I recognize my place of privilege to have the opportunity for this journey. There are no words to express the immense gratitude I have for all my past, present and future opportunities. It would not be possible without the unwavering support of my amazing husband and for that, there are truly no words. I strive to provide those same opportunities to others as my story and journey unfold.
How it started
On October 2, 2019 I gave notice to the only employer and a 20 year career I had ever known. I stayed on for a few more months the ease the transition and officially had my last day on Friday, December 20, 2019. It was the perfect career on paper, steady income, 401K, two weeks annual vacation, but the emptiness I felt in the work was palpable. I felt like I needed to contribute to making the world better, not to keeping it the status quo. I knew my creativity was never going to be realized in my current situation and so, I chose to end that chapter and start over.
Mistake number 1 - Silence
As the weeks dwindled and I spoke to more and more people about my exit, the overwhelming question was "what's next?" Naturally everyone from corporate threw out endless suggestions on who I could work for. Deep down I knew I didn't want to work for another company. I knew I would start my own company and focus on design, my passion and true calling. The problem, I was scared to death to tell anyone about it.
Mistake number 2 - Muddy Marketing
As you might expect, when I finally managed to tell people I was starting a business, the natural questions of who my ideal client was, who I was designing for, and what I was offering came next. But I was left fumbling for words and had endless anxiety ridden thoughts with a hefty dose of impostor syndrome. I knew I wanted to design and I knew I could but I also had all kinds of ideas for my business with no clear roadmap on how to productize myself or a community to support me.
Mistake number 3- Quick Pivoting
The client focus? Ah well, I'm sure you guessed, as gray and muddy as a rainy day. I started with healthcare client focus, because hey, I've done that for 20 years, seems like a good place to start right? Then, COVID19 hit, uh, thanks for that. Contractors were dropped left and right and the last thing on the healthcare community mind was getting freelance designers on board. So I quickly pivoted to helping small business get online. The problem, my messaging was cloudy and again with the pandemic, and no community, I started to struggle even more.
Mistake number 4 - Comparison
I started to work harder. More social media posting, more blog writing, more reading, learning and you guessed it, less and less success. I spent months and months watching many "succeed" and fighting the comparison game on IG.
Lesson number 1 - Identify the issue(s)
A client here, then nothing, a client there, then nothing. In July the walls started to crumble and after months of no self care, little to no sleep, working 16-18 hours a day, never relaxing and stretching myself beyond thin, something had to change.
Lesson number 2 - mental health preparation
No amount of preparation in my business readied me for the immense toll starting out on my own would have on my mental health. Add a global pandemic on top of it and well, you might have guessed there were more than a few dark days. Try a few dark months, six to be exact. It's something the collective "we" don't talk about enough, trust me, I will be, but another time.
Lesson number 3 - baby steps
How did I move past all this? Baby steps. In August, I scaled back my social media and focused on building a community, I pretty much only use Twitter now. In September, I focused on what I really wanted to do with my business, I'm a freelance designer and Webflow developer. In October I focused on setting boundaries, self-care and investing in myself. I set limits on how much I work, I started working out 5-6 days a week again and I signed up for the UI Improv Design Class with Dann Petty.
Lesson number 4 - mindset
The difference between October 2019 and October 2020? I was afraid to tell the world what I really was because I didn't believe it myself. I always had Plan B in the back of my mind, rather than going all in on Plan A. After 12 months of lessons, trial and error, confusion and a global pandemic, fear isn't holding me back any longer. There is no Plan B. I am all in on myself.
I'm a freelance UI designer. I use my past experiences in healthcare to drive an empathy first approach to my design. I'm on a mission to leave every space I enter just a little bit better and have a passion for helping creatives...create!
Lesson number 5 - You're not alone
I leave you with three key pieces of advice that have made all the difference in my journey:
- Go all in on yourself
- Mindset is everything
- If you need help, just ask.
How it's going
This last twelve months have been the hardest, most anxious, depressing and difficult time in my life. And yet, this was by far the best decision I have ever made. The dots are slowly starting to connect, and everything I knew would work out, is slowly emerging. The middle is hard, messy and always takes longer than we plan. I had rose glasses that after three months I would be booked out and surfing every morning. While that will be my future, I cannot force the timeline in which it happens. As things start to connect I know my timeline is 5 years, not five months and yet I am 100% certain it will all happen.
The the beauty and pain of our journey, is it's unique, but know that you are definitely not alone.