Woman on Purpose: Sara Baroni

Changing your work-life to welcome more freedom and fulfillment is a process and a journey. Here, every month, we will share stories of women who are doing it. Real stories, real transformation. This is a virtual treasure chest -- full of the challenges, struggles, lessons and insights of others -- which you can use to enrich your own path.

This month’s featured “woman on purpose” is Sara Baroni, a former Project Manager who now works as translator and copywriter. She’s currently traveling the world as a location independent freelancer, while also carving time out to follow another passion: writing.

Describe the big shift you’ve made in your work-life. What led you to that change?

My Project Manager job was challenging in many ways and extremely stressful. I was in charge of the window displays of a major worldwide brand. I was on call for clients and contractors from all over the world so, effectively, I had to be available  24/7. I’d never had the yearning to go solo, but I clearly remember looking at people on the street and in cafes during a working day and wondering, “why don’t you have to be in an office every day? What do you do that gives you the freedom to be sitting in a nice cafe sipping a coffee at 11am on a Tuesday?” That was something that I could never do at that time; so the questions of a life beyond the office were already swirling in my head. And I was young. I got into that job at 22, so I guess I was still finding my inner confidence.

Despite being someone who thrives with some structure and flounders in chaos, I found the rigidity of my work-life to be stifling, especially since it didn’t even mean that I could leave work behind at the end of the day: I used to sleep with a notebook on my bedside table (this is before smartphones!) to make notes that would occur to me in the middle of the night. This was a nightly occurrence. You can imagine what that did to the quality of my sleep...

After a few years, I felt that I had learned all that I could from the job (which was a lot) and all I was left with was problems to solve. In actual fact, it was the same problems over and over again, which I found very frustrating. Over the years I had already been taking evening classes in one of my passions, writing, and at that point I felt I needed to dedicate more time and commitment to it: I decided to embark on a part-time Masters degree in TV Scriptwriting. This would have meant working 4 days a week (officially, but in reality still doing the same amount of work). However my employer was not amenable to the idea, so I found myself at a crossroads. Do I stay in the safe, well-paid but ultimately stressful and no longer rewarding job? Or do I leap into the unknown and, somehow, make use of the skills I have acquired, while pursuing something that I really care about? For me, the answer was obvious.

What were you most fearful of in making that change?

Mainly, whether I would be able to support myself and whether I’d have to scurry back to a permanent job again. Once you taste that freedom it is very hard to go back “in the box”

How is your experience of life different now?

I cannot even describe the magnitude of the difference. That life now seems to me like a dream life, a parallel one, that a different me lived. The stresses linked to that job and my particular personal circumstances of that time seem to belong to another person entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I work as hard now as I did then, maybe even harder, but first of all there is no 9-5 tyranny, no vacation allowance, no eating crap just because your boss says so. I decide which projects I take on on a case-by-case basis, I arrange my working hours every day as I see fit and, most importantly, I travel the world while doing so. The freedom is intoxicating. Granted, I don’t earn as much as I did then, but my quality of life has skyrocketed.

What’s your biggest concern in this moment?

I have two big concerns:

  1. My core business of translation is often talked about as the ultimate goal in AI/machine translation. The idea is that computers will soon be able to translate as well as a human being, thus forcing us all out of a job. I don’t believe that to be an achievable goal within my lifetime, but we are seeing the encroachment of machine translation more and more. Without human supervision though it is just gibberish most of the time. And it takes more work to disentangle what the machine is trying to say than it is to translate from scratch.
  2. My other big concern is putting enough work and commitment in my sideline of writing. I write creative fiction and scripts and it takes a huge amount of effort and will to keep this going as a sideline. I want to make sure I reach some objectives with this, mostly personal ones, that I am happy with. Internal validation is a hard nut to crack.

What are you most excited about going forward?

I’m actually most excited about the same thing that concerns me… my writing. If things come together as I wish, hope and believe, then it’s an exciting journey I’m on and I can’t wait to see where it leads!

If you could travel back in time, what’s one piece of advice that your current self wishes that you could tell your former self?

Oh, I’d say so many things!

First of all, don’t wait for others, don’t wait for the stars to align or for the circumstances to improve… things that might never happen! There is never a perfect time to strike out and do your own thing but that means there is never a wrong time too. So if you’re itching to do it, go for it! You’ll just wish you’d have done it sooner.

Then: no matter how well you’re being paid, in the long run you need to be involved in something you are passionate about or, at the very least, like. This changes the game entirely, and makes most working days enjoyable and interesting at the very least.

And finally: your work does not have to change the world, it just needs to change YOUR world. If you yourself are happy and fulfilled, then you can also dedicate your spare time to other causes that are about changing the world.

About Sara Baroni

Sara is a freelance translator specializing in video games, a copywriter in both Italian and English, and a writer in her own right. Having been “location independent” for nearly ten years, 15 months ago she took the plunge and started travelling full-time. So far on this journey she has been to Argentina, Uruguay, the US, Thailand and Malaysia. She shows no signs of stopping. Follow her blog at http://www.sarabaroni.co.uk/wordpress