From Big Corporates to Own Business

“I never felt truly happy; I hated the constraints and bureaucracy of corporate life.”

Image of Charlotte Howells

From Big Corporates to Own Business

After five years of job hopping, Charlotte Howells finally quit – with no safety net, and no idea how to start a business. Here's how she navigated a steep learning curve and turned her leap of faith into a successful shift.

What work were you doing previously?

Digital marketing roles in large organisations – including the Met Office, Lloyds Banking Group and Mars Petcare – for many years.

What are you doing now?

I run my own digital marketing strategy business, helping businesses who sell online grow their reach, visitors and sales.

Why did you change?

I'd been changing roles fairly frequently, trying to find that elusive 'perfect' job.

Although I enjoyed some aspects of those jobs, I never felt truly happy; I hated the constraints and bureaucracy of corporate life.

About five years in, I realised I wanted to have my own business and work for myself. I wanted the freedom to work in the way I wanted, from where I wanted, and to not be forced to be in one place at 9 a.m. every day. But it seemed like an impossible dream.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I wasn't enjoying my job and I was getting up at 6 a.m. to drag myself into a three-hour daily commute.

I realised I'd reached a point where I would rather have no job than do what I was doing.

I have to give credit to my employers at the time who were extremely supportive, firstly in trying to make my role more enjoyable, and then giving me freelance work once I decided to leave.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes, very much so.

I never want to go back to working for someone else!

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

I don't really miss anything.

At the beginning it was harder to take days off, because every day I had off was a day I wasn't earning money. Now I've realised I need to plan for days off and adjust my rate accordingly.

How did you go about making the shift?

It wasn't really planned.

I was so unhappy in my job, I just left. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I figured it out as I went.

Although I didn't enjoy it at the time, I am so thankful that I was put in a position where I had to quit – I don't know if I would have been brave enough otherwise.

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

Although I had a lot of digital marketing experience, I knew nothing about running a business.

It was a steep learning curve, and I definitely made a lot of mistakes, especially some of the work I took on in the beginning.

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

I had no back up (apart from a supportive fiancé!).

If anything, having no cushion to fall back on made me more determined to succeed. I took a drop in salary in the beginning. I took on lower paying work to tide me over, and I sold anything I didn't need.

It has taken me a while to build my earnings back up, but I was so much happier even when I was earning less. You learn to do without, but now I'm in a better financial position than before.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Having to make all the decisions.

You don't realise when you work for someone else how much is decided for you. Now I have to decide what to work on each day, how to market my business, what work to say yes to, and how to manage my time effectively. Sometimes it can be overwhelming.

What help did you get?

I didn't get any official help (partly because I didn't realise it was available) but I did join Facebook groups and read a lot of articles online.

There's a wealth of information out there if you look for it.

What resources would you recommend to others?

I've got lots of useful information from podcasts like The Freelancer, Soulful PR and Being Boss.

Books I've found helpful are Time Ferriss' 4-Hour Work Week and Tara Mohr's Playing Big.

What have you learnt in the process?

Even though I work for myself, I don't need to do it all myself. I've finally started outsourcing some aspects, like design, that aren't my area of expertise.

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

Go for it!

It's not worth being unhappy for that many hours a day. It's better to try than always wonder.

To find out more about Charlotte's services, visit www.charlottehowells.com.

What lessons could you take from Charlotte'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.