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In a world where we’re expected to be making a certain amount of money by a certain age, it can be difficult to leave a well-paying job in pursuit of a career switch or greater work-life balance.

But nail artist Ann Lim bravely took the plunge three years ago—the 40-year-old gave up her job as a manager at a research centre in a local university, along with a “healthy” salary, to open a home-based nail salon.

Ann and her nail art.

“I’d been working excessively, like 10- to 12-hour days even on weekends, and wasn’t going on long vacations. So when the project came to an end, I decided to leave and carry out a clean handover,” she says.

“Working from home is a breath of fresh air, especially since I used to have to make a two-hour commute at my previous job. Frankly, the only things I miss terribly are the air-conditioning and employer’s CPF contribution.”

However, while Ann has few regrets about her career switch, she admits that there are things she wishes she did before leaving her well-paying job so that she would be in a better position now. She candidly shares some of them.

1. Save a larger sum of money before leaving your job

“I took a major pay cut. While I’d saved enough to live comfortably for a bit, like I wouldn’t worry about paying $250 for a hotpot meal, I realised I should have hoarded even more money when I was in my previous job. I currently have a regular group of clients but my earnings are definitely insufficient.”

2. Make smarter shopping choices 

“One of the biggest lifestyle changes after my career switch I had to make was with food. I usually crave food the equivalent of very expensive therapists, so I had to find out where are the artisanal stores that restaurants buy their food from are, and learn to cook them myself. I wish I’d done this earlier so I could have saved more money.”

3. Hone your discipline in sticking to a schedule

“I knew having a schedule is important, but being able to keep to it is another story since there isn’t a fixed time I have to be at work. When I have a nail appointment the next morning, I’ll make a consicous effort to sleep early, but when I don’t, I’m a sloth and only wake up in time for brunch. My sleep cycle is messed up but I’m working on improving it.”

4. Build a support system 

“Freelance work can be extremely isolating. Having a network of artists, whether nail, makeup or hair, to share and learn from can be beneficial psychologically. Even if I don’t meet them face-to-face, being part of a chat group [makes me feel less lonely].”

5. Figure out if your new career is something you want to do for a long time

“I never planned to do this [for the rest of my working life]. There’s no delusion that I’ll need to get another full- time job in the future in order to retire comfortably.”