my job to pursue my side business as well and I know that you, like me, love the industry and job that you had so I thought your experience would be really valuable to me. I really loved your insight, however, when it came to the Tony Horton piece, I don’t know if you noticed that the images you used were heavily photoshopped. I’ve been working with Photoshop and the entire Adobe Suite as a designer for the past 10 years, so it’s easy for me to notice it but maybe less noticeable to you. In the first image with Tony positioned in front of the trash pile of fast food, there are actually 3 images super imposed on one another: the trash pile, tony, and the french fries. Also in the Chippendale’s image, #1 all the men were photoshopped to look older. I’ve seen this particular Chippendale show in Las Vegas 3x and I know what these guys look like pretty well. Here’s a link to a real image of some of the men in the Chippendale photo for a reference: http://cdndata.bigfooty.com/2014/04/51909_da61cc3de9bf468375837973d647fcac.jpg
#2 Tony’s head was super-imposed on the center man. You can see that his head is larger than a typical head for his body, especially in comparison to the other guys in the photo.
The point being, as I’ve been following your podcast and your email newsletters for a while, I’ve come to see you as a type of authority in your niche and I would hate to see you proliferating mindless fodder on the internet. Especially when you claim: “Unfortunately as a podcaster, I’m forced to perform extensive due diligence on all of my guests.” I’m just saying that I don’t think that you did your “extensive due diligence” in this case and that making such a stand against Tony Horton based on doctored photos seems unnecessarily judgemental and unfortunately lowers the quality of your blog to that of a gossip magazine. It devalues the quality information you usually produce and distracts from the real message that I think this blog post is trying to convey to your audience.
Other than that, I love your podcast and the quality content you produce on that. Perhaps I’ll just stick to listening to that instead of reading your blog.
You are indeed correct. I photoshopped all of those images and made up that entire press release as a joke:)
Tony and Shawna found it hilarious.
It was supposed to be ironic, the photo shopping was intentionally bad. Great idea Steve, took some balls but it got the laugh you were after
Thanks Sol. I have a collection of these types of emails which I may publish one day.
Congratulations on your awesome decision, Steve! Thank you for many years of great posts and advice. It’s a privilege to follow you on your journey. I’m sure you will continue to even greater, well-deserved successes. Enjoy every moment – you’ve earnt it!
Thanks George. My biggest fear is actually boredom and lack of human interaction. Curious to see how everything will play out.
Excellent advice, as always! The decision to keep trying is so important. In fact, I wrote a post about perseverance recently that explains just that. I also agree about not calling yourself a guru! I don’t like that word at all. I always tell people I’m still learning and will always be learning. I may know more than my clients do but I don’t know more than everyone out there. It’s so good to understand that. Thanks Steve!
Yeah. I never felt comfortable with that title either!
Congrats Tony, you’re a real inspiration especially considering you have accomplished all of this with a day job. You always put out exceptional, practical content so thank you very much for helping me to finally get going in the entrepreneurial world. I’m a little bit afraid to think about what you will accomplish without a full-time job, haha. God bless.
Congrats Steve, you’re a real inspiration especially considering you have accomplished all of this with a day job. You always put out exceptional, practical content so thank you very much for helping me to finally get going in the entrepreneurial world. I’m a little bit afraid to think about what you will accomplish without a full-time job, haha. God bless.
Wow, I thought the day would never come! Congrats on the start of this next big chunk of your life. And good move to be more available for your kids. They’re only little once, don’t miss it. You can still have a fulfilling and lucrative career and not be gone at an office all day. I’m sure this change will pay off in spades for you, from a personal standpoint as well as professional.
Today is day 3 of having all of this time and it’s ok so far:)
Hey Steve, congrats on finally taking the plunge! Working from home and getting to see the little ones more often is definitely worth it. I can’t imagine getting home at 6 or 7 and not being able to see my own little one before she goes to bed.
And I’m very impressed with the Sellers Conference….I almost want to build an online store just so I can come check it out!
Let’s talk about software businesses sometime….not sure you knew but that’s where I devote most of my time.
THanks Geoff! I had no idea you’re doing software now. We’ll have to catch up.
Love the article and you are a great inspiration. Where can i contact you to connect and talk?
Great post. Ive stuggled too much online its embarrassing. It can be intimidating continually trying something that isnt working.
If you’re feeling embarrassed, you’re probably not hanging out with the right people:)
Awesome Steve! Glad you finally quit! Although I would have preferred you engineer your layoff for a sweet severance package after 17 years (!!), just as well! I think you’re going to look back in six months to a year and wonder why the hell you didn’t quit sooner. Let us know how the new journey goes!
I actually engineered a deal that is completely different. Message me if you’re curious.
Sounds good. So long as you engineered something with money in your pocket, and didn’t just quit, that is the key!
Hope you are enjoying more free time.
So proud of you Steve. And about time brother!! But I do like how you’ve steadily grown this business to be a fantastic earner and something you love to work on, while still loving your day job.
I look forward to you enjoying more freedom, spending more time with your kids and not filling those 36 hours straight away.
I’m also keen to learn more about the software business as that’s where I’m heading too.
See you at a conference soon I hope
Thanks Natalie. I guess my next step is to throw away all of my possessions and start traveling in a suitcase:)
I wake up every day of my life wanting to quit my job. LOL
Im not quite ready to do that yet but Im trying to build a passive income stream now that will eventually allow me to quit.
Gotta keep pushin!
hi Steve, good-morning from here. nice post and excellent motivation here, its one of your best posts in this year 2016. but Steve please I’m in a dilemma here, i have been trying my best to see that i have an online business that will suit my life style and be able to quit my day job too and now i have come to a conclusion of going the ‘Affiliate online store’ model like (www.tiwib.com) for long term because i don’t have any money to start buying my own products and the drop-ship alternative is not that common here in Nigeria where i live, please i need your assistant and advice on this now. my current job is seriously getting on my nerves and i can wait to quit it as fast as i can.
Hey Steve congrats on quitting your job. Coming from a fellow Chinaman you have done us proud. You are a true inspiration and I have taken your lessons from business and hope to grow my own blog.
This is what failure is all about. You learned a valuable lesson — do your market research before you jump in. Had you taken the time to really research the market to see if your product was something people wanted it would have saved you a lot of frustration and pain. But now you know and the next time you’ll be better prepared.
Sounds like you are quitting your day job for all the right reasons. My kids are all grown now, but I don’t regret any decision made to spend more time with them when they were young. I really think the best thing my wife and I ever did was to devote quantity time to our family versus quality time. You just never know when the most impressionable moments are going to happen and you want to be there for them for sure. I quit my day job a little over 8 years ago right before the economy tanked and found that perseverance was really the key to success. BTW, I came across your stuff just a few months ago and am really enjoying the podcasts. So thanks for producing such a great product.
Appreciate the content you’re putting out. Inspiring! Thanks!
Congratulations on moving on to the next phase of your entrepreneurial life! I am a big fan of your podcast and your story is very inspiring to everyone. Now the question is are you going to create a website called “myfamilyquittheirjob.com”? 🙂
In all seriousness, you have done some amazing things in your life. You caught my attention at the first instant when I watched your 6-Day Mini Course and I am preparing to jump in to the eCommerce arena myself. I know the journey won’t be easy but as you said, anything that is easy will not lead to long term success.
Enjoy the “new life” and keep up the great work!
Scary stuff, making the plunge. It’s always a case of do I leave the job and lose security and make a go of this. Or do I ensure that all the bills are definitely paid and stay relatively unhappy…
Really frustrating too, when you can see a gap in the market but too nervous to make the leap.
Thank you for another first-class read! I liked the tip of adding more personality to your blog posts, will definitely apply, all the best!
Hello, are you looking extra money? Earn online.
That’s a big step for you but I would totally do the same. You don’t get a second chance to see your kids growing up…
Why don’t you have any dates on your blog posts?
Yaaaay about friggin time!!!! So happy for you Steve! God bless you and yours THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN FAMILY
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