Why I left my «fancy» start-up job


This is gonna be a long post; It sums up the last 3.5 years of my work life and what I went through. Little disclaimer: It isn't a sad or horrible story, it's just about me chasing my dreams ✌

So first of all, I left my graphic design job at a start-up in Zurich about 3 weeks ago. I've been working there for more then 3 years (which is a lot for a company like this).
The team I worked with is amazing, everyone is extremely motivated and open minded and young. It's a modern company, you can say it's probably one of the best places to work at if you want to be able to directly impact a company's direction and play a big part of its success. I don't want to name the company, not that I'm afraid or ashamed or anything negative. But out of respect.


Back when I first started working there the team was super small, a lot of people have come and gone over the years. But there were some people that were always there and I felt like will always be there (in a good way).
There never was such a thing as: «I'm your boss, do what I tell you.» I was always able to manage my work on my own. I had a lot of freedom and got heard if I had an idea or problem.

I got this job 6 months after I finished my bachelor's degree in design, I had a little bit of work experience but never worked on my own for a company. Besides my own company of course :)
I designed the media the company puts out without any other designer telling me what to do. And this is an amazing opportunity for any young designer!


I was working there Monday to Thursday, which means 80%. In the beginning the workload was low. I was able to design a lot, redesign a lot and learn new tools and ways and give the company a new look. I could be very creative and improve my design skills.
Besides working in Zurich I always had my own little projects and my company. Which they of course knew :)
With time the workload got more, but I loved it. Tight deadlines are my thing, if I don't have a deadline or schedule, I tend to become a bit lazy 🙈

The only downsides were the kinda low salary compared to design agencies or other companies (which I was fine with because of all the freedom I had and it was enough to be financially safe) and the very long commute (from door to door I had 1h 40min, one way! Which makes 3h 20min of travelling every day, by train.). I got up at 6 o'clock in the morning, left home at 6:50 h and got home around 19:25 h. I did a lot of my own social media work on my train rides home. Because if you commute, you know those train or bus rides aren't relaxing at all anyway.
So my evenings on work days consisted of cooking, cleaning, a tiny workout and trying to squeeze in some work for my private projects.


Check out my healthy rhubarb flan recipe.

Everything was fine until the beginning of this year:
As it is a start-up, things change eventually. The team became bigger and bigger. So the workload got more, I worked really hard to get everything done in time. I felt more and more exhausted by the end of the days, not being able to work on my own projects in the evenings anymore. I used to be able to squeeze in about 30 mins to 1 hour of work in the evenings. On the days I had off, I needed a lot of time to recharge because the work was super exhausting.
And as you know, often when we have stressful times, we even take our work home. Especially as a designer, you never stop thinking about your job, which often also is your passion.

I had to cut back on my own projects. And I hated to do that.
I tried to manage everything: The job, the self-employment and my private life and relationships. It was working out for a little bit. But the company kept growing, the work got more and more and in Spring/early Summer it's hit its peak.

They decided to hire another designer, which I was super happy about. I would have had like my own «team», creating with another designer, giving each other feedback and learning more from each other. But to become this kinda «leader or mentor» and having this position in the company required to work longer hours. Work even harder.
Knowing this made me sad, I hated to get up early and felt like I was spending my time on the wrong things.


Check out my healthy banana bread recipe.

And this was it. I wasn't able to manage it all anymore. Having this blog (which I've already put on ice since May), my online-shop and my freelance design work and a start-up job was too much.
I had to make a decision...

So I started to look for a new job. I didn't want to cut back on my own company, I actually wanted to spend more time working on my own projects. So I was looking for a job with max. 60%. Which isn't easy. Most jobs ask for at least 80%.

But luckily I've found one! And I'm even able to work as a graphic designer. I'm working 50%, which means I'm able to spend more time on my own projects then company work. Like this I'm pretty much more self-employed then employed (we all know if you have your own business you don't only work 9 to 5). The design team I work with now is amazing as well and also small and young, the company itself is quite big and international but really cares for their employees. Which is important to me. I didn't want to work for a money-machine.


After all I'm so so happy to have finally made the decision to quit:
Because this Summer I had 2 big freelance graphic jobs, went to a market with my products and the start-up had a big release. I was pretty much only working. There were about 4 weeks where I didn't have a single day off. I was at home around 8, 9 and sometimes 10 o'clock. I had to eat out a lot, couldn't do all my healthy habits anymore. I was exhausted. Physically and mentally.
When I think about continuing like this, I see myself burning out. Or giving up my self-employment dream for quite some time. And this would have made me unhappy and angry.

If you would have told me 8 years ago what position I gave up at the start-up, I would have told you I'm crazy: I was dreaming about becoming an art director, being a leader and telling people what good design is 😜
I always kinda knew that I never wanted to work at companies for my entire life. Always having someone around telling me what and how I have to do things annoy me.
But I didn't know what this would actually mean and what possibilities existed. So I did have this «socially acceptable» career path in my mind: Being an art director.

It took a long time and self reflection to get clear on my vision. And I needed time to become a person who actually can manage being self-employed. Because I used to be super lazy! haha

After university and working for a fun and chaotic start-up I feel ready to be my own boss. Income wise I don't have the freedom to be only self-employed yet. But I'm working on that. I also think it's a great balance I have right now: I don't have to worry about paying my bills and I have the freedom to work on what ever project I want to. And it's also a good experience to work in a bigger company, seeing its structures and work with other graphic designers.


After all I'm super grateful for all the experiences I had, all the ups and the downs. I've learned so much at the start-up besides my designing skills. As it was such a small company, I was able to work pretty close with everyone: Sales people, the CEO, a tech team, customer service and many different personalities. I don't think I would have had such a big insight at any other company.

Of course I will miss the people I worked with. The impact my work had. But I'm also looking so much forward to my own projects. And also to see what impact my work will have at a big company.


At the beginning of this year I told myself: By the end of the year I want to be my own boss. Not working in Zurich anymore. Well, I don't work in Zurich anymore. And I'm mostly my own boss. I didn't completely reached my goal but also the year isn't over yet 😉

This year I worked as hard as I have never had before and I've come so far. I'm stoked to start working on all the projects I have in mind and see how my journey goes on.


So, why do I tell you all of this? What's the point?

About 10 years ago I started my business (just for fun besides school, not taking it too serious). Not knowing where it would all lead to. But I followed my dreams. Worked hard and dreamed very big. Even though I'm not where I want to be, some people might feel like I'm nowhere, not making enough money. But I know that things have changed and improved and that it's possible to reach MY goal(s).
Because success in my eyes isn't making a lot of money. Success for me is to have the freedom to work on what ever project I want to and having enough money to be comfortable and afford buying what I really need and desire.

Good things sometimes take time, a lot of time, but they're worth it. Stick to your dreams, don't let anyone tell you, you won't «make it» like this. Because «making it» is different in everyone's eyes.

Find out what you really want in life. Dream big, then dream bigger! And start working towards it, let go of the fears you, people or society have planted in your mind. Reflect and work on yourself. Make time to take care of yourself. Let your dreams become a priority and so make time to work on them. Even if it's only 1 hour a week or 10 minutes a day. If you really want it, work for it and it will happen. Maybe not today, maybe not this year, but maybe in 10 years. Because if you aren't even 30 y/o you're gonna live at least another 50 years, so what's 10 years of working hard compared to 50 years of not doing what you love?


Check out my vegan story HERE or check out some delicious recipes HERE.

Also if you need some dope accessories: misty-myth.com
Or a graphic designer (German only): frei-designs.ch

PS: As usual, all pictures are made by me.


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