“It was time for a change and to do something that I felt passionate about.”
What work were you doing previously?
I worked in marketing for over twelve years in major international organisations.
I worked on some fantastic brands, including Lipton Iced Tea, Heineken, Becks, James Squire, Veet, FCUK fragrance, Diesel and Chantecaille.
Working on global brands was challenging and demanding, but also fun. I worked in a very fast-paced environment, and experienced great opportunities for travel, learning and personal growth.
What are you doing now?
I've founded and now run Marketing Vision Consultancy.
We work with small businesses and start-ups, helping our clients to reach their target audience as effectively as possible and to grow through strategic marketing planning. Our client base is broad – from e-commerce businesses and retail brands, to artists, business coaches and café owners, and lots in between!
I also guest speak about small business marketing and host marketing workshops. Last year I did Stylist Live; this year, I'll be at Country Living's Spring Fair and their 'Build-a-business day'.
Why did you change?
I had always wanted to work for myself, to found and grow my own business.
When I had my first son, I decided that the timing was right to take the plunge. I wanted to leave the corporate world behind and instead work with small businesses, to take the skills and experience that I had gained during my corporate career and turn them into cost-effective marketing solutions for small business owners.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
Looking back, I think I pretty much knew before I left to go on maternity leave that I wouldn't be returning to the corporate world.
It was time for a change and to do something that I felt passionate about.
Are you happy with the change?
I love what I do and the flexibility that comes with being my own boss.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I don't really miss anything about the corporate world, to be honest.
I particularly don't miss the office politics and the crazy demands.
At times, it can be a bit lonely, but I have a strong network in place and always have someone to bounce ideas off if I need to.
I am very self-motivated and like working for myself. I am lucky to work with some really amazing small business owners who are truly inspiring. I feel much more 'me' than I ever did in the corporate world.
How did you go about making the shift?
Whilst on maternity leave, I went on a short business course to learn about setting up on my own.
It was a great course that covered everything from the legal aspects and potential business structures, through to launching and finding clients / customers. I even gained a new client – a fellow course attendee!
The next step was to build my website, and create my branding and business cards. Once that was all in place, I resigned from my corporate job (whilst still on maternity leave) and launched Marketing Vision. I can honestly say that I have never looked back!
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
Fortunately, I haven't experienced any dramatic 'wrong turns' or disasters to date – I think perhaps because I come from a strong and disciplined business background.
But running your own business obviously has its own set of challenges.
I think initially I gave away advice too freely, but I am now more confident / savvy in identifying genuine potential clients. A lot of people ask to 'pick my brains' and it can be challenging knowing where that initial chat stops and a consultation (i.e. requiring payment!) starts. I want to be helpful, but I also need to make money!
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
Being a service business, initial set-up costs were pretty small.
I was also able to get my first website built via a skills trade (that would have been my largest investment, had I paid).
My maternity pay lasted pretty well (once you have a small baby in tow, your social life pretty much ceases to exist!) and I started working with clients shortly after launching.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
I suppose I would have to say the initial lack of salary, bonus and car allowance!
But that said, money isn't everything, and with a young family (my boys are now aged five and three) I am completely happy with my career shift. I feel I have the best of both worlds.
What help did you get?
My husband is an amazing support and always there as a sounding board. He has a brilliant business mind.
I am also lucky to have some wonderful business-minded friends and colleagues who have been a fantastic support, giving me guidance and self-belief when I have needed it.
What have you learnt in the process?
That with hard-work and determination, anything is possible.
And that things generally take longer and cost more than I initially expect they will.
I have also taught myself a whole multitude of new skills, from getting social media savvy and navigating Mailchimp, to using Canva and understanding SEO (with lots in between!) – owning a small business requires a very hands-on approach.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Before taking the leap, it's important to be clear on your goals and objectives.
Research thoroughly your chosen career path, and, if possible, speak to someone who has already done something similar. For me personally, I like to follow my heart (and did so with Marketing Vision), but to truly succeed you will need the support of others around you, self-belief (not always easy!), and lots of perseverance.
What resources would you recommend to others?
Find a mentor.
They don't necessarily have to be someone in your chosen industry, just someone to have available as a sounding board and to share ideas / experiences with.
I would also highly recommend Enterprise Nation as an amazing small business support and Talented Ladies Club for working mums looking to balance family and career.
To find out more about Paula's services, visit www.marketingvision.co.uk
What lessons could you take from Paula's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.