My Career Change from Architect to Professional Artist

Here is my story and how I made a career transition from a 9-5 job to working from home on my business. What I hope with this post is that if you’re struggling with balance, especially as a woman or a mother (like I was) in a day job that is preventing you from finding your true goal, happiness and doing everything in your life that you desire, it’s absolutely in your ability to change it. This post might spark a little controversy for some people but it’s my journey and I decided to share it with you in all its truth, so it’s possible you might disagree with some of my decisions and that’s ok.

Regardless of where you are today, I hope that you’ll find my story helpful if you’re considering a change or a career transition of your own. There is a lot in here that applies to so many, and I hope my decisions might inspire some of yours! 

architect with hardhat and construction boots

The climb

It was never about the money or the position. But in grad school, our professors worshipped the word Architect. It meant enduring everything leading up that point and only a few of us were lucky enough to get there.

I wanted it so badly. 

It meant completing 4 years in undergrad and another 4 in grad school, where you’d be scrutinized for the amount of continuous hours you could work, how savvy you were at getting a hold of unlicensed software on your computer, and how well you could handle being completely berated at the monthly studio critiques. And it was all in an effort to build your thick skin for a career that was going to be eternally critical. And to prove how hard you’d work for it. 

I know that sounds bad. And it wasn’t all bad. There were a few professors that knew how mentally abusive that environment was and they made an effort to help console and motivate you when all you wanted to do was quit. 

Which so many did. 

In an effort to just finish what was already going to scar my confidence forever, I graduated. 

But then another obstacle presented itself. The dreaded licensing exams. 

These took another 3.5 years of solid studying and working to fulfill specific categories of experience at my first and second job after graduating from school. It was the last piece of a puzzle that had taken me 11 years. 

I studied for these exams for a year, every day, including weekends. After passing all four, I was granted the title Architect, that could now grace my email signature, business card and office website bio. 

The Slow Burn.

With this elusive title behind my name, I felt a huge sense of relief. 

Relief, not excitement. 

And looking back I think it had to do with the fact that I could put everything up to this point behind me. From now on it would be easier. 

Except that nothing changed. Sure, the work intensified, the responsibilities grew slowly and disappointment started to creep in. I was unhappy at my job because I had been  conditioned to think I was never really good enough for it. It was always a source of stress, doubt and insecurity for me.

But I had things to look forward to. 

I was going on maternity leave and as much as I hate writing this part, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Not only was I going to be a mom which I wanted more than anything but I could forget about this ungratifying job for a year. It was the perfect way out. 

I enjoyed maternity leave more than I thought I would. That year was one of the fastest of my life but what I do remember was playing with my daughter in the park, throwing leaves into the air, walking all over the city with her in the stroller and spending a lot of time with family. I also played around a little with designing and printing stationery, and attended some craft shows and created en Etsy shop to keep connected to my creativity.

When I went back to work, we were already expecting our second (admittedly sooner than we had originally planned), so the next 9 months at work were somewhat transient for me. I returned to the news that so many of my colleagues surpassed me and the sense that I had fallen behind.

I also kept hearing this term “the dream team” floating around. After asking a few colleagues, I learned that this was the group of staff that my boss had favourited over the last year or so – the ones that stayed the latest, worked weekends and never risked leaving to have a baby. They were all men. 

When I announced to my boss that I was pregnant with our second child, I think the lack of any kind of response was all the answer  I needed. My time at that office was up. 

I didn’t feel like fighting against his sexist beliefs because frankly, that office wasn’t worth it. I hated giving up because I was also so tired of having to give up one thing for another. This was no different. 

How I Made a Career Transition – The Decision

Around the same time, I had a friend take a new job with an architectural office in the past year that had a completely different approach. There were equal parts women to men, fair opportunities and they were doing really interesting and meaningful work in the city. And they were growing and hiring. It felt like a good idea and the the best way to grow my career.

After a few months of reaching out, interviews and contract negotiations, I got the job and when our second daughter turned one, she joined her sister in daycare and I went to my new job. 

The office proved their reputation to be true. It wasn’t perfect but it was a great place to work and build a career. The leadership was inspiring and the projects were incredible. I felt like I had found my place. I still struggled with confidence and doubted everything I did, but I had normalized that feeling by this point. 

Then the pandemic hit and the world changed.

Working from home, like everyone else, my husband and I struggled with two full-time, demanding jobs and two kids under 4 all under one roof. 

In addition to that, we lost my dad very suddenly and my mental and physical health suffered. I battled anxiety, an autoimmune disease diagnosis, grief and the fear of the pandemic at the same time and I struggled to enjoy or even at times, do my job at all. 

It took a lot of hard work, therapy and lifestyle changes to start to get out of these paralyzing feelings

I wrote a full post of my health journey and you can read all about that here. I also feel compelled to add here that if any of these things sound familiar or are triggering for you, reach out for help. I couldn’t have done it without my therapist, nutritionist and physician and family and friends.. 

I began to paint again, having not done much in over a decade. But my husband reminded me that I had always enjoyed painting and perhaps this would help me on my healing journey. 

From there, I never looked back. What was born from survival became a passion that helped me find my happiness. 

A year and half into the pandemic, we decided to move abroad to reset things a bit. My husband’s job would continue remote, but I couldn’t do mine overseas so I had to quit. 

I then decided to throw myself into painting and turn it into something real and sustainable. 

Now I’d like to end it here and say, I painted and we all lived happily ever after… but the journey to build a profitable business as a full time, creative artist that would provide for my family would prove to be the biggest learning experience of my life. Though I had many transferable skills and my experience was always in the creative industries, I didn’t study at a formal art school and it was a long time since I was without a full-time career and that scared me! My biggest concern was doing all the work only to return to my old job. 

And proving to myself that I was in-fact not good enough.

I had no idea how to start, run and sustain a business in visual arts or any field. Did that mean being a commercial artist? A graphic artist? A Gallery Owner? What did it mean to work in the art world? I had to learn everything from financial planning, to sales, to website management, graphic design, branding, social media, SEO and google algorithms, collaborations, licensing, pitching, email marketing, blogging to art-business specific skills like mastering my own art and visual skill set, to printing, shipping, digital products, quality, packaging, equipment, photography. 

To have a successful professional career in fine art, one of the most important things was to understand the many options of a full-time artist. So I studied all the ways I could grow my business and explored various creative projects. I spent long days learning, trying, failing… over and over. 

small landscape painting on paper

The amount of work and learning that is required was far beyond anything I expected. 

The good news is that I can also honestly say that the amount of love I have for all of these things FAR outweigh the work. It truly feels like a new life. 

It’s difficult to put yourself out there as an artist – it’s personal, right? You subject yourself to criticism and judgement, sure, but I have never felt insecure in what I’m doing today and my ability to do it really well. That’s the difference for me. 

Making A Career Change Is Hard

While I left a profession that I had worked so far to get into and had stability that this job will probably never provide (though I do believe it can surpass my financial dreams one day!) I have never been happier and more fulfilled than I do now. And that is how I know I made the right decision. My job gives me confidence, pride and ambition. Going out of my comfort zone and venturing into a new career path is one of things that I’m most proud of. A lot of people are scared to leave their uninspiring jobs or make career choices that they’ve worked so hard for, but the reward is well worth it! I knew an office job wasn’t my future and I used every second of my free time to find what was. 

If you want to learn how to do the same, have a set of current skills that you believe can make for a new career or professional independence, here are a few resources to get you started TODAY. 

I recommend the free guide on starting your creative business from home first. It’ll give you a thorough understanding and a well-thought-out plan, step by step, of how to start, where to put your time and energy and how to build a business slowly without quitting your job until you’re ready. 

Ready To Start On Your Next Career Today?

If you prefer a one on one format and want to set up a 30min FREE consulting call to see how we can work together on your business, head over here now to book your call!

photo of computer with artist website on the screen

Also, if you’d like to follow along and subscribe to the mailing list to receive more post notifications like this, including special promotions for artwork, collections and freebies, join here. I sent out templates, guides, little bits of business, best ideas for email marketing, SEO tips and much more. 

You’re in good hands! 
This free guide will walk you through the first 9 things you can do TODAY to get started on your business from home!
Sign up below and you’ll also receive exclusive content, updates and discounts on special collaborations. You’ll receive tips and tutorials to create and curate beautiful art, how to start your own business and much more! 
Thank you for subscribing!

Thanks for reading!


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *