My story from not having a clue to finding my zone of genius.
Mastery is the key to success! Have you always known what you want to be when you grow up? Or are you like me and had absolutely no idea and have struggled with it for years?
What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up
I think I might have put policewoman in one of my future career exercises at school. And if you know me, you know that is as far from my dream career.
I always wanted to be a mum. That has been the only thing I have ever been certain of. But I never knew what I wanted to do as a career. I struggled with making my subject choices in year 9 at school. I struggled to decide on what college courses to do. When the university topic came up I was stumped. I didn’t want to go as I didn’t want to waste my money on something I wasn’t sure about.
Time to Choose a Career
Fast forward through years of retail work and online career tests and we arrive at the point in my life where I decide I want a career. I was going through a break up (the classic ‘change your life’ style) and was on a 2 week trip to LA with my sister when I realised I wanted more for my life. I didn’t want to rely on any man to give me the life I want. The tours we did around universal and warner brothers studios inspired me to want to be a part of something greater.
It was on that holiday I decided I was going to go to university, 3 years after my friends had already been. Once I make a decision, that’s it, I go all in. I got straight into visiting universities and applying for courses. I made the decision to go to Bournemouth University to study Digital Media Design. I had toyed with the idea of graphic design at the time but thought there would be too much off-screen work and material costs so went for a more digital course.
A Few Failed Attempts
Turns out it wasn’t quite the right course for me, but I grew up I learned a lot. However, I didn’t learn what direction I wanted to take my career in. I came out of uni with more options than before I went in and I was overwhelmed. I applied for so many jobs and emailed so many web and marketing agencies with no response. Still working in retail at the time with random shifts I was desperate for a routine and gave up on a career in the digital industry and got a full-time job in a bank.
This turned out to be an even worse decision than the course I had chosen. I was incredibly anxious and struggled to do even the basics tasks in the bank due to fear and anxiety. I realised I had IBS which was triggered by stress and anxiety and I was very uncomfortable. 3 months in I quit and less than 2 weeks later I was in a new job working for a marketing agency as an SEO consultant.
Finally Working in Digital
Not a career I had ever considered, but being unemployed and having half a clue what it was all about I went for it and it was the best thing that could have happened for me. I regained my confidence, gained new friends and learned a new skill. Working within a small agency opened up doors to other departments and the opportunity to learn more. 8 months in I moved to the web team and I was designing and building websites.
I was in this role for over a year when an opportunity to take on an even bigger challenge came up. I ended up working on the rebrand of the company that I was employed by. We were trying to complete the rebrand whilst carrying out our full-time workload so not many people had the time to do the work. My role was a little quieter at the time so I took on the bulk of it. I managed the tasks, wrote the blogs, web pages and email marketing campaigns. Designed internal and external communications, pricing brochure and social media templates. I managed third party suppliers and bosses expectations.
It was an amazing experience. I learned so much and it was a successful launch. One of my proudest life achievements, behind graduating. The experience opened my eyes to what I was capable of and the creative opportunity that was out there for me. I started to become less satisfied with my web design role and more enthused with all the branding tasks I was doing.
Making Major Changes
This all coincided with another breakup, same guy, 3rd breakup. This time it was major. We had been on and off for 8 years, he was the one and it ended due to something neither of us could control and neither of us wanted it to end. It was a really difficult life-changing experience that I’m still dealing with 2 years on. As a result, I knew I needed to make some major changes to get over him and to deal with my dissatisfaction at work.
I moved to Spain for 3 months at the start of 2019. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get away from everything, everyone, external opinions etc and to focus on finding out what I want out of life. So started my personal development journey. I was still working for the same company remotely and eventually went part-time so I could spend more time enjoying Spain and ‘finding myself’.
At this point, I had discovered the videos of Erin May Henry who had inspired me to want to create a life I love and start my own business. So my finding myself involved trying to figure out how I could make an income online. I took a video course she offered as well as doing a course in content creation. So many potential business ideas came to me while I was there but by the time my 3 months was up I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to leave Spain and I wasn’t ready to go back to a full-time job in something I felt wasn’t right for me.
So now I’m a jack of even more trades, passionate about creating content but with no clear purpose. My next step was a big one.
I quit my job and booked a one-way ticket to Australia! I know right, scary stuff. I think I was still a bit emotionally numb post break up, so I wasn’t phased by a solo trip to the other side of the world. But 18-year-old Steph would have pooped her pants. Maybe it was a combination of nothing to lose and personal development progress.
So I did it. I started my own business/registered with the government before I went. My goal was to travel and build up a freelance business so I could either keep travelling or return home and not have to get a job. It didn’t quite work out like that.
I struggled to get work, both on my working holiday visa and in my business. And I was still struggling with not knowing exactly what I wanted to do because I didn’t feel like a master in anything. I kept wishing I had just been given a card at 10 years old telling what I was going to be when I grew up and then had to just work towards that the rest of my life, no other options. That wasn’t the case, unfortunately.
First Clients as a Freelancer
I was away for a total of 6 months. In my last month, I got my first clients. I interviewed for a job that I couldn’t take because I wasn’t going to be staying in Aus but they offered me remote SEO work. And the day after I booked my flights home I secured my second SEO client, a contact of the lady I was staying with. I was on top of the world. It wasn’t working in what I loved doing but I had a successfully gained clients on my travels so I was happy. I was buzzing to get home for a proper Christmas in the cold.
The next few months consisted of self-doubt, looking for new opportunities, coaching events, online courses, retail jobs and more turmoil about what to do. I was so grateful for the work I was getting from Australia but it wasn’t enough to sustain me. I had to get a retail job to pay the bills whilst I kept looking for the thing, that one thing that I would love to do and make money from.
Lockdown Changed the Game for Me
When the world shutdown in March my post-travel slump started to turn around, the sun was coming out in the UK and I was getting more optimistic about my future and grateful for my present situation. I was still doing personal development work trying to figure out what to do next when in August I had a brainwave. Graphic Design!
Graphic Design was what I wanted to do when I started looking for uni courses, it’s what I had said multiple times over the lockdown, if I won the lottery tomorrow I would go back to uni and study Graphic Design. It’s a profession that would bring together a lot of what I have learned and loved over the last few years.
Feeling like I’m not an expert but knowing I can design I rebranded myself has a social media designer. I know I can deliver social graphics for clients that are professional and look great. I feel like social media design is an easy entry point and something I’m confident and experienced in doing. But I’m not an expert! So I wasn’t showing up. I wasn’t advertising myself enough as a social media designer. As a result, right now, I have no clients as a designer.
Time to Go Back to School
My solution. Almost bankrupt myself to go back to college and study graphic design. Rather than waiting until I win the lottery to do what I have always wanted to do, I decided to invest in myself and my future and find an alternative, cheaper option of going to college. The course is a fraction of the cost of a degree and takes up only 1 day of my week.
I’m hoping this course will give me the one thing I have been missing this whole time, mastery. I could have chosen to become an expert in any of the things I have researched and trialled over the last few years but Graphic Design is the thing I have decided to pursue. It’s what I am loving right now, it’s all I can think about.
So watch this space. I’m going to be taking you with me on my journey of becoming a graphic designer. Documenting my experience in adult education at the age of 28, sharing the project briefs and my approach to them. As well as documenting my journey with getting clients as a freelancer.
If you have got this far thank you for reading such a ginormous blog all about me. I hope that you resonated with some part of my story and maybe feel a little bit better about not knowing what to do in life knowing you’re not alone and that things can change.
If you’re an online entrepreneur who is ready to uplevel their visual content, check out my services and pricing here. At the time of writing this, I have 2 spots for each package available at BETA pricing so please do not hesitate to get in touch and see how we can work together.