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Why I Quit My $95,000-a-Year Job As a Product Manager at Canva

  • Hannah Anh started as an intern at Canva when she was 17, and then was hired for a full-time job.
  • After a year as a product manager, she craved more freedom and quit to pursue entrepreneurship.
  • Here’s why the salary and perks at Canva weren’t worth it for her, as told to Emily Courter.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Anh, a 19-year-old design entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Insider has verified Anh’s salary for her with documentation. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

I started working at Canva, an online graphic-design platform, in February 2020 as a product-management intern. I was 17 and had just finished my final year of high school.

The first step to securing this internship was creating a relationship with a Canva recruiter who I initially met over LinkedIn. I shared my desire to work for Canva with him and with one of my teachers, whose brother was one of Canva’s first employees. This networking led to the initial three-month internship Canva created for me.

After graduating high school, I took a gap year to pursue the Canva internship. I interned at Canva from February 2020 to June 2020, and they offered a full-time associate product manager role during this time.

I deferred the offer to pursue other options but ultimately began working part-time for Canva again in February 2021 once my gap year had ended.

The plan was to work part-time at Canva while pursuing my university degree which also started in February 2021. I began studying computer science but struggled to see the relevance of the coursework and I had no time for my passion projects.

I dropped out of university after only four weeks and never looked back.

After dropping out, Canva hired me as a full-time product manager.

I was proud to be joining a prestigious company in a management role at such a young age. As a product manager at Canva, I was in charge of the product team launching a social-media calendar feature.

I should have been happy with my job

I’d found great success at a young age and was making $95,000 as my base salary with some stock options that pushed my total compensation over six figures.

My workplace had fun benefits like complimentary breakfast buffets and ping-pong tables.

However, after about a year at Canva, I began to feel frustrated and restrained by my work. I was being stifled creatively, and the 9-to-5 schedule made me feel trapped.

I longed for flexibility, and in the fall of 2021, I decided it was time for me to leave Canva. I didn’t have another position lined up by choice. My desire for creative freedom, a flexible schedule, and financial independence pushed me to leave.

After working for Canva, I wanted freedom and complete control over my schedule to work on projects aligned with my values.

I spent about six months getting my affairs in order before quitting. I saved up $15,000 to cover approximately a year’s expenses like rent and food. I had some money in Canva stocks that I could sell if I ran low while figuring out my next steps.

Before I made the jump to self-employment, I also ramped up my contract work

While this made my schedule fuller, I also found it exciting. It was a temporary phase that was necessary to shed my 9-to-5 gig. I did some contract copywriting but focused primarily on freelance website design, graphic design, and branding.

Doing contract work meant I’d still have income after quitting my day job. I also thought it would make establishing myself as an entrepreneur easier.

Since leaving Canva in March 2022, my days have been filled with freelance work, and I appreciate the flexibility of working that way.

I posted about my decision to leave Canva in a LinkedIn post that generated 30,000 likes and 4.5 million impressions. This post garnered a lot of support and even some possible work for me down the line.

My goal for this coming year is to make $200,000 through my contract work. I’m counting copywriting, design work, and any other ventures I take up. I know that to reach my stretch goal of $1 million in annual revenue in two years, I will have to scale my business.

I’m still trying to figure out how I want to scale my business, but e-commerce intrigues me. It seems like a hands-off way to make money, and so many people are doing it.

No matter where my business takes me, I want the opportunity to build my own company

It’s essential to me that I’m not simply trading my time for money but rather creating something with value.

One of my core principles is adding value to a situation, which I felt I was missing in my role at Canva. There wasn’t any room for my input at Canva, so it was hard to feel I was adding value there.

While I’m in this space of figuring out what I want my future business endeavors to look like, I’m examining everything on a high level.

I want my business to be evergreen. I believe long-lasting businesses solve deep problems, which is important to me in my quest for meaningful work.

To me, the financial freedom I seek doesn’t mean I will stop working, and I think I will always work in some capacity. But I want to be able to spend my time doing what I please, and I don’t want to be constricted to a 9-to-5 work schedule in exchange for paying my bills.

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