two years into the journey

In building a business, inspiration, motivation, stories, Unreal Collectiveby Jay ClouseLeave a Comment

Two Aprils ago, I walked into the company boardroom for a leadership meeting. We were told that our company was transitioning all of our resources over to a new product.

I was also told that my role would be changing a lot. I knew then it was time for me to leave, and I put in my notice the next day.

In less than 72 hours, I had made the decision to leave my company and was fully unemployed with no real plans and no real responsibilities.

I remember calling my parents to tell them that I had quit my job, and that “I would probably never take a job again.”

A year ago, I wrote about being one year into the journey, and I was still very much trying to figure things out.

I misunderstood my cash flow, ran out of money in October, and was doing freelance marketing and WordPress development to pay the bills.

Thankfully I had strong tax withholdings from my 4 months of employment — or I would’ve been in big trouble!

Unreal was working, but in small ways. It was still pretty unproven, and a lot of folks were joining the Accelerator on blind faith in me. I was lucky to pull together 15 folks in a cohort.

Then, frankly, I had a great stroke of luck. A presentation I uploaded to YouTube got the attention of the Linkedin Learning team, and they hired me to produce a course in their Product library. That turned into four courses produced with the team at Linkedin in 2018.

As the year went on, Unreal got a lot easier. We had a lot of success stories, and I improved the format, experience, and technology. And it became easy to attract 20 new members into an accelerator cohort.

I also spent six months as Entrepreneur in Residence for Smart Columbus. I worked with entrepreneurs, organized our involvement in Startup Week, and organized a hackathon that I am really proud of.

In the end, I earned 3x more in 2018 than I did in 2017, and 92% of my previous salary.

Sounds great, right?

Well, expenses as an entrepreneur or freelancer are a lot higher. Paying for healthcare alone is a big expense (and hassle). Self employment taxes are 30%. I was provided 1-2 meals a day at my former job — and I’m not great at meal prep.

Not to mention starting a podcast with Eric that we self-funded for the first year.

So despite earning 92% of my previous salary, I saved less than 10% of what I did while employed.

With a background in Product Management and enough skill to teach Product courses for Linkedin Learning, I’m forgoing a salary of $85K-150K annually.

That means that even with my earnings, I’ve eaten more than $100K in opportunity cost over the last two years.

It’s probably pretty obvious at this point that it’s not about the money for me.

Two years into the journey, I feel more confident than ever that I’ll still be building my own business two more years from now.

I’m saving. I’ve figured out taxes, healthcare, and cash flow. I’m not afraid of going broke.

Every day I start with a feeling that the work I do today is in building assets and equity that I can leverage, in full, forever. 

That’s what drives me. I’ve never enjoyed my life more.

We are wrapping up the first Unreal Collective Accelerator of 2019 this month, and we’ll kick off the next cohort in June. I’ve been pouring months of work into creating some killer resources for freelancers and creatives to help them make more money.

All the while, I’ve cut out just about all contract work. I’ve said “no” to a lot of great, paying gigs because I want to reserve that time for my own creation. My income looks more like it did in Year 1 than it did in Year 2!

But I have full confidence that the Guides will do well and help a lot of people. It’s the best work that I’ve ever done.

Our podcast is getting traction with our first major sponsor and an incredible network.

Last year, I wrote about the “1000 day rule” from Tropical MBA. Basically, the theory is that it takes 1000 days on your own to match your corporate income. From the post:

People don’t understand they need to be poor for 1000 days.

Our basic hypothesis: you’ll be doing worse than you were at your job for 1000 days after you start your muse business. I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times.

For many of us it’s been almost exactly those 1000 days it took for us to get back to the level of income we enjoyed in our corporate days.

We’re about 2/3 through the journey to 1000 days. I look forward to sharing the results a year from now!


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