Changing your path and starting a new career takes work. Here are five steps to make it a success.
- Start where you are.
- Put in the time.
- Jump on opportunities.
- Give back to others.
- Take ownership of your work.
Start where you are
Here is the short of what I was doing: fundraising for a non-profit organization in the US. And I started looking for ways to save money for our small company. At the time, they contracted with freelance designers for many of their needs. And, there needed to be more in the way of marketing the business. I kind of “fell into” my design journey and current role.
I decided to attend the University of YouTube. Isn’t that where everyone starts? 😂 On the platform, I spent some time sifting through videos of instructors showing how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. I remember watching one video of this guy from New Zealand. He made the software easy to learn with practical projects and had a neat accent. I immediately jumped over to his platform and picked a course. I started learning Illustrator because it seemed easier and could help me with what I was trying to do for the company. I have always enjoyed art and design and have taken many high school and college electives. I just never thought about it as a career. I just wanted to help, so I started where I was.
Put in the time
The instructor was great, but a five-year-old could do better than the stuff I was making! 😂 I took it easy on myself and wasn’t too critical of my work. I was learning the tools and having fun. The instructor broke down each lesson with different projects to practice. I copied what he showed us and didn’t worry about being creative. I knew that would come in time.
It took me about six months to get good at Illustrator, but I was studying at night and on weekends. Then I moved on to Photoshop. That software was crazy with all the stuff it could do. Photoshop took me a bit longer because I wanted to master that one. It was two years in total for the courses. Again, I was having fun, AND the creativity had kicked in somewhere towards the end of the first Illustrator course. I was creating unique projects and improving the material my company sent to customers. They were happy with the products, and reviews were overwhelmingly positive. And I thought to myself, job done. I completed what I set out to do. Only, I didn’t realize back then that was just the start.
Jump on opportunities
Soon after, my employer started giving some of my non-design-related tasks to other people. For a brief moment, I thought they were replacing me. I soon discovered they were freeing up my time so I could devote more of it to creating content for them full-time. That’s when my skills took off because, at this point, I needed to make it work, or I really would be out of a job! 😆
As I got more efficient and delivered my projects ahead of schedule, they asked if I had skills in other areas. How are you with video editing? Do you know much about social media posting? Can you create new web pages? And for every idea they came up with, my response was the same: “Not yet,” and, “How much time do I have to learn it?” I knew I could learn new programs and produce results; I just needed a little time. My nights and weekends were again filled with learning, practicing, and sharing. The sharing part was vital. I needed feedback on what I was doing right and what needed to be improved. So I joined an incredible group on Facebook: the BYOL (bringyourownlaptop.com) community.
At the time, Dan Scott had built the membership up to 20,000. The members are at 40,000+ now, and his YouTube channel has almost 500,000. There are designers from all around the world with various skill levels and abilities. It is a great place to share projects, get feedback, give advice, ask questions, and have discussions. I spent many hours a week there and loved every minute. And some of my project postings got significant engagement and attracted the attention of members and the page admin. So much so that I received an email from one of them in the summer of 2021.
Give back to others
No, I wasn’t in trouble. Nothing like that! 😂 They reached out to me because of how much positive engagement I provided. Their team liked the insights, tips, and encouragement I gave students on their posts and how complimentary I was of their work. BYOL wanted to know if I would be interested in contracting with them. They thought I would be a great benefit to helping and contributing to their subscribed members on their website.
I never thought of myself as a teacher or teaching assistant, especially not in an area I was learning just before this request. However, it has been one of the best decisions I have made. I get a chance to help other students with their projects and better understand the tools, but the experience also helps solidify the lessons I have learned. There are so many incredible artists and designers in the group. Some of them create new and exciting ways to use the software. It’s inspirational, and they motivate me to do better. It’s a beautiful community. I hope I’m giving them as much value as they give me.
Take ownership of your work
For the past four years, my choices were directed by asking myself, ‘What should I learn to benefit others?’ And I would not have wanted to make this career change any other way. When I think about how long it has taken to get to this point, I realize it was the journey I needed. Back then, I would not be as comfortable with my skillset as I am now. This year will be the first time I feel confident enough to ask, ‘What do I want to do for myself?’
At the top of that list is marketing my skills and services. It’s funny. I’m good at selling others’ products and services, but when it comes to promoting myself, there’s still a slight hesitation in taking action. It’s time I take ownership of what I can do and how I can help others achieve their goals while growing my freelance opportunities.
I will always support the causes and businesses that gave me a chance and allowed me to grow my skills. And I will always stop and provide a helping hand to new and experienced designers asking for guidance. And coming soon, I will promote my abilities to help customers solve their problems and achieve their goals for their brands.
Enjoy the journey
You can listen here if you want to hear a short clip of a podcast Dan Scott and I did together. If you’d like to read more about my design process as it pertains to helping meet others’ needs, check out my About page. And if you want to request to join the BYOL Facebook group, use this link.
Thank you for visiting, and feel free to contact me.