A Call To Creatives: Follow Your Unique Path


Over the weekend, I met up with a long-time friend who just landed a way awesome job and is leaving Portland soon. We both started our careers with the same exact internship and I was so excited to hear the news. His climb up the ladder in the design world over the last few years has been nothing short of impressive. I thought about our conversation afterwards and asked myself why I didn’t want the same thing. After all, a well-paying in-house design job at a cool company is the dream, right?

For six years, I freelanced and worked full-time at a lot of design studios and agencies. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It was necessary for me to witness the inner-workings of how successful design businesses run on a daily basis in order to fully understand what it takes to keep things going.

But now, being on my own, I’m the most content I’ve ever been. I’m excited to get out of bed every morning to work with clients I love and feel a personal connection with. I’m excited to share new snippets of work on dribbble. I’m excited to have people on my team I admire like Star and Cathy, even though we’re not physically in the same city. I’m excited to manage things and create a vision that feels authentic, evolving and modern. It’s what I’ve wanted for a long time.

And that’s what I realized: we each have to block out the outside noise and follow our own path. It took me until the age of 32 until I felt comfortable enough to launch Branch. I needed that time to grow into myself and gain the confidence that somehow, some way, everything would be okay. This path feels right for me for right now and if it doesn’t in the future, I have the power to change it.

I know a lot of other designers that don’t want the headaches of running their own businesses. They are happy working at a job that treats them well, pays them well and provides them with great benefits. I completely respect that because I wanted that same thing a few years ago. It’s nice to not have any cares about work when you leave the office for the night. It’s a very zen feeling to lock the door and leave your work behind. When you work for yourself, that work and to-do list is always chasing you.

Working for yourself is definitely an uphill battle. But it’s a battle I’m more than willing to take on.

When it comes to your career, it’s easy to look around and obsess about people that seemingly have something more than you. There’s that someone that is younger, more talented and further along. But remind yourself that there’s always going to be that someone.

As hard as it is to not get hung up on what the rest of the world is doing, you have to remember that you’re on your own path. It really doesn’t matter all that much what everyone else is up to. I didn’t even finish my design degree until I was 27 and it made me feel like such a late bloomer compared with my peers — but I didn’t let that stop me. I just worked harder because I wanted to be a graphic designer more than anything. I put in the time to get what I wanted. I worked a lot of jobs, some of which I loved, some of which I hated. But I learned something unique from each experience and it was worth it.

This post is a reminder to block out what everyone else is doing. If you want to work in-house or at an ad agency or for a small, family-owned business, cool. If you want to work for yourself, cool. It’s all up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to build your career in design.

47 Responses to A Call To Creatives: Follow Your Unique Path

    • Shauna says:

      Kat — RocknRollBride: I’ve watched how successful you are at running your own business (and how great you are at managing email!) and that’s definitely kept me inspired. You make it look easy!

  1. Emma says:

    I always love reading posts like these because they remind me that my dreams aren’t just me settling or viewing my worth as less than it is. It’s hard to work for yourself! It takes lots of motivation and perseverance. I’m at the beginning of my self employment journey and have already wanted to throw in the hat a few times! Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Shauna says:

      Emma: I know what that feels like, there are those really hard days. I’m still working on being able to step away when those times hit, taking a break and resetting. I always try to remind myself though that if it was easy to run your own business, everyone would do it!

  2. Sian says:

    Truth. I’m including a similar thing in my eBook (about running your own creative biz), sometimes I feel the 9-5 gets bagged out a hell of a lot, where in fact it actually works really well for some people, and they prefer that lifestyle.

    • Shauna says:

      Sian: I’ve been following along and I can’t wait to check out your book! I love your straight talk on running your own business, it’s super refreshing.

  3. Nikki says:

    This is an awesome post! I’m just over 2 years into my design career and it’s nice to have reminders like this to tell me that it’s going to be a process to get accomplish my goals and shape my career into what I want it to be. You’re a great inspiration!

    • Shauna says:

      Nikki: It’s a constant process! I have so many designers I look up to and think, “Someday I want to be there.” I think that’s what’s interesting about being a designer — there’s never an end to the learning and that can be both exciting and overwhelming at times.

  4. Thea says:

    This is a great post and a good reminder. All of my close friends are creatives and we’re all so hard on ourselves in different ways when it comes to our careers. It’s a good remainder to always do what’s best for YOU. :)

    • Shauna says:

      Thea: It’s part of the industry — because we’re always having to be “on” and bring our creative game every day, it’s hard to let up, chill out and just be okay with taking a break.

  5. Melinda says:

    Its nice to have a reminder like this and tell myself that taking a Saturday every week to work on my blog and do one art piece (Collage, painting or digital collage) is right. I’m not wasting a day, I’m making my life. I do want to be in art shows and sell my work professionally, I just have to make myself start doing what I need to do to get to where I want.


    • Shauna says:

      Melinda: Life gets in the way and it gets more difficult to make time to do what you love so that’s awesome that you’re making the commitment. Keep it up!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for posting this. It was definitely something I needed to hear right now. I’m 33 and in my first year of uni studying for my degree in Graphic Design. It’s something I always wanted to do but I always let life get in the way. I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer too. It is hard to resist comparing yourself to other people who seem (although they may not be) better than you and have achieved so much younger. I just try to remember that I’m ready to do this NOW. People develop at their own paces and I needed to get some life experience and maturity behind me first… And I really think it’s making me better at my studies. Thanks for a great post xxx

    • Shauna says:

      Stephanie: Good for you! I am so glad you made the decision to go back and make your dreams a reality! Your life experience will serve you well — never have any regrets.

  7. kathleen rose says:

    your story is inspiring to me because Iike you I won’t finish my design degree till I’m 27 (spring 2015). I look around me and people my age are settling into careers, marriages, houses and here I am back in school and I can feel like a failure at times. Yet – I switched from a career that I was not happy in and I’m so glad I had the strength to follow my heart. So in the end I wouldn’t have it any other way. Anyway great post.

    • Shauna says:

      kathleen rose: I was completely, totally in your boat. And I was really scared. I had quite a few people question WHY I wanted to make that change. It’s hard to follow your heart but it’s always the right thing to do. Good luck on your new path!

  8. Lyn Collie says:

    Shauna – this post totally reminded me of the conversation I had with you at Blogcademy Auckland. It was great to get your perspective then and great to read it now. I was 30 when I graduated from my film production degree – I didn’t mention this in the conversation but I’m 38 now and it’s taken all this time for me to feel comfortable enough with my work and experience and to see enough possibilities in the market to start my company. I really appreciate/d hearing and reading about your own journey.

    • Shauna says:

      Lyn: I really enjoyed our conversation in Auckland and times like those remind me that it’s never too late to get started on what you love doing. I actually think that life experience makes us better creatives — looking back I am GLAD I didn’t go to school for design the second I graduated from high school! I can tell you really love what you do. You were so thorough and detail oriented with our video. Keep up the awesome work.

      • Lyn Collie says:

        Thanks for that :) – and TOTALLY agree re the life experience. I have someone who works for me part time and he’s trying to break into writing for moving image in the US. I told him to travel after he graduated and then hit grad school – experience is so, so important to making interesting and good work.

  9. Katzi says:

    Great post! It’s so easy to get hung up on all the things everyone else has that you get side-tracked from your own goals. Thanks for the boost I need, being in a creative field myself, I need that extra reminder to keep going because I have to remind myself that it’s my own path I’m making and it will all be worth it in the end!
    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Bre says:

    I love this, Shauna! It’s something I have to constantly remind myself when I get into some sort of comparison mind frame. We all have our own beautiful paths – – no need to make it somebody else’s. :)

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  12. Thank you so much for Sharing! It’s like you are reading my mind. You don’t know how many times I have started to reach out to you and a few other people I look up to and I want to say I am “unhappy” or I “want to do this” and basically I feel like I just want validation that I am not crazy for wanting to do things my own way. My husband does business so much differently than I do and sometimes it feels like I am planning myself into a ditch. It helps to see you be confident in your choices. I keep telling myself that it takes persistence and that things don’t happen over night. Thank you for being so transparent and letting us see a little bit into your real life behind the blog. You are very inspiring!

    • Shauna says:

      Jessica Bramlett | Color Overboard: It’s just like we always say at The Blogcademy — if something was easy, EVEONE would be doing it. Running your own business is some of the hardest work there is! I still have days where I wake up in a complete panic because I didn’t get enough things done and feel like I owe everyone in the world something! I freelanced for AGES for myself and for studios before I ever felt like I was okay with running a legit business full-time. It takes time and there’s no rush. It’s better to go in with a plan and do things the right way than just jump off a cliff and hope for the best. 😉 Keep on keepin’ on. It’s hard but because of that, the accomplishments mean so much more.

  13. Jill says:

    What a wonderfully inspiring post! It’s taken me about 30 years to pinpoint exactly what I want to do. I’m currently navigating the exciting yet frustrating path to get there and it’s sometimes hard to block that inner critic that I’m too old to break into a new industry.

    • Shauna says:

      Jill: Good for you! I love hearing stories like this! I am so glad you’re just going for it because it’s never too late and we need to stop setting limitations on ourselves and our careers.

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  17. Annette says:

    Great article! I’m making a huge leap to start a business of my own and I just had that terrifying thought today that someone else might do things faster, better, more creatively than me… and your words helped. That, and my husband. He told me to go for it anyway.

    So, thank you. They’re very comforting to hear.

    • Shauna says:

      Annette: I think we all have those thoughts! In a way, those thoughts are good though because they push us to work harder and to try things outside of our comfort zone.

  18. Grace says:

    As a late bloomer myself, sometimes I doubt that I will ever get to where I want to be as a designer. But, when I read your posts and look at your work I know that it is possible and that we each have our own paths. Thank you for these words of inspiration and for always sharing your experiences with us. Happy Holidays to you!

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  20. Love love love this post, both because I’ve worked in the creative industry, and I’m a (resume) writer myself. I started my own writing business several years ago, but have often run into times where I kick myself thinking, “Shouldn’t I have gone to school for English instead of advertising?” But it doesn’t change the fact that I got here because I followed a specific creative path of my own. Cheers!

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  23. UniqueUnicorn says:

    I think you really should find your unique path in order to find happiness in life since most of our life is work, it is important to find the work that will fulfill you mentally and financially. For this task, you definitely must use some help from the specialists from the http://nycresumeservices.com/ service online.

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