studio life03 Aug 2023

My career journey: From 9-5 to self-employed developer

Hello! I'm Carly, the creative and Founder behind Saorsa Studio. In this post I'm sharing the ins and outs of my career journey, from confused graduate student to 9-5 employee, to self-employed web developer.

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Intro to Carly

Hello! I’m Carly, the Founder of Saorsa Studio.

Since 2022, I’ve been working in web development, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 2015, I was a lost graduate student with no idea what I wanted to do for work, and I took a full-time receptionist job to make some money until I figured it out (spoiler alert, it took me a LONG time to finally find my purpose!).

I feel like social media can often be flooded with people sharing their big wins and success stories (that always seem to happen overnight), so I’m here to share my messy - and slow - journey on starting my own business. Grab a cup of tea for this one, it’s a biggie!

My Move to London

A few months into my receptionist job, I was asked by a family member if I might be interested in moving to London to become an Office Manager for the business he’d recently founded. Never in a million years did I consider that moving to London would be a possibility - and the city itself never appealed to me to live in. Not only that, but I had zero experience in an Office Management role - did I have what it takes to manage a small team in a big city where I knew absolutely nobody? Not a chance I thought, but my family obviously had some sort of faith in me as I was invited down for an interview to meet the team.

I thought I was in a weird dream because I was offered the job to start in January 2016. After a lot of deliberation, I accepted the role and uprooted my life in Scotland to start my new London life. Was I crazy? I thought that I was. I didn’t know a single person living in London (aside from family), I was starting a job I had no idea how to do (hello imposter syndrome!), and I was moving to a city that I didn’t think was right for me. However, I knew that if I didn’t take this job I’d probably never move away from Scotland, and I’ve always loved a bit of adventure!

I told myself that I’d give myself a year in London to truly see if I enjoyed it, and lo and behold at the time of writing this in mid-2023, I’m still here. I stayed in my Office Management role for around 5 years when Covid hit and I was placed on furlough.

‘That’ 2020 year…

Like so many others, the year 2020 was a pivotal one in terms of my career. As grateful as I’ll always be for the opportunity I was given, it was never something I wanted to do forever. Having the free time that I did whilst on furlough, it gave me a lot of time to consider my options.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I was never the person that knew exactly what they wanted to do when they ‘grew up’. Trying to figure out what I wanted wasn’t easy, but I’d always felt like I wanted to do something a little more creative.

Towards the end of the year, I decided I’d try to dip my toe into digital marketing, and managed to land an unpaid digital marketing internship with a dog-friendly travel directory (as a dog person, it was VERY fun!). I learned the ins and outs of social media, blogging and affiliate marketing. I had the best time and thought that social media marketing would be something I’d like to get stuck into further, so decided I’d combine that with my Office Management skills and become a Virtual Assistant. If you don’t know what a Virtual Assistant (VA) is, it’s basically a remote role where you help businesses with anything and everything that can be done from a laptop!

2021 - Goodbye 9-5, hello self-employment

In the first quarter of 2021, I did a tonne of social media research, took a free Google marketing course and created a VA portfolio for myself. I started reaching out to some businesses in the travel industry, but didn’t hear anything back. I felt a bit deflated and started to doubt my skillset. I felt like I was back in career limbo again.

I decided to try photography as a new avenue and reached out to a bunch of restaurants and hotels to offer free photography to build up my portfolio. Again, I either didn’t hear anything back or had a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response. I even had a moment where I thought I’d design and manufacture an aesthetic looking camera bag (or as one of my best friends will remember, sparkly festival hats), however those ideas quickly fizzled out!

However, in June something happened that would change my career path forever. An email landed in my inbox from The Institute of Code who I’d been following for a while on socials. They were offering a free ‘Website in a Weekend’ course to give students a taster of what it’d be like to become a web developer.

Back at university, one of my modules was on web design and I created a super basic website (I still have the site somewhere on an old USB - I must dig it out at some point to compare my then and now!). It was one of the only modules I had enjoyed, but for some reason it never ocurred to me to pursue a career in tech.

I signed up to the course, but it was during a birthday weekend away with my boyfriend that it took place. I was so excited to make the most of the weekend opportunity that after he’d gone to sleep, I sat with my laptop watching the lessons and started practicting the activities. It re-ignited that spark that I had at university and almost immediately I decided to sign up to one of IOC’s eight week digital web dev bootcamps.

Around this time, I was surprised when someone responded to one of the Virtual Assistant emails I’d sent out earlier in the year to say they’d be interested in my services (yes, proof that cold-emailing and a little patience DOES in fact work!). I honestly feel SO lucky with the connections I’ve made whilst figuring out my journey, and I ended up working with a beautiful glamping site based in Sussex. If anyone reading this is in need of a tranquil UK escape - you will not be disappointed by visting them (Swallowtail Hill).

By August 2021, I made a pretty crazy decision to hand in my letter of resignation at my 9-5. I’d been bitten by the web development bug, and IOC made it sound possible that I could truly make this a full-time career and work from anywhere in the world. I was sold. I literally had no idea on how I was going to make enough money to get by, but hoped I’d figure it out by the time I left at the end of the year!

In November, I said goodbye to my 9-5 after just shy of six years working there. I’ve never been someone who has enjoyed leaving their comfort zone, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Hello 2022

After some time off during Christmas and lots of practice with coding, I registered myself as self-employed and landed on the name Saorsa Studio. I built the first version of my website and worked on creating portfolio projects to build up my skillset.

I’m not going to lie, I was incredibly lucky that my 9-5 still kept me on as a freelancer for a few months after that. They hadn’t yet found a replacement for me so I worked remotely for them for a few months alongside my VA client. I was making just enough to pay my rent and bills, but wasn’t making much else.

Come April 2022 (just as I was starting to panic about my 9-5 work coming to an end), I spotted a job on Instagram for a design studio I’d admired since starting my web dev journey. They were looking for a Creative Assistant and I couldn’t believe how perfect the role sounded for me. Being able to combine my Office Management and web dev experience, I was offered an interview and landed the job a few weeks later.

Working there has been the most incredible opportunity, and I quickly started to take on web development work and slowly worked my way up to working with clients one on one. I’ve built sites for some incredible clients in different industries, including fitness, coaching, wellness bloggers, and bar groups. It pushed me way beyond what I’d ever have tried to build on my own, so I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this role!

In November, I went over to Bali for a 10-day coding retreat with the Institute of Code to develop my skillset even further. Some people ask me why I needed to go to Bali to do that, but my answer is why on earth not?! Any opportunity to travel is a big yes from me!

And here we are, 2023…

After the retreat ended and 2023 began, I started to re-design my website in the hopes of flying solo and having Saorsa Studio become the web dev business I’d dreamed of. This website has been a labour of love, with heaps of self-doubt, imposter syndrome and lots (and lots!) of late night coding. It’s been one heck of a rollercoaster, but looking back to where I was just a couple of years ago, I have to remember how far I’ve come. Is it wrong to give myself a pat on the back at the end of this post? Well, I’m going to do it anyway. This blog marks the final puzzle piece of my new website going live, and I hope you enjoy scrolling through it and learning a little bit about what I can offer.

Whether your business journey has been smooth sailing, or has been a bumpy road and you’ve changed your mind about everything a hundred times, I’d love to hear your story. If you’re even a little bit curious about how a custom website could change your business, get in touch with me to tell me all about it!

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About Me

I'm Carly, the Founder of Saorsa Studio. Based in South West London, I design and develop custom websites and blogs. Stick around for all things web design, copywriting, business and more!

If you're interested in a custom created website or blog for your business, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch with me to find out more.

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