From terrorism analyst to stationery designer
By Amelia White.
My career change is very unique. I think I’m most likely the world’s only terrorism analyst turned stationery designer! Like many creative business owners, I initially felt I should pursue a more traditional ‘serious’ career so I spent years studying. This included a very specialist Masters in International Security and then after interning with the United Nations in New York, I moved to London to work as a terrorism analyst.
It didn’t take long to realise that the intrigue of a terrorism analyst didn’t live up to the day-to-day reality. More than that, I realised I was not passionate enough about the industry to spend my life immersed in it and the constant exposure to such sad and horrific events was really having an impact on my normally positive outlook.
At the same time, the pull towards a creative career was getting stronger and so when I moved back to Sydney I took a huge career pivot and started Amelia Lane Paper. The transition from my old industry to this one was such a big one, I knew once I committed there wasn’t any going back. I really needed this to work and was prepared to slog it out to make it happen. Like any business owner, this has meant tough days, oscillating between highs and lows and constant uncertainty and doubt.
One of the steepest learning curves that I think I share with most creative entrepreneurs has been finding the balance between the creative elements – the reason we do what we do! – and the day-to-day necessities of running a business like the inevitable admin, bookkeeping, packing and shipping orders and responding to customer and stockist enquiries. If I had my way, every day would be spent on product design and development! It’s taken much trial and error, conversations with other creative and nearly two years but I feel like I’ve finally found a balance and what works for me.
Firstly, it’s so important to work in a creative space. I have a separate home studio and it is my happy place! I fill it with inspiration such as beautiful images, flowers and candles. Having a home office I found it hard to justify working elsewhere as well but I’ve learnt that I need to head to a co-working space a few days a week to mix it up and stay socially sane.
Secondly, I’ve learnt that I work best to a schedule, with everything in it from the big picture, down to the day to day. At the beginning of each year, I set up a vision board for where I want the business to be by December 31st. This is both aspirational (helps me visualise my dreams), and practical (helps me set sales targets). I then write out how I’m going to achieve these with monthly goals. The monthly action steps get put into weekly plans, and then end up on daily to-do lists with deadlines.
I’ve found I really need deadlines to keep me on track otherwise I can lose days in an Instagram or Pinterest vortex! I also roughly set days for design and bookkeeping. I love using a paper planner and finding ways to take control of my time was a huge part of the inspiration behind the Amelia Lane Paper Life Designer.
That said, I still try and keep some flexibility and white space in my planner so that I can jump onto whatever surprises may arise. Acceptance of the ebb and flow of being a business owner is key – I have two major product releases a year in February and September – so even if I’ve been deep in business operations I know it won’t be too long before I can get stuck into design.
While the operational side generally runs pretty smoothly when I follow my schedule, the creative side is a whole different beast! When there is a new product I’m really excited about, I can’t help but get started right away and everything else falls to the wayside as I work long hours and late nights to perfect it. And then at other times, when I’m supposed to be right in the middle of designing a new collection with product release dates looming, I can easily spend hours reading interiors and fashion magazines or trawling through Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration, sort of justifying it as work because stationery closely follows fashion and interiors trends. Although to see me lying out on a sun lounger with a magazine and a smoothie, you would be justified in thinking otherwise!
While making such a big career change out of the corporate world was challenging and hugely scary at the time, it is amazing to sit back now and know I create products that help women every day of their lives. Having personally experienced the struggle to balance different areas of my life and just feeling completely overwhelmed, I feel so much satisfaction from reading customer emails saying my products have helped bring calmness, balance and productivity into their lives.
Chanel White is the owner and designer behind Amelia Lane Paper. She designs beautiful and practical stationery products for women who want to organise their lives, including the best-selling Amelia Lane Life Designer.
The 2017 Life Designer is available now. The weekly planner has a yearly vision board, goal action worksheets, weekly meal and exercise planners, budgets and a monthly overview to help women manage their time more effectively.