How to live from several activities and reinvente yourself, with Erin
Aktualisiert: 8. Jan. 2021
I have known my dear friend Erin for about a decade. I haven't only enjoyed her amazing humour (at least for me), improved my English or learned how to bake a pumpkin pie with her (which is already a lot! Thanks Friend). I also witnessed her evolution over the years and how, as a multipassionate woman and entrepreneur, driven by her values and her love for nature and travel, she created a life that suits her. So if you too want to know how to reinvente yourself and create the life you want, discover Erin's story now!
Sandra: Can you please describe the kind of job(s) you’re doing?
Erin: I love that you asked about jobs in the plural. In my experience, having multiple strings in my bow has been key to generating an income – and enjoyment – as a freelancer. I mainly earn an income these days as a freelance English content and copywriter and translator for companies based in Germany. I’m also a yoga teacher but had to put that on hold for a while after a knee injury from playing basketball about a year ago. Those are the things I’ve been focusing on over the last 5+ years.
But you know that undeniable, constant feeling that you’re meant to be doing something else? I’ve had that since about 2017 and it was pretty frustrating trying to figure out why I wanted a change when my business was going well! It’s only been within the last year when that super quiet voice started getting louder and clearer. It took me a few years to figure out what I truly want to do, and now I’m starting my own natural skincare line called Wild Leaves! I’m also studying herbalism as part of a 3-year program to be able to treat patients in the future. I’ve always been interested in natural products, the healing arts and promoting creatively healthy lifestyles for others and myself. It was a long, windy road, but trying out different avenues – and going through a lot of trial and error – have helped me figure out what I’m truly passionate about.
Copywriting is still how I pay the bills while studying and getting Wild Leaves up and running. I might actually have too much on my plate right now but I know that it’s all going to streamline soon and be for something good!
S.: What did you do before going freelance and how did you get the idea to change?
E.: Before 2015, I felt pretty lost to be honest and was still “figuring it out” well into my early and mid-thirties. I got my BA in International Relations in Canada, finished my Master of European Studies and Climate Policy in Germany. I thought my life was getting on track. Right after graduation I was offered a scholarship opportunity in South Korea at the Fraunhofer Institute in Seoul through Germany’s biggest development agency as part of a scholarship program. But due to some administrative kinks, they revoked it a few weeks before I was supposed to fly. It felt like my dream had been crushed and I was truly devastated... and had no other work lined up.
Finding a job at such short notice was nothing short of impossible in Berlin. Luckily, I was offered a paid internship pretty quickly. But you can imagine what it felt like to be a 30-year-old intern. As I interned, I kept looking for jobs in the area of renewable energies but was coming up short every time. So I took on another internship while sending out over 300 applications, and finally, I found a job at a communications agency.
I felt pretty fortunate to have a job at this point. The feeling I imagine most grads and people in their 30s have! But the environment was truly soul-crushing. Showing up at the office every day, sitting in the same spot from 9am to 6pm, staring at a computer screen day in and day out, rushing through lunch, living for the weekends and 6:01, depending on coffee for energy, not moving, office politics… It wasn’t for me. So on a particular Monday morning when my boss called me into his office to tell me that they had to let me go since the agency was struggling, I was sad for about a twenty-eighth of a second before I realized that I got what I wanted!
Basically, the next phase of figuring things out went down like this: I applied to a total of one job, got a headache, felt totally stuck and drained, stopped looking. Through some encouragement from my network, freelancing became an option and seemed like a really good one at that. I had been doing some freelance translating and editing on the side. So, I reactivated those contacts, told them I was going freelance full-time, informed the unemployment office about my decision, wrote a kick-ass business plan and got approved for the Gründungszuschuss, Germany’s state-funded grant for people starting a business.
Luckily, we live in Germany, and even as a US-American I qualified for the same unemployment benefits as a German citizen. In my case, it was the dramatic shift I needed to start freelancing.
S.: What are the things that helped you make your decision?
E.: Going freelance was essentially caused by the series of events I described above and seeing that it actually worked for the freelancers around me. The reaction I had to working in an office environment and having bosses also helped me realize what environments work –and don’t work – for me. My headaches were gone, my energy was back and I really enjoyed working. It was so clear that I was meant to be my own boss.
S.: How did you organize this change overall but also the financial aspect of it?
E.: Back in 2015, I was one of those lucky freelancers I think because, between my agency contacts and the state funding, I had a pretty solid income from the very beginning.
Fast forward to now and I’m financing this transitional phase through copywriting. I have to keep reminding myself that my mind is faster than material reality. It’s important to be realistic about how quickly making big, seismic life changes takes while also staying financially above water.
S.: Are you happy with your decision?
E.: I’ve been freelancing full-time since 2015 and am still so happy about the decision! It’s given me the flexibility to travel and still earn an income, rest when I need, try out different projects that interest me, be a multi-passionate entrepreneur, have a social life during the day – and space to study and start my new business! In the end, you have to know what works for you and what doesn’t – and stay true to that.
S.: What would you recommend to somebody who wants to change something in her/his career but is afraid of the consequences?
E.: Prioritize your needs, listen to your intuition, don’t act on fear-based assumptions. And always, always remember you can reinvent yourself! You never have to stay stuck (long-term) doing something you don't like.
Some experts say you have to niche down when you’re an entrepreneur, and that’s most definitely true for many cases. But being a generalist with multiple passions has helped me thrive as a freelancer, both financially and personally, while finding my niche.
S.: So what can we expect to see from you in the future?
E.: I’m preparing to launch Wild Leaves, a local Berlin-based natural skincare line that taps into the natural healing properties of plants. Have you ever noticed rocket, chamomile, rosemary and dandelions growing through the cracks in the sidewalk? Many of the ingredients used in natural cosmetics can even be found growing in cities! That’s why I’m also creating a Wild Leaves “herbtionary” so people can read up on the ingredients and plants they eat or apply to their skin.
Discover more about Erin and her skincare brand: