You have your day job—the one that pays your bills and gives your parents some bragging rights at cocktail parties. And then you have your side-hustle—the passion project or idea that makes you light up inside, and, you’ve noticed, has been soaking up more and more of your creative energy lately. Juggling both works for now, but you know you can’t go on like this forever. Eventually something has to give, though the thought of navigating that road makes you feel like you’re about to mountain bike down El Capitan.
If you need an example of someone who has made all the right moves, look to Jessica Knoll, author of Luckiest Girl Alive, a thrilling page-turner about a successful woman who seems to have everything going her way, but is harboring a deeply painful secret that threatens to ruin it all. Knoll’s debut novel has already gotten the attention of Reese Witherspoon, who is producing the book into a movie, just like she did with Wild and Gone Girl. And Time.com says if readers liked Gone Girl, “…they’ll be thrilled to see another woman who’s allowed to be smart and mean, vulnerable and detestable.”
Knoll wrote the book while working as a senior editor at Cosmopolitan and then as an articles editor at SELF—only making the transition out of magazines once Luckiest Girl Alive was months away from hitting your local Barnes & Noble. Before it finally lands on shelves tomorrow, Knoll opened up to Levo about her career transition, sharing three signals that gave her clarity on when to switch gears from stable job into uncharted territory:
SIGN #1: You’re essentially working two full-time jobs, but you feel like you’re producing something tangible.
“There’s that saying, ‘If you want something done, have a busy person do it.’ If you suddenly quit your job and have all this free time to devote to your passion project, I just don’t think you’re going to be as motivated to work on it. I think you’re actually going to feel really overwhelmed and like you don’t know where to start because you have too much time on your hands. I think only being able to devote a couple hours a day to your passion project can help you prioritize what it is you need to do to get it off the ground. For me, it was as simple as sitting down and writing for 1 to 2 hours in the morning before work. I had about 300 pages in 8 to 9 months, and once I had amassed that, I felt like I had created something tangible through my efforts.”
SIGN #2: The return on your side-hustle could potentially be bigger than the return on your full-time job.
“Once I had a book deal, people would ask me, ‘Are you going to quit your job now and do this full-time?’ And I could have in that moment, but I didn’t. I really had to digest the idea of doing this [being a novelist] full-time. I adored working in magazines—I loved the office that I worked in, and I loved getting dressed up for my job every day and pitching ideas, so I didn’t feel like there was a need to leave yet. But when my book publisher and I started sending advance copies to everyone in the media, I worried that editors at other women’s magazines were going to think it was a conflict of interest to push a book that was written by an editor at a competitive title. That was when I realized I had to take the leap. No matter what your occupation or your passion is, when you can see that the return on your side-hustle could potentially be bigger than the return on your day job, that’s when it’s time to consider striking out on your own.”
SIGN #3: You’re financially prepared to quit your full-time job—and you’re willing to do it gracefully.
“If for whatever reason my side-hustle didn’t work out, I wanted to be able to go back to this career that I’d built for myself over 7 or 8 years. So when I left, I did it in a very gracious way. I gave my employer two month’s notice and said I would stay as long as needed, within reason, to get everything in order. I was heartbroken to leave magazines, but I knew if I stayed, the potential regret of feeling like I could’ve given more to my first book is something that I feared more than leaving my job. So when you’re doing this, I think it’s important to act as if you’re closing a door, but not locking it.”
Photos: Tim Robberts / Getty Images; Courtesy of Jessica Knoll; Courtesy of Simon & Schuster