From Art Direction to Portfolio Career

“I couldn't ignore that niggling voice that was telling me I was destined for something different.”

From Art Direction to Portfolio Career

When Natalie Edwards found herself having to take regular breaks to avoid feeling tearful in the office, she knew it was time to leave. Read on to discover how she made her shift into work that feels 'like a breath of fresh air' to wake up to every day.

What work were you doing previously?

I was an Art Director in the city.

I managed a large, busy team of in-house and freelance graphic designers, consultants and copywriters.

What are you doing now?

I'm now a coach, writer and yoga teacher, combining coaching with meditation and mindset.

I also consult in my old industry but focus on the 'helping people' part, finding them the most effective creative solutions or trends for their business.

With coaching, I focus on working with people who are at that common 'stuck' place that so many of the people that come to me have reached. It tends to be around the age of 28–35, where many people approach a ceiling in their job and begin to become very disillusioned with work if they aren't being valued. They start to wake up to the realisation that there must be more to life than the 9–5.

It's a really exciting place to be.

Why did you change?

It was finally time to move on for me.

There wasn't anywhere for me to go or any new roles or responsibilities for me to grow into. I couldn't ignore that niggling voice that was telling me I was destined for something different.

I also had less and less enthusiasm for what I was doing, as I'd done it for so long and knew I had a variety of talents that I was frustrated not being able to use every day. My role changed significantly when the company was taken over and I'd got to the point where I was unable to help my team or do the things I wanted to do, leaving me really unfulfilled and massively undervalued.

I just couldn't really see what my purpose was anymore, as everything had begun to lack meaning.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I knew for quite a while before I actually left that I needed to make my move, I just wasn't sure how.

I was scared to jump, but I think reaching the point of having to leave the office to get some air because I was becoming frequently tearful was the turning point for me. I was just desperately sad inside and had reached the stage where I couldn't stand it anymore. I didn't like the feeling that I knew what every day was going to hold, there was no excitement or adventure.

I think when you have mentally checked-out and you just aren't able to give your all to a role, that's when you know it's time to go.

Are you happy with the change?

100%.

It's a huge breath of fresh air in every way. I get to design my days exactly as I want, I don't have to do the mind-numbing commute, and I can pick and choose who I work with. I have the space to be flexible and focus on the things that really matter to me.

But most of all, getting up in the morning is exciting as every day is different, and it's a pleasure to be talking to people about something I'm really passionate about. I'm ultimately happier because I'm able to help people. Every person that I come into contact with needs my help in some way and it's so fulfilling being able to do that and see their lives completely change for the better.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss the daily banter with friends and colleagues.

I guess I sometimes miss having people around to bounce ideas off during the day.

I definitely don't miss the noisy office, dull commute to work, office politics, attending mind-numbing meetings or having to talk about things I'm just not aligned with.

How did you go about making the shift?

I was on a two-month notice period, so I had a window to prepare.

I made sure I had a solid contact list and that I completed any training or self-development courses before leaving my full-time role.

I also made sure I gave myself some space to breathe and some time off once I'd left. It was a time of huge transition; some space to relax, catch up on sleep and gain perspective was vital. At first I felt guilty, but after a while I realised it was important for me to come to terms with the life I'd let go of and make room for my new one.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I spent a long time saving and working out what I'd need to scrape by if need be.

I also thought through the worst-case scenario. In my case, it was moving back to my parents' house, or in with a friend, and temping. Happily, this never happened.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Going it alone definitely came with a lot of anxiety for me.

I planned and planned, but suddenly being faced with an irregular or zero income and the same bills to pay was quite daunting. However, for me, unless I'm scaring myself frequently, I'm not growing.

What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?

For me, what didn't go well was listening to my own self doubt.

I had to continuously work on my own self-belief and keep listening to my gut.

I also learnt that it's crucial to reach out and ask for help. I can't do everything alone and I need other people to help, support and bounce ideas off.

What help did you get?

I made sure I spoke to as many of my freelance friends and colleagues as possible.

I surrounded myself with people who were already doing what I wanted to do. I took invaluable workshops and courses, and joined online communities or attended events.

Completing my 400-hour yoga teacher training and extra certification also really helped boost my confidence, and prepared me mentally for the road ahead.

Above all, the unfaltering support of family and friends has got me where I am today.

What have you learnt in the process?

Not to be a martyr all the time!

It's okay to ask for help. I was amazed at the contact list I didn't know I had, and how much people were willing to help me.

I've also learnt that when something's not working, it's best to step away from it for a while. I used to be the kind of person who had to persist until something was finished and perfect, but being freelance has taught me that sometimes a little perspective and some time out is all it takes to find a solution.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

The only thing I would say here is that I wish I'd done this sooner.

To look back and think of the limits I put on myself previously just makes me wonder why I didn't have the guts to do it before.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Get friendly with your fears.

This is such a big one for me. Honestly, if the thought of doing what you really want to do scares you that much, it means you should go for it. Stop worrying about the little details; they just sort themselves out eventually. Think about the bigger picture and what you want your life to look like, and the rest will fall into place.

Also, get as much advice as possible from the people who are already doing what you want to do. It's invaluable and will stand you in good stead for knowing some of what to expect and prepare for.

It's really important to continually work on yourself and your mindset. I see many people make the mistake of going into another role that they think is different and exciting but actually turns out to make them just as miserable. That's why it's so important to do the internal work first and get to know yourself.

What resources would you recommend to others?

Check out Careershifters (of course) and Escape the City.

Both of these organisations are awesome and a huge inspiration in demonstrating that work doesn't need to be dull or boring. Marianne Cantwell's Free Range Humans website and book are also forward thinking and inspirational in terms of changing the way we think about living and working.

I love listening to Alan Watts as well; his audios always blow my mind and stir up new ideas.

I also always recommend clients read the quantum physics books The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav and ESquared by Pam Grout. They're both great books for completely shifting how you view the world. They make you realise that many things we concern ourselves with on a daily basis just don't matter!

You can find our more about Natalie's services at www.natedwards.co.uk

What lessons could you take from Natalie's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.