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Quitting my 9-5 and becoming a self-employed creative

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

From a young age, I've always been drawn to anything on the creative side; whether it was painting, drawing, arts and crafts or even dancing. This was and still is, what makes me the happiest!


I attended Ravensbourne University where I studied a Foundation in Art and Design, then went on to study for my bachelor's in Graphic and Media Design at London College of Communications (UAL). It felt like a no brainer that once I graduated, I would then pursue a career in graphic design - which I did. I worked as a digital designer in the fashion industry for several years and then moved across to the world of sport and entertainment where I worked as a UI/UX designer (more commonly known as a Product Designer).

Left Image: Me on graduation day wishing for an office job.

Right Image: Me in my office job - probably with a migraine and stuffing my jumper with bubble wrap to keep the office moral alive.


In all honesty, I didn't hate nor love my 9-5. My work-life balance was really good in comparison to previous jobs I had, the office culture was pretty decent and I also was able to work on some really cool projects over the years. More than anything, being on a consistent salary allowed me to travel the world often, save up and buy a house and more specifically START A BUSINESS!


Although Chin Chin Prints was never a premeditated ‘business’ idea, it was having a salary when starting out that allowed me to buy materials/stock and get my prints out there.


I have always illustrated for fun outside of my 9-5, but found during the first lockdown I had way more time to draw. I illustrated my first location print (Harrow-on-the-Hill) for my mum as she was re-decorating (along with everyone else also locked down in the UK at the time). I loved that my illustration was able to capture cherished memories for my mum who grew up in Harrow and explored the idea of drawing some locations more sentimental to me (Peckhamplex, Brockley, Forest Hill & Catford).


Left Image: The OG Harrow-on-the-Hill print.

Right Image: First ever printed Peckhamplex print.


I then began having friends and family ask for copies of the illustrations and realised people would actually buy them (wild!!). This still humbles me to this very day. I love illustrating and love that my work is able to bring sentiment to others. I created an Instagram account and began posting my work. It quickly went from just friends and family to then having strangers DM me asking how they can purchase them too. I was mind blown but took this as a sign to create an Etsy to make the process a little less clunky.


I had never planned to work for myself, it was always just a daydream that I would one day be able to create for a living and live solely off being an independent artist. I emphasise the word ‘daydream’ because throughout my whole time studying at Art school and working as a graphic designer, there was always a strong narrative around ‘the struggling artist’, romanticised in films but in reality was never going to be a real option to survive - especially in London!!


I sold my prints on Etsy alongside working my 9-5 and over the next 18 months grew more confident in myself and started to believe this could be more than a ‘side hustle’. Again, I stress - this was never the plan, but felt there was no harm in just seeing how far this little side thing would take me.


Some key things happened that made me believe I could possibly quit my 9-5 and make this a full-time venture. These where;

  • I did a couple of IRL pop-ups and markets in South London (where I’m based). My first ever pop-up was with Oru Space in East Dulwich and I was given a massive amount of support and guidance from the co-founder Vibushan. I also took part in markets with Salad Days Market (formally known as A South London Makers Market). From these experiences I learnt that South Londoners really champion and show up for small business and my prints were well received (woohoo!).


  • I landed my first wholesale client pretty early on and put it down to luck aka big-time imposter syndrome. This wholesale customer went on to be one of my most consistent over the years and taught me I CAN sell on a larger scale and larger businesses WILL take me seriously.


Left Image: First ever pop-up, with the amazing Oru Space in Dulwich

Right Image: First ever wholesale order - x100 units!!!


A question I get asked often is ‘How did you know when to quit your 9-5?’ and the honest answer is that I didn’t. As previously mentioned, my 9-5 had no major pain points and I was very comfortable, but after spending two years working from home, I realised how repetitive life can be and that life can also be cruelly short (morbid I know but I’m being honest here). I was yet to take any big risks in my life and figured if all else fails, I will just find another job. Once I had decided this, I then started to put aside money every month as a safety net if Chin Chin Prints didn’t make me any money.


My notice period was three long months but told myself this just allowed me longer to save, which made for an even bigger safety net. In my last week of working a 9-5 is where the real imposter syndrome set in. As colleagues heard I was leaving, I was asked often“So where are you going next?”. When I explained I’m going self-employed, it was the looks of shock that made me realise how big of a jump this would be.


Fast forward six months, and I’m here - surviving! It has been an absolute roller coaster but can truly admit it’s the happiest I have ever been in a job (if you want to call it that). I have made so many small business friends who I am able to cross-compare survival notes with and cheerlead on. And most importantly I have really pushed myself out of my comfort zone (I’m an introverted homebody by default!).


Image: My pop-up with Salad Days at Selfridges department store (MAD!)



I love being on my own time, with all the freedom that comes with it, but equally must admit that it is probably the hardest I have ever worked. The days can be long and weekends can be non-existent but with that being said, I am very much in love with the life I am creating for myself and hope my journey inspires others to take risks and do what they love!


Thanks for reading this far!! :)


2 Comments


Well done. I’m very proud that u turned what was once a daydream into reality.


Inspirational!

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Thank you for sharing this. It's really refreshing to read an honest take on moving away from a 9-5.You have done amazing. I can't wait to see more :)

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