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  • Writer's pictureLauren Leopold

Career change: From advertising to interior design

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Career Change Chronicles is my regular column about the lives of brilliant women who’ve changed careers to follow their dreams. Here, we meet my client Nicole Burnett, who’s been running her interior design business Wise Owl Interiors since January 2020. She lives in London and you can find her on Instagram @wiseowlinteriors

Tell us about your journey into interior design

I started my own business in Jan 2020 and my God it was scary! I remember setting everything up at my desk being like... "This is weird I work for myself now". I’d been working at a high-end interior design studio where I was working on huge budget projects, but I knew deep down it wasn't really for me. Every time I used to start designing I used to think to myself, ‘What about everyone else that wants a nice home? How could they afford this?’. It was all a bit crazy in my eyes. That's when I thought to myself that I could totally do this but cater it towards everyday people just looking to make their home amazing. I was also working killer hours and missing out on after work drinks with friends because I’d sometimes be staying in the office till 8pm, which I was gutted about!. Funnily enough, I started to look for another role with a different designer, who offered me the job but the more and more I thought about it something didn’t feel right. I’d known from the moment I started my interiors journey that I always wanted to work for myself and make my own money eventually, but this job felt soo off, I couldn't explain it. In the end I just didn't go ahead with it and thought ‘Woah this is a sign you are meant to start your business’. So I took the leap and here I am.

What challenges had you been facing and what impact did they have on your life?

I was in a really weird point in my career where what I was doing wasn't fulfilling anymore and I felt a bit stuck. I was working in radio advertising and I had been doing it for three years, I knew it was something I didn't want to do forever as I'm a super creative person and I began to feel just on autopilot in my role. Nothing was challenging me or allowing me to be creative.

How long had you been thinking about a career change and how did you start?

I've always had a passion for interiors since I was young, I was just clueless that they did courses in it and what the job actually entailed. I started doing loads of research on becoming an interior designer and just fell in love with it. I started looking at part-time courses and enrolled while I was working at the media company (seems a lifetime ago now). I also spoke to people in the industry to get an understanding of what life could potentially be like after finishing the course. While studying I was working still at the media company and in my spare time, I was trying to make as many connections via social media in the industry as I could. It's actually how I met the lovely Athina from Topology Interiors, where I attended her workshops which are ace! After finishing the interiors course I bagged myself the job at the interior design studio, which I then left and then it just all came down to that gut feeling in the end. That gut feeling never lies!

How did you make the leap?

I’d been saving prior to even working at the interior design studio, knowing I wanted that for when I launched my own business, as an emergency to fall back on if anything went wrong. So in a way I was prepared to take the leap to go solo, it was just a matter of when. Then I just went for it. Some people thought I was absolutely cray cray but I'd been speaking to pretty much everyone (probably boring them to death) about how much I wanted to work for myself. Admittedly, it wasn't all just plain sailing as I did have that seed of doubt, or what I now know to be imposter syndrome in the back of my head saying ‘You're not experienced enough’, ‘What happens if it fails?’ etc. Again, that gut feeling took over and I just suddenly had an epiphany. I thought ‘What's the worst that can happen and would you feel worse for not taking the risk?’ The answer was that I knew I'd feel shite if I never took the risk. Saying all of this, imposter syndrome still raises its ugly head but Lauren has an amazing exercise to help you see through all the mist of that BS and kick its butt!

What's life like for you now that you're running your own business?

Scary but bloody amazing! I sometimes still can't believe that I actually run my own business. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real! Looking back, so many people say it will be the best thing you ever do but sometimes you're not sure if you believe them because that imposter syndrome creeps up. But it definitely was the best thing I've ever done!

How has your life been positively impacted by changing career?

I've actually got the creativity I've always wanted in a job which has a massive positive effect on my mental health and the best thing is no day is really 100% the same. This is something I really struggled with before. I didn't want an autopilot job. I wanted something different, creative, challenging and that was mine. By me listening to that little gut feeling, I’ve made my dream job a reality.

What have been your biggest achievements?

  • Taking the leap to start my own business

  • Being nominated for the AMARA blog awards & shortlisted for best newcomer

  • Having a following on instagram

  • Hundreds of people viewing my Instagram stories

  • Getting my first paying client

  • Doing my first solo install

  • Getting my biggest paying client to date

What have been the challenges and how do you deal with them?

At the start, I was doing everything manually on Excel sheets which took so much time. I wish I’d just invested in software that took away that pressure. In the end I invested in some project software that really helped me speed up the process of things but that was also off the back of financial stress, as I was just starting out and making little money. Also some clients can be stressful and demanding of you and learning to manage clients’ expectations differently depending on the person is hard. But Lauren has helped me to create an action plan to make things easier and set boundaries at the start.

What have you learnt along the way?

So many things but to name a few:

  • Go with your gut

  • Think positive

  • Listen

  • Set goals

  • Reflect

What 3 tips would you give to people wanting to do the same as you?

1. I would say really work on finding out what your USP (Unique Selling Point) is. What sets you apart from your competitors? What can you offer? What makes you stand out? And you can then align all your content with that.

2. Have a plan - even if it is a rough idea make sure you know what you need to do and why

3. Have some savings just in case!

How has having a business coach helped you along the way?

I've absolutely loved working with Lauren. When I met her I knew I was going to love her technique, approach and style towards things. It’s 100% made me more positive and allowed me to reflect on things I probably wouldn't have done alone. I feel focused and really have a clear action plan. I worked with her for 3 months and it's been incredible. She just gets you moving and pushes you to really get out there and achieve!

Do you feel unfulfilled in your career like Nicole did and need some focus and clarity on how to change career and start a business? Or maybe you already run a side hustle or business and want to take it to the next level. Either way, book in a free discovery call to see if we vibe!

Meet Lauren

Career Change & Business Coach and Side Hustle Queen

Hi, I'm Lauren. I burnt out, hit rock bottom and used the experience to manifest my dream life. I now help passionate and ambitious women change career, start side hustles and grow businesses. I'm living proof that you can - and deserve to - have it all.

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