Yura Gulyayev: From Account Manager to Independent Tattoo Artist

Fulfillment Seekers Interview Series

As a life coach, I mostly support people in finding their purpose and fulfillment. These people are often stuck in their career, they feel they would like to do something more meaningful, something they would actually enjoy but they have a lot of limiting beliefs that are keeping them back from pursuing their dreams: I am not good enough. I’m too old to do this. I can never earn enough money by doing something I enjoy. I have too many commitments and making a radical change is too risky.

With this interview series, I would like to introduce inspiring stories of people who believed there is more in life than exchanging their time for salary. Despite their circumstances, these people decided to face their fears and make a radical change in their career.

I’m very grateful to Yura Gulyayev (33), for his time and dedication to share his story about his decision to quit his corporate job to become an independent tattoo artist. Yura lives in Tallinn, Estonia with his wife and their little son.

Yura: Hi, thank you for giving me the chance to share with you a part of my life experience. 5 months ago I quit my job, where i have been working for the past 13 years and started my own business – a private tattoo studio.

Your previous career path was very different from what you are doing right now – what is your story?

Before becoming an independent tattoo artist, I used to work as an account manager in a transportation company. I ended up working for this company quite accidentally. After graduation from high school, I didn’t have any concrete idea who I wanted to become and where I wanted to go study, so I went for an economic degree at the local university, at the same time looking for a job to be able to study and gain some money. At the age of 20, I got a job at the transportation company, where my career path began.

In the beginning, I was fully encouraged with this work, spending a lot of time in the office. Within a short period of time I went from  an operational agent, to a logistic specialist and then to the key account manager. After 10 years, I started to become tired of this work, lost motivation, every day in the office became torture for me and I realised that this work was making me miserable. I was even more devastated because I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do in my life. But the one thing I understood very clearly: that this fake stability was not going to be the reason to stay, and big salary was not my main life goal. Then I decided that it was the time to make changes.

If we come back to the times of my youth, I was totally occupied with painting. My main interest was towards tattoo art and street art – especially graffiti. Almost all of my spare time was spent drawing – everywhere. After school when the time came to decide my future path – drawing didn’t seem to be payable occupation, so I gave it up.

When did you start to play around with the idea to become a full-time tattoo artist?

The idea to become a tattoo artist did not come quickly at all. Staying at my job, I just started to draw again in my spare time. Running through all the possible variations of my future occupation where my hobby can become a revenue-producing activity i started to deepen in all aspects of art: fine arts, logo creation, web-design, graphic design. I have spent 2 years doing a little bit of everything in my free time. All this time we were saving to be able make a shoot one day. 

What was the moment when you told yourself: “I’m going to do this for real!”?

In the end, I came up with an idea that becoming a tattoo artist on my own would be interesting and profitable one day. At this point I already had a young family with a small kid. It was a very hard decision to make, but I had very strong support from my family, which helped me to do it. So when I felt myself pretty confident in drawing I quit my job. 

From personal experience, I can say it is hard to decide to change something, but to take action is even harder. As an example, after making the decision and being totally ready to start my own business, it took me some time just to go and say to my boss that I’m quitting.

You have a family. Many of my coaching clients with families are afraid to leave their stable office jobs and make a radical change – how did you manage to make your transition? How did you let go of your fears?

Anxiety in the fact that I won’t be able to support my family, that I’m not young enough to start learning again, to do new work, that nothing will work out and in the end I will lose even more, not only time, was overwhelming. But at the same I couldn’t stand being in the same place and continue to not do what I want, so I decided.

Now I am still at the beginning of my path and unfortunately can’t say that all these fears are behind me. Nevertheless, I am sure that I can do everything and not for a moment regret that I’ve stepped into this unknown life. If, at the beginning, these fears kept me from further actions, now they are forcing me to move forward.

I didn’t require big funds to start my new business as a tattoo artist, so I could do it with our savings. My previous experience with client communication helps a lot. 

What does making tattoos mean to you? What do you like about this work?

I’m doing good work, to be proud of it and making my clients happy. Now I am building up a customer base, drawing every day, gradually doing design, learning marketing and developing my own business. It means a lot to me to be able to earn a living with the things which I create.

If you could give a piece of advice to someone who is thinking of pursuing their dream project, what would you tell them?

To stick to the point of view that it is better to try to do something, even if it doesn’t work out, than to regret that I didn’t even try.

Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Find and follow Yura’s work on Facebook and Instagram.

If you enjoyed reading Yura’s story, check out my another Fulfillment Seekers story: Anne Dellerue: From TV and cinema industry professional to Diving Instructor

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