How I went from deadlines in a newsroom to the freedom of my own business as a web designer

May 28, 2022

One month ago, as I was driving to playgroup with my daughter, I was listening to Erin May Henrys podcast: “The Chillpreneur podcast”.

She was telling a story about how she was looking for a female business coach, who was also doing Muay Thai, drove motorbikes and was just cool – and how she could not find such a coach to inspire and motivate her. I think it was a friend of her that said “Erin, YOU have to be that coach”.

And now she is.

I had such an “aha!” moment! I’ve been looking for this web designer who’s a mum, not native english speaking, who lives in a beautiful place but also struggles every day to maintain balance between life and business and learning a new country and who shares it all on Instagram.

I could not find such a person. (I did get pretty close with my amazing coach Chaitra from pinkpotstudio)

So I need to be her. I need to go and be that girl and inspire myself.

Hej!

My name is Sara, I am the founder and CEO of NordicDesign.studio.

I am 38, have two children, a husband and I live in the South of France.

I’m actually Swedish, but met my British husband on a holiday in Mexico (no really, that did happen, keep reading!) and it turned out we both had dream of living in France.

This is my story of how I went from the deadlines in the newsroom to the freedom of running my own business as a web designer.

I wanted to be a secret spy

When I was little I wanted to be a writer. Or a secret spy. But I didn’t see that many educations or job applications to become a secret spy… so I sort of filed that under ”Childhood dreams” and aimed for journalist. Because that was sort of the same as writer, right?

Very wrong.

I worked hard to get into the dream education to become a Journalist, and I’m glad I did even though I quickly realised I did not want to be a journalist. The education gave me an entirely different career path. That I to this day love.

Sara Ojasoo in her old life working at one of Swedens biggest newspapers
This is me working at the newspaper in 2011 and 2012.

I discovered newspaper layout and design. Specifically sub editing. Being a sub editor means you’re the person that puts the journalists text in the actual paper, gives it the design, the headline, chooses pictures and writes the little image descriptions (if the journalist didn’t themselves). Putting text and images together to make it look good, capture attention and “work” (readable and align with the newspapers design and goals) is fun and creative – and you get to be right there on the pulse of the newspaper.

I am a quick learner and really good with tech, a great combo to become quick at newspaper design – speed being super important when you’re dealing with deadlines. I climbed the career ladder and became one of two managers of the night team of sub editors in one of Swedens biggest newspapers. Basically it was me that pressed the button ”SEND TO PRESS”. It was thrilling!

And oh my god so tiring and stressful. At the end I was managing a team of 5 and three main papers and their four local editions – and their separate deadlines. Talk about split vision and stress. So much stress.

Then things changed

The pressure of the newspaper was getting to me. I needed a break.

So I booked a two week holiday to Mexico, brought lots of books and had no other plans than “read and go scuba diving”.

But one day as I was sat by a pool, life changed. Massively.

A man jumped in the pool, and as he did he managed to splash me. Instead of ignoring it, he turned around, took his sunglasses of, looked me in the eye and said “I’m so sorry”.

I said “yes” at New Years eve on a pier in Cannes less than a year later.

November 2016 our son was born and I took a year of maternity leave. Yes ONE year. I’m Swedish. It’s possible.

Not only did we now have a baby and time off work, we both also had a dream: Living in the South of France.

If not now, then when?

We took the leap and moved.

Sara Ojasoo with her son and then learning to code and build websites
With my first born son, learning to code – and then with two sleeping kids deciding to go all in on my business

So when that year of maternity leave came to an end, not only was a now a mum, I was also living in a different country where I did not speak the language yet. It was pretty obvious I needed a different career.

The universe conspired and I found a course to about learning to code and build websites: Skillcrush.

I didn’t need many days to realise that this was THE DREAM. Creating websites is almost like doing newspaper design; putting text and images together to make it look beautiful and “work”.

I fell in love and bought the domain “nordicdesign.studio” that year. I found my passion.

Sara Ojasoo as the CEO of NordicDesign.studio

And here I am. Still in the South of France, still running Nordicdesign.studio but now with two children.

This is the dream life. I cannot see myself doing something else for a living. I love design, I love the arts of web design and the craft of making it all come together and work.

Hej, hello, this is me.

I am your web designer and developer, who’s also a mum, an expat and working hard to maintain some sort of balance between children and work.

I’m very happy that you’re here. Let’s make something amazing out of our businesses and lives.

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