Why I Left My Corporate Job to Help Environmental Firms
Brand & Web Designer
Article excerpt or TLDR:
After several years working on projects and brands that were blatant greenwashers at worst and politely looking the other way at best, I started my journey toward creating and improving my own process and work that would help environmental firms on their path to online presence in the form of branding & web design, and fulfill me with a sense of accomplishment and more importantly, feeling that I'm actually helping someone doing the right thing. This is my story.
Figuring out the problems causing my unsatisfaction
“We are thinking about implementing a recycling program.”
It was like any other client meeting. Some of us from the marketing agency was carefully listening to our old client’s brand-new request, and others were at least pretending to. But this piqued my interest.
“The target is this upcoming holiday season. We want to use this program as an opportunity to push for more sales. You know the deal, people give us their old phones, we provide them with a discount. What do you guys think?”
My colleague sprung into action with an enthusiastic nod and immediately started listing the usual suspects.
“How are you going to implement the program?”, I had to ask.
The truth is, for quite some time now, I was feeling jaded, uninspired if you will. And not only because of the nature of the work coming in waves, sometimes crashing on every one of us until we’re finally being spit out on the shore right around Sunday evening. The deadline was, of course, tomorrow.
Some of these waves were felt like a mere breeze, leaving us bored and uninspired, as the waves were too small to play in. A weird job, I know.
You get used to these things, like sailors, who develop natural resistance to the wavering sea. Or so I’m told.
No, this weary feeling was coming from another part of my brain, the one dealing with gratification and a sense of strong purpose. The Gandhi section, how the neuroscientists call it.
I loved what I do, don’t get me wrong. And I learned so much, expanding my knowledge and upgrading, from an open-space cubicle to a fully-fledged desk and a team to work with. Accomplishments have come my way, but the feeling was still there.
There was no distinct resolution after our work ended. The needle was moved, yes. And the client was still there, happy to listen. But there was no concrete thing to cling on.
What have I achieved? And more importantly, does my work really count?
If I left right now, how long would that office earthquake rumble their desks before the murmurs and whispers completely stop? I’d say a week, tops.
So, who am I helping, then?
“We have partnered with a recycling company; they will take over the bulk of the process. We’ll diverge every processed discount and they will take care of the rest.”
“Apologies for being curious, but are you aware of their recycling practices? How are they going to recycle your phones?”
“Heck, I know. They gave us the best price from the lot and are fully on board. So, about that PR stunt, what are you feeling about…”
I stopped listening after that. It wasn’t related to my team, anyway. How to avoid greenwashing 101 would be a better term, it seemed.
The best price, huh? I guess trickle-down also applies to garbage.
What am I going to do to fix the problem?
A year go by (so quickly, man) and there I was, sitting. Looking at my screen as if I’m working.
The breeze days were in full swing. Nobody was doing anything particular, some content writing and social posts, sure. Maybe a landing page optimization check, but that’s pretty much it.
Boredom brings some peculiar things, and for over a month now, I was thinking about something peculiar.
The idea of leaving was already fully formed, but the thought of transferring to a competing agency was not. So that got me into uncharted lands, thinking about hobbies, desires, and other “don’t-think-about-that-at-work” thoughts.
The central theme was circling back to those feelings of strong purpose and direction. I want to know that I’ve helped someone. To feel a sense of accomplishment at the end. I don’t need another business transaction; I need to do something that matters to me and others.
I was always earth conscious, even as a kid. I should thank my parents for that, but also the surroundings of my childhood. Always near a city skyline, but looking the other way.
And reading all these gloomy predictions about climate change didn’t help either. But it pushed me in a direction I always thought about, but never dared to try it.
The idea of having set up permaculture on a piece of land was reserved for my older, way older years. But what about now? How will you reach your retirement goals if you didn’t even break a decade of sweat in your white-collar clothes?
A change was in order. Not the radical kind, I’m afraid. But a change in a more positive direction nevertheless.
I presume you’re expecting right about now a bold statement how I went to my boss and slapped (figuratively) my resignation letter in his face, turning my back and slowly walking away to the tune of “Don’t stop me now” by Queen.
In reality, I started working on the side, using these bits and pieces of breeze time to learn as much as I can about a possible switch into the uncharted territory of freelancing.
The only thing I knew was that I wanted to do this on my own. If I’m going to carve a career of helping environmental firms, I want to pick my projects and let projects pick me, based on our mutual understanding.
No more sour smiles and slight nods to a blatant greenwasher, while feeling that piercing look from my boss behind me.
He never did that, actually, a pretty great guy. This is just my anxiety projecting.
So, I read and watch, track others and apply the practices I’ve already known into forming something of my own. An environmental services process that would serve as a basis for my potential business.
Over time, I collected a few deep breaths of courage and started working on Upwork, battling my way across the sea of other like-minded souls who wanted to be a better version of themselves.
And… I got good. Not overnight, of course. But accompanied by the usual ups and downs, I’ve managed a few clients on a retainer that were interested in my environmental consulting as much as I was interested in their environmental cause.
And for better or worse, the whole side-business started taking a sizeable chunk of my free time. This was getting serious.
Here’s what happened when I left my high-pressure corporate job.
There was no whistling or face-slappin’. I talked to my team and told them my plan and idea, I already knew my replacement and started focusing on her a bit more, and finally, started building my whole agency from the ground up, wanting to move away from Upwork in the “real world”.
Then, after 2 months and 10 days, I’ve sent my resignation to my boss. We talked, he cried, I cried (not really). He wished me luck and told me the usual spiel of how I will always have a spot there.
And that was it.
Leaving me with the actual scary part. No more safety net, no more waves to rumble, just my quiet perseverance and dedication.
I had a couple of clients then that needed my work, some money saved for some dry spells (about 6 months or so), and off I went.
Environmental firms, here I come! With a brand-new brand & web design service coming at your online door! Or something like that.
I will not say it was a simple decision. I will not lie that many anxiety-inducing thoughts about making the wrong choice haven’t sprung to mind every so often, but I’m here, still.
Growing and learning, improving my process and, most of all, creating better stories and designs for environmental firms and people I truly want to help.
I’ve lived in New York for a while (which is a story in itself), returned to my hometown and now thinking about moving again with my girlfriend.
All while planning how to carefully build my agency to sustain us even more and improve the quality of service to a higher degree.
It’s just another wave, I always try to tell myself. Another wave in the endless sea of commitments and decisions. Some will be huge, some will be barely felt, but the most important thing for me is to keep swimming.
If you have read this far
I presume we share the same passion for making a world a little better and a bit greener. A bit more open to change and accepting a more sustainable way of life.
I would be more than happy to listen to your particular story like you’ve heard mine. About your struggles and goals, twists and turns, and how you desire your environmental firm to present itself and move forward.
If you wish to talk, you can always reach me here for a free consultation (or a chat), and I’ll try my best to listen and understand. We’re all in this together.
Wish you all the best in your journey.
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