Ted Jablonski started his own small marketing business at arguably the worst time in living memory: spring 2009, with the economy near its post-crash trough. The market for corporate communications looked like the Sahara Desert.

He had just turned 50 and had two kids on the verge of going to college – but when his employer, LPL Financial, downsized, he decided the moment was right for the move he’d been contemplating for a while.

“It was a risky time,” he says now. “Sometimes opportunities are greatest then.”

It took Jablonski about six months to begin bringing in enough money that he and his wife could stop dipping into their savings, and a full two years before he had replaced his entire corporate salary with the income from Marketing Consortium, a solo business in Wellesley, Massachusetts, that counts many financial services companies among its clients.

“I am tremendously happy,” he says. “I love the work I do. I like the way I do it.”

Jablonski gained the confidence to open his own consultancy by doing a thorough assessment of his finances: He and his wife, Susan (already self-employed as a human capital consultant) had a year of ready cash to cover their living expenses, in addition to 401(k)s they didn’t want to tap.

He looked ahead at his finances for three years, asking himself: “What will be going out the door and what needs to come in?”

“That cash-flow assessment was critical,” he says.