“I cringed every time someone asked me about my job. I hated talking about it.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was an HR Manager in the City.
I'd been working in HR for 15 years. I thought it was all I knew how to do.
What are you doing now?
I'm writing for a living!
I still can't really believe I can say that. I'm helping people to tell their stories – from eulogies to dating profiles, from CVs to autobiographies.
Why did you change?
I went to see a headhunter and came away thinking I didn't want to do any of the options they suggested.
I'd put a lot of time into my career and qualifications. I'd also been through a divorce and I kept telling myself I needed the security, but the truth was I didn't enjoy my work. I cringed every time someone asked me about my job. I hated talking about it.
I tried to make more of my time outside of work but my job was draining. I was tired and I had an awful, soul-destroying commute. I really struggled.
I felt there had to be work out there that I could love. I had so much energy to give, if only I could find the right thing.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
It was the Easter long weekend.
Yet again, I was dreading going in to work. I said to my boyfriend: “I wish I could just go into work tomorrow and tell them I'm leaving to be a writer.” He replied: “What's stopping you?” I realised then and there that leaving my job would be challenging, but it was me that was holding me back.
The very next day I handed in my notice.
Are you happy with the change?
I'm really happy!
I feel great. I'm working harder and for less money at the moment, but I love it. I love going to meet people and helping them to tell their stories. My dream is to become a features writer. I'm not there yet but that's OK. For now I'm writing whatever I can, building experience and connections and embracing every opportunity.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss not having to worry about money.
When you have a regular, stable income you can spend so much more freely and you don't have to stress about the bills.
I don't miss the demands of my old job. The need to be on call, to work on someone else's strategy, to deal with office politics – I've left all of that behind now.
How did you go about making the shift?
It all started with a Google search for 'career change'.
I found Careershifters and then I signed up for the Career Change Launch Pad course. It gave me the momentum and confidence to get me to the point of leaving my job. I gave three months' notice to help with the transition. Then it was a leap into the unknown.
It's been hard work but it's all for me and I'm very happy with how it's all gone so far.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I had some savings to keep me going.
As the months have gone past, I've been able to use less of them. I've also been able to cut back my spending with a bit of thought. I may still look for a part-time job to supplement my income.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
I honestly don't think I've made any wrong turns yet.
It's still early days but I've been really happy.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
I'm in charge now and everything's on my shoulders. I feel that pressure. It's all down to me. I'm running a business, not just doing the writing. It's definitely not for the fainthearted!
What help did you get?
One of the things I learnt from the Launch Pad course was how to ask for help.
I was amazed by how much people wanted to support me when I reached out to them for inspiration. And now I've got the practical support I need because I've asked for it. My boyfriend helps me with IT, my sister-in-law does my accounts and my old colleagues have given me work or helped me with things like marketing.
What have you learnt in the process?
I've definitely come to realise now that nobody has the perfect life.
If you're not happy that's not a reflection on you. Everybody is unsure in some way. They may seem confident on the outside but they're struggling too.
This realisation has made it easier for me to approach people and talk to them. It's also helped me to jump in and give writing a real go.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Look at what's making you unhappy and take control of that.
It's easy to think that your job is all there is, but you don't have to stay stuck. Anything is possible – you just need to work out a way to make it happen.
We caught up with Nina recently to see how her shift was working out, roughly two years on. Here's what she's been up to, and the biggest lessons she's learned.
What's changed for you in your career since we first published your story?
I've published two books, which is amazing!
One is made up of 'everyday life' blog posts I wrote back when I was an HR Manager – if somebody had told me I'd end up making a book out of them, I'd never have believed it. The other is a guide for students, to help them write their first CV.
Meanwhile, I've had some feature articles accepted for publication, and I've recently signed up my first 'big brand' writing client.
Oh, and I'm also coaching people who also want to write a book, start a blog, or apply for the job of their dreams.
How do you feel about your work now?
Writing has always been my 'thing', and every day I pinch myself – I'm finally doing something I genuinely love.
I won't lie and say that freelancing isn't hard work. There are those hairy moments when I wonder if I'll get the bills paid, but being self-employed has far more positives than negatives.
The fact that I've stuck at this career for longer than I've ever stayed in a job probably speaks volumes!
What challenges have you come up against since making your shift, and how exactly have you dealt with them?
Money is always an issue for freelancers, but for me that just means I have to get more creative about finding new sources of income.
I've recently branched out into coaching, and I'm forever seeking out new contacts.
I've also tried things I never would have thought about before, such as recording Facebook Live videos and podcasting about writing topics.
Working for yourself takes a lot of effort and energy (it's not for the faint-hearted) but I'm glad I took the plunge. I absolutely love being in charge of my time, my work, and the people I spend my days with.
How is the financial side of things panning out, and is this what you'd expected?
Part of me expected not to make any money at all, so three years later I'm just happy I can still pay the bills!
I do have to make sacrifices, such as not going on holiday every year, or cutting back on a few luxuries every now and then. Sometimes that can feel a bit disheartening, but I remind myself that I'm still at the beginning of my new career, and new opportunities are everywhere.
I've also got an 'emergency marketing plan' that I use when money gets a bit tight – that includes things like running social media ads, and going along to new networking events.
What have you learned, since making your shift?
Self-employment is a very different way of life.
It took me a little while to get used to it, but now I have, I don't ever want to go back.
It's important for me to refine my skills as a writer, but I've also had to learn other business skills, such as time management, marketing, and basic accounting. It feels a bit like being a one-man band at times, but the upside is that I've come away with so many new skills.
I've also learned so much about other people's lives and businesses through writing about them, and that has turned out to be such an amazing benefit. I'm always learning interesting facts, which in turn makes me much more interesting at parties!
Change is always scary, but sometimes that fear is also what makes it wonderful. I nearly gave up on my career change, but I kept on going because somewhere inside, I knew it was the right thing to do.
I trusted my instincts, and that's advice I'd give to anybody else in the same situation. Do what feels right, and trust that the experience will give you what you need.
To find out more about Nina's business, visit: www.ninathewriter.com.
What lessons could you take from Nina's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.