Welcome to my blog, and accompanying podcast. If you prefer to listen rather than read, or listen and read along, click here for the podcast.Have you ever wanted to quit your day job? I just finished my first full year of self-employment and today I want to share my thoughts on 4 things to consider before you leave a job--whether by choice or necessity. And while these might be especially applicable to my area, the radio business, some could be true of any business. First, a little background.
In mid-2018, I did what I wanted to do for a while; venture out, be my own boss, and start my own business. I wanted the flexibility to be able to get on a plane and spend time with family and friends far away when I missed them-or when they needed me. I wanted work to fit into my life, not the other way around.
It wasn't a completely insane idea, because I had actually started a side hustle 20 years ago. I was in my 12th year as program director for WDOK in Cleveland when I decided I wanted to step away for full-time voiceover work, but back then, I had a bit of a cushion. The famed and fabulous radio consultant Mike McVay--who was our consultant (and my mentor) at the time, had recommended me as an image voice for a number of his AC client stations after hearing how I sounded on 'DOK. So armed with his recommendation, about 10 stations as clients, and a cool little home studio my husband built for me, I worked from home and had the ability to be around more for my school-aged kids. To make things even better, after I left the station, Mike asked me to join McVay Media as one of his AC specialists. But 2 years in- it happened. I got a phone call and a job offer and was lured back to radio programming because, well, quite honestly, I missed the heck out of radio, and also, financial security became a priority after my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Going back to full-time radio work in 2001 was not only good for my mental health but also my fiscal health, because within a year I was a widowed single mom and sole support of my 2 pre-teen daughters.
I've spent years in multiple formats, the last 12 in country radio, but always wondered, "what if I had stuck with the voice imaging these past 20 years? Would I be like Roberta Solomon, Jen Sweeney or a host of other female imaging pros that I so admire now?" The itch to get back into full-time VO work just never went away. I had continued to do freelance voice work and writing projects all these years-so what if I tried it again? I mean if not now, then when, right?
So armed with probably too much confidence (um...what's that saying? "confidence is the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation?") I walked away from a well-paying gig to relaunch my career in voice-over and writing. I'm not naive, I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I would be lying if I said I was surprised at the various things that have made it so tough.
Here are 4 points to consider before making your move.
With a VP title and the responsibility of overseeing a couple of radio stations and a staff of people reporting to me, I had a certain amount of power and privilege. That perhaps gave me an over-abundance of confidence and ego that I could do anything! On the one hand, without that confidence, I may not have made the jump...but once away from a position of authority, things change. You no longer have a staff of people looking for your direction, advice or opinion. Your phone rings less. Show biz, like any biz, is full of people who have to act like they like you to get what they need, whether it is a song played on your station, or a staff member wanting something. Now, the decisions you make affect far fewer people. Advice? Don't be a jerk. Be the person people will miss (not be relieved) when you turn in your resignation. Be the boss you'd want to report to. Be clear, honest, and fair. Be the colleague people will want to stay in touch with when you don't have any power anymore.
2. You'll Grieve
If your work was a big part of your identity, you'll miss it. Or maybe you won't. But I do. So much of what I did in my day-to-day engaged a big part of my brain's creative side. I love actively creating with other people. I loved my team. I loved brainstorming ideas for marketing, contests, and promotions, writing creative copy, and doing all this with a team of creative people. And the music! Country radio especially is known for its relationships with artists and labels. Record label reps became my friends and many artists have my cell number and they actively communicated with me on a regular basis. I miss all of that. There was pressure, sure. There were nonsense, politics and hard work...not all were creative and fun--but when you do something for so many years and then you stop, you have to know you will grieve that part of your identity. Consider and come to grips with how much of what you are is what you do.
3. Ageism is a thing-but don't let it stop you
I'm at that strange time of life. Not yet at retirement age, but closer to the end of my career than the beginning. So I get a lot of comments like "how are you enjoying retirement?" and I find it challenging to not sound defensive or aggressive when I attempt to explain that "I'm NOT retired" and in fact, I am working a lot harder for a lot less. And speaking of a less...start that process now...but I'll get to that in a moment. When you leave a job by choice or necessity, it is important to remind yourself that while you may find yourself competing with people a good bit younger than you for future opportunities, you have a wealth of experience that is incredibly valuable, so don't let your age shake your confidence. In the right situation, you can mentor someone younger, and they, in turn, can mentor you. The best work situation is a diverse one, so be proud of the experience and the knowledge you bring and USE it to your advantage.
4. Live on less. A lot less
Pretty much every financial expert out there encourages you to live well below your means, and I can't stress that enough. I saved half of every paycheck for well over a year. I set a goal of how much I would need to live on (to pay the mortgage, utilities and have some sort of disposal fun money) just in case I didn't get any clients for the first 6 months. If you have a partner who is bringing an income, whether it is less or more, live on just one income for 6 months. It's amazing when you really pay attention to where your money goes you realize how much you waste on stuff you just don't need. Even though I thought I had a grip on the finances, this past year has really taught me some financial lessons.
In closing. It's been a scary year of rebirth and growth; of exciting successes and more than a few disappointments. I thought my name, my track record and my list of accomplishments all would have people lining up as clients left and right, ha! So it's been a little harder than I thought. But I do have some great clients that I am proud to represent with my voice, and my writing skills. And I'm going to keep plugging away.
And maybe...just maybe I have one more radio gig left in me before that elusive retirement. I guess as they say in the radio business....stay tuned!
Click to learn more about and hear demos Sue Wilson Creative