Ever felt like you were meant to be doing something else?
We all know about Impostor Syndrome — that voice in the back of your head making you doubt if you’re in the right career or if you suck at your job. And the common advice is to ignore it, and to believe in yourself.
But what if it’s actually telling us something? Maybe the feeling that you belong elsewhere is true?
There is a cognitive error that people often make, called the sunken cost fallacy. When you’ve already spent a lot of time or money on a mistake, but you convince yourself that it was the right move.
Could we be doing this with our careers?
This might seem like success, but really I’m kind of trapped. In this field, if you aren’t progressing your skills then you’re falling behind. My development skills are slowly stagnating, because I don’t have the drive or interest to work on them. Instead, other skills like writing and SEO are catching my interest.
I’m writing this post for everyone who feels the same way in their career. You only live once, and one-third of your life is spent working. So it’s important to eventually find what you really want to do. Don’t spend your life regretting a career you don’t like.
Why I don’t want to do web development anymore
To put it simply, I shouldn’t have been a web developer. It’s not my thing.
I got into it because it was a good career option for me personally when I was young. I skipped going to university/college — I didn’t want debt and just didn’t know what to study.
What appealed to me in web dev was that your skill is all that matters.
I was always a tech-savvy kid, so I taught myself well enough to find a junior role at an agency, grew there to around mid-level as a developer, and then quit to start freelancing.
I soon realized that to earn well as a web developer — freelance or employed — you have to be good, not just competent. And to be good, you need to be interested in what you’re doing. There is so much that you need to learn — you need to be curious and hungry for that knowledge. Genuine curiosity is the only way to absorb that much information.
But quite frankly, web development bores me. I’m not curious about it, it’s just my job.
My colleagues would often read articles about web dev on the bus/train to and from work, and then go home and code up some personal projects ‘just for fun’.
I couldn’t stand doing that. Actually it seemed ridiculous to me — what other career do you see this happening? Imagine an accountant working 8 hours just to go home and keep counting taxes for fun.
But I digress. The point is, if you’re bored at your work — you will forever be mediocre.
“Just have some discipline”, you say.
Sure, I can force myself to study, but besides the fact that I’m not interested, I can’t help but see it as a waste of time.
I’m not ok with investing so much into a skill so specific that it is outdated every 2–3 years, and actually useless when you’re not at a computer or even doing something broader than your specialization.
I want to be a well-rounded human being, not just a cog in a machine. And there are other jobs where the knowledge you gain is evergreen and applicable everywhere.
And is working all about money?
We spend one-third of our lives working, so I think it makes sense to demand more from that time. Simply earning money is not a good enough reason to spend so much of your life on one thing.
I’m aware I might sound privileged, and I guess that’s true. I am lucky enough to live in a developed country where I can actually choose a profession. It would be wasteful not to use that choice.
If you have the opportunity, I believe you should do something that interests you, or is important to you for personal reasons. Those could be ethical reasons like supporting a cause, or to help your family business, or maybe just for your own health or mental development.
On changing careers
I’m going to go off on a tangent to talk about my girlfriend, Kristina, who in the past year has switched careers from a full-time marketing director at a corporate job, to a successful freelance UX/UI Designer.
This was quite a big and risky move, and in addition, we moved to another country at around the same time! So I’m very proud of her for pulling this off.
One of the reasons Kristina was able to switch careers so effectively is because she was playing to her strengths. She was always good at drawing and a good photographer — a visually talented person. And she always found it fun to collaborate with designers while at her marketing job.
What’s interesting is that she didn’t notice these things herself. I had to point them out to her.
People often don’t notice their strengths. They think it’s easy, and that they’re not doing anything special. It can take a long time to identify that you are indeed talented and have good potential in something.
Sometimes people only come to these realizations in their 30’s and 40’s when they have an established career, a family, and it may be too late or financially impossible to change careers.
It took Kristina almost a year to start earning a decent income. So when changing careers, you definitely need to have a side-job that can support you somewhat, or a financial cushion of at least six months.
In our case, she was able to help me with my freelance work. Which actually resulted in the creation of our agency.
The other thing people worry about is losing all the progress they made in their previous career. Or about playing catch-up to people that have way more experience by now.
It’s a matter of perspective, but I don’t think that this is a huge problem. Yes, you do need to start from the bottom in your new career, but your rise to the top might be much faster than usual thanks to transferrable skills.
Kristina is stronger as a designer because of her marketing background. It gives her a unique perspective on design and a unique selling point.
Clients have actually said they contacted her because of the marketing background, and it often powers her decision-making in design.
After all, the purpose of design is marketing! If it wasn’t then it would be art.
In general, I think a career change in your late twenties is a pretty good idea. You’re young enough that you probably don’t have kids or serious obligations, but old enough that you have some experience under your belt.
So Why Copywriting?
Alright, back to my story.
What would you do if there was no internet? If apps and websites did not need to be built?
I like to play scenarios in my head (is it just me?). Like what if there was an apocalypse and no more computers, or what if Artificial Intelligence was able to build software and programmers weren’t needed?
Would I learn something with my hands like carpentry?
What’s a versatile skill that would be useful in almost any situation? One that could be applied in different time periods, and for different goals, in different jobs, and geographic locations?
Writing is my answer.
Everybody Writes. That’s the title of an excellent book on writing by Ann Handley, I highly recommend it. The premise is one that I strongly agree with:
If you have a web site, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.
I believe that writing is more important than ever, it is the primary medium of the internet. Not video, not audio. You are looking at a screen — it is a visual medium and written words are still the most effective way to communicate.
In fact, why stop there. Speaking is also very important. Words are how people exchange their thoughts. There is no other way. We can’t read people’s minds (yet). So we must learn to use words effectively.
Every single person on the planet would benefit from being able to use their words more effectively.
Writing is the best way to do this because through writing you can also improve your speech. Rarely the other way around.
Writing lets you sit down and organize your thoughts, to extract something structured and actionable from the soup that is your brain.
Writing is thinking.
Many bloggers and journalers have said this is their main reason for writing. And to me, this makes it something that is worthwhile spending time and energy on. Something that I would want to get really good at.
But let’s take it back to the practical stuff.
Writing is the most versatile professional skill I can think of. All types of companies employ writers.
It’s also the most powerful skill I can think of.
Writing can be used for good or evil. It can create opportunities, earn money, it can inspire people to do good, or it can manipulate or create lies, and start wars.
Why copywriting specifically?
Copywriting is the art of persuasive writing, and I think that’s a very important skill.
I don’t particularly like that it’s all about selling, because I feel that we already buy too much crap, too often. But I do think it can be used for good — selling eco products for example, or services that actually help people.
Writing persuasively has other uses too. Whether you are rallying people to support climate change policy, or inspiring them to take up exercise and take care of their health. Persuasion is a big part of it.
Also, I have thoughts that I want to share with the world, but I don’t yet have the writing skill to properly express those thoughts. The more complex an issue is, the better communication must be.
There are more practical reasons too — for example, I know that my web dev skills would be useful specifically in a web copywriting role. SEO is a skill that links copywriting to web development.
If any designers are reading this, I imagine that copywriting and UX/UI design would be even more of a killer combo!
What can you sink your teeth into?
So I guess it comes down to this. Unlike Web development, writing is a skill that I am willing to dedicate a lot of time to.
I want to improve my writing skills for reasons unrelated to money, which is always a good sign when picking a career. Plus it’s a useful skill that can take me in many directions in life, and it will remain useful throughout my entire life and into old age.
I may not be the most talented writer, but I know I won’t regret spending the 10,000 hours it takes to get good.
If you’re reading this because you’re having similar thoughts, I encourage you to follow them to the ultimate conclusion. Try not to doubt yourself, rather ask what if you could?
The long road ahead
Changing careers isn’t easy. When I compare my web development skills to beginners, there is a huge gap and I realize how much I actually know: the enormous amount of information that I’ve accumulated over the years that lets me do what I do.
What’s scary is that I know it’s the same for writing, there is just so much to learn and I know that it’s a long journey before I become a good copywriter. I’m excited though, because every day I’m learning something new and useful, and I’m glad to have finally started.
My next post will be about my plan to make the transition — how I’m teaching myself copywriting and how I will find work.
If you’re interested in following my journey, please follow me on Medium or Twitter. And if you went through a career change yourself, I would love to hear about it — please let me know in the comments.
P.S. As you might have guessed, I’m available for freelance writing work ;)