“I felt a lot of stress at work, having to deal with so much outside of my control.” 

Image of Natalie Johnson
From Teacher to Copywriter

After a change in life circumstances, Natalie Johnson wanted to be able to work from home. Here, she shares the surprising way she discovered what else she wanted to do – and how, through conversations, retraining and pro bono work, she's built a new path on her own terms. 

What work were you doing previously?

I was a secondary school English teacher.

What are you doing now?

I’m a freelance editor and copywriter.

Why did you change?

I guess the first thing was that I had a baby. 

I wanted to do something from home so that I could be more present. 

I also felt a lot of stress at work. The bureaucracy of the public school system can be rough. I didn’t feel like I was getting to be as creative as I’d like. 

And teaching comes with having to deal with so much that’s outside your control. 

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I decided to leave the workforce, at least temporarily, because of a teacher friend of mine. 

She had come back to teaching after having twins. I guess my fear was that if I stopped working I would never come back, so her story inspired me to take a break. 

How did you choose your new career?

A Facebook ad for a copywriting school. 

Somehow the algorithm, or maybe God, knew I was looking for me to use my talents again. 

I couldn’t believe how flexible copywriting seemed. I was afraid of entrepreneurship, but I thought, “If I could do teaching, I can do this.” 

Are you happy with the change?


That’s not to say it hasn’t been a wild ride. But now I have some clients on retainer, I’m finding my feet, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. 

The ambiguity of freelancing is scary sometimes, but I love the feeling of ownership that I have now.

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

I miss the teaching part of teaching (but that’s only 20% of being a teacher).  

I miss having somewhat firmer boundaries between work and home. Learning a new skill has been all-consuming. But it’s by choice. 

I feel myself growing and learning organically, and that’s the difference. It’s not spoon-fed professional development anymore. It’s pure trial and error.

How did you go about making the shift?

I hit the ground running in Spring this year, reading and learning everything I could. 

I used a free trial of Skillshare, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning to learn the basics. I bought eleven books on copywriting and editing. I followed copywriters on Instagram. I even reached out and got advice from some nice people in the field. 

Then I did some projects for free for family and friends to make a portfolio. 

That’s where I learned the most. 

How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?

I already had a degree in English, which was probably what made me feel brave enough to try this. 

But I learned a lot by watching. It’s a very “meta” education with copywriting, because copywriting is literally everywhere. 

Learning how to write copy is a lot of paying attention to the advertising that you see working and trying to mimic that. 

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

I probably tried to take on too much at once. 

Maybe it’s just my personality, but I don’t go halfway on anything. I probably could have taken it slower, not been so frenetic about it. Luckily I didn’t burn out. 

But when you’re diving into an unknown space, you’re not sure how hard you’re going to need to work, so you just go as hard as you can and cross your fingers. 

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

I enjoy the privilege of having a spouse who can cover our bills and only one small child. 

That being said, I was working a part-time job grading homework for online homeschoolers. This allowed me to do a lot of projects for free to cut my teeth.

But I was pretty conscious about not spending more than I had to on educating myself. 

There were a lot of opportunities to buy this or that course (and I still might in the future). But it’s my belief that what you need is mostly available for free. 

I started six months ago and have now almost replaced my teacher income. And I predict I'll surpass it in the next six months. 

If I’d invested in a course, maybe I could have expedited that process, but it would have cost £1,200 - £2,500 ($1,500 - $3,000). So I think it shook out. 

I'd say, before you buy a course, ask yourself: Am I trying to buy my way into confidence? Or does this person really have goods I can’t find somewhere for free?

Also, I think I could have probably still made the shift if I’d chosen to start learning while I was still teaching. It would have been difficult, but possible. 

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Imposter syndrome is a real beast. 

But every time I complete a project, make a connection, and do something on my website, my confidence grows a little bit. You really have to be willing to put yourself out there and just try stuff.

Also hearing about how pros still deal with imposter syndrome every day helps a lot. Google what Jerry Seinfeld has to say about imposter syndrome.  

Then you get that compounding effect after a while, and before you know it, you’re riding the bike and everything’s ok. Not perfect, but stable.

What help did you get?    

I talked to Wally Bock over Zoom early on. 

He’s a book editor and writing coach I connected with on LinkedIn. Sweetest guy. 

He gave me some great advice and was super encouraging. I’m going to have to let him know how I’m doing.  

What resources would you recommend to others?

Read Ultralearning by Scott H. Young. 

He’s the guy who taught himself the MIT Computer Science degree in a year. 

I didn’t adopt his methodology exactly (I still might), but his stories and ideas are very inspiring. My experience definitely jives with his method for learning a new skill quickly.

What have you learnt in the process?

It’s cliché, but I learned that a person can do just about anything. 

There’s a line that has kept coming to my mind throughout this process from the first Pirates of the Carribbean movie. Johnny Depp says, “The only real rules are these: what a man can do, and what a man can’t do.” 

What that means to me is: if you can just figure out what has to happen to get you from point A to point B (what skills you need, what resources), you can do or be anything you want. There’s really nothing stopping you.

We let our mindset limit us, I think. “People change careers every day,” I’d say to myself. “Single mothers and fathers make it work. You have no excuse, Nat. 

Pretend you were made redundant, or you just graduated college again. Burn your boats (so to speak) and get to work.” 

What do you wish you'd done differently?

Not much. 

Double majored in marketing, maybe? 

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

I'd say, if you want to start learning something new, just go ape on it. 

Give it three months of crazy and see where that gets you. By then, you’ll probably be able to see light at the end of the tunnel.

To find out more about Natalie's services, visit https://copyfol.io/v/copybynat

Photos © Brynn Thorn

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