Reader queries: “I want to make the switch from accountancy to writing – how difficult is it?”

The past few months have been busy ones – as well as taking a trip to Barcelona (beautiful city, by the way; I highly recommend a visit), I’ve been continuing to work on the editorial team of a weekly tax magazine (the recent UK Budget in March and the subsequent Finance Bill kept me very busy). I had my “Tax and Russia” article published, as part of a special report on tax in the BRIC countries. I’m also still writing a lot. I haven’t been so good at keeping up my daily habit of writing 500 words a day – that mini-resolution fell away in March, BUT I have still been writing almost every day (so at least several times a week) and writing about 800 words of creative writing a day, so all is not lost.

Recently, however, I received a reader query, which I will share below (as well as my answer) in the hope it’ll help those in a similar situation.

IMG_9871 (Casa Batlló in Barcelona, Spain. One of Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces.)

“Hi Santhie, I recently came across your article on careershifters.org, and found it so inspirational. I’m a newly qualified chartered accountant who hates her job and the profession. I too have always enjoyed writing and set up a blog last year to document my travels with my husband so I could at least continue my passion to some extent.

I was wondering how difficult you found it to make the switch from being an accountant to a writer, i.e. what stumbling blocks did you come across? I’d really appreciate any advice you could give me as to how I too can follow my own passion in life, as opposed to being stuck in a job I hate.” 

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Thought for the day: Going after what you truly want is hard

Going after what you really, truly want – deep down in your heart of hearts want – is hard.

It is so much easier to go after something you don’t really want that much. That career that’s not your dream career but “hey, it pays the bills”. That small property in a not-ideal area that you tell yourself will do as a “starter home” or “just to get on the first rung of the housing ladder”. That business in an industry that isn’t quite what you’d want to work in, but “at least it’s safe”. That job you only take because your CV proves your experience for the role. That man or woman you’re not really that fussed about. If they do say yes, if they do agree to take you on, then hey, at least “they’ll do”.

(Spoof boy-band singing “Girl, You’ll Do” from Charlie Brooker’s BBC show, How TV Ruined Your Life. Do watch the clip – it’s HILARIOUS.)

Because – terror of terrors! – what if you tried to get into your dream job or career, and they said no???? What if you did try to save up for a better house, or move to a better area, and you couldn’t do it??? What if you tried to start that business in the industry you really wanted to work in, and you failed??? What if you asked out that man or woman you really like, and they laughed in your face???

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Appearances on other blogs: My wedding, and my career change story

I got married last year. My husband and I, being avid gamers and huge fans of the popular sci-fi videogame franchise Mass Effect (an epic battle saga of good-versus-evil set in outer space during 2183–2186 AD), decided it might be fun to incorporate elements from the series into our wedding day. However, as anyone who ever plans a wedding knows, despite what anyone ever tells you, your ‘big day’ is not just about you – expectations from family and good friends come into play, so (fortunately for our mothers and my bridesmaids, at least) cosplay wedding costumes were definitely out! 😀 

Wedding Photos-day 2-low res-55(From the next day’s photoshoot: In front of St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, UK.)

Deciding which elements to include and which to leave out, especially because with an unusual/geeky theme most of the wedding day items needed to be created from scratch, was incredibly difficult. We were working to a budget and very tight time constraints in which to do anything: balancing full-time working with planning a wedding in my husband’s home village – nearly 300 miles away from where we live! – attempting to find tasteful, non-tacky and affordable ways to incorporate a non-standard geeky wedding theme, and balancing everyone else’s expectations with what you (as the wedding couple) want, is incredibly hard and incredibly stressful. Especially when all you want to do is simply marry the man of your dreams, and forget all the faff and fuss that goes around it!

I cannot possibly say if we got the wedding ‘right’, as everyone will have different views on what we should and shouldn’t have done; everyone will have different views on what constitutes ‘tacky’ and ‘classy’; everyone will have different views on what is ‘a waste of money’ and ‘worth paying for’… but my hope is that we got the important part right: not the Mass Effect theme, but whether our guests – our closest friends and family – were well-fed and well-looked-after. Beyond that, nothing else matters. I really hope we got that bit right. I hope our guests loved our wedding day as much as my husband and I did.

Our photographer was London-based Kari Bellamy, and thanks to her we had the honour of having our Mass Effect wedding featured on the ‘When Geeks Wed’ blog – here is the link: http://whengeekswed.com/blog/2013/03/14/santhie-adrians-mass-effect-wedding/.

My other blog appearance was on the popular CareerShifters site: my own career change was featured in their ‘Success Stories’ column, and I hope it manages to inspire and help people as much as their previous career-changing success stories inspired and helped me. You can read all about how I changed career from a corporate tax accountant to a freelance writer and editor here: http://www.careershifters.org/success-stories/from-corporate-tax-accountant-to-freelance-journalist-editor-and-writer. It’s a long article, but hopefully a fairly comprehensive ‘how I did it’ piece. Changing career is not easy, but absolutely can be done – and once you do, there is no shortage of people who’d love to know how to do the same.

The Myth of the Starving Artist

I am a believer that living a life doing something you love for work every day does not mean a life living on tins of baked beans in a cold and dark bedsit (unless that’s what you want). But I never used to be this way. I spent four years stuck in an accountancy job I hated, because I was afraid that if I did what I really wanted to do – in my case, writing for a living – I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and end up starving on the street. I have been writing for a living for just over three years now, and have definitely been able to pay the bills – not to mention occasionally satisfy my love of fine dining, foreign travel, and even start investing (yeah, I’m a bit of a nerd – blame the Maths degree).

IMG_3091 (I also like to take many gratuitous pictures of food. You’ll have to humour me.)

It turns out I wasn’t alone: many people are afraid to leave a job they hate for work they love, because they are afraid they won’t be able to support themselves or their loved ones – particularly if the ‘work they love’ involves a creative or artistic career. There is this belief in our culture of the ‘starving artist’: the idea that if you want to make a living from your own creative endeavours, you won’t ever earn enough to pay the bills.

I want to tell you that it’s not true. There are many others making a living from their own creative endeavours – some are making a very good living as well – who will also tell you that it’s not true. I’m not even talking about wildly successful people like, say, Harry Potter author J K Rowling, photographer Mario Testino, or artist Damien Hirst; ordinary men and women like you and me are making a living from their own creativity. So why does our culture continue to perpetuate the ‘starving artist’ stereotype?

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On doing work you love (or: how I quit my City job to become a full time writer and work by the beach while soaking up the sun)

We all know the script. Go to school, work hard, get good grades, get a job, work hard at the office Monday to Friday for several decades… and then you can retire and relax and do what you want. It’s so deeply ingrained in our culture and our minds that anyone who dares to make a living any other way faces a barrage of questions implying that somehow, their work is not ‘real work’ – their job is not a ‘real job’.

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The above photo is of my job – taken last summer as I was working on my laptop on a hotel terrace overlooking St Ives beach in Cornwall, UK. I work as a freelance writer, and as long as I have my laptop (well, MacBook), a good internet or Wi-Fi connection and my smartphone, then I can do my work. Even if I’m outdoors overlooking the beach and enjoying the sunshine. Does that mean my work is not ‘real work’?

The following are the things I’ve heard said to me about my work:  Continue reading