The writing was on the wall. New leadership was clearly minimizing my position as creative director, probably planning to phase it out completely.
Sales managers at previous stops in my radio life had tried to recruit me for sales, and visions of dollar signs danced in my head, so I contacted a previous employer and began my radio sales career.
It lasted about seven months.
Like most new sales reps, I struggled. A bad case of pneumonia knocked me out for about a month, killing any momentum I had. When I returned, a new sales manager was hired. Less than two months later, he showed me the door. Two weeks after that, he quit himself. Classy.
I was fired for the first time in my life, so it took a couple days to sink in. Because I had long-term relationships with a lot of people at this particular radio group, I wasn’t just devastated. I was completely humiliated.
I really didn’t know what to do next, but I had no interest in jumping right back in to radio.
I had been doing freelance copywriting and marketing consultations for about five years, but other than creating a website, I didn’t invest much time or effort into it. I figured I would take advantage of the free time and see how much I could grow my business while I looked for a full-time job. With a seven-month-old daughter, I had to do something.
I updated my website to focus less on radio and more on other types of writing – website content, blogs, video scripts, etc. I met with a creative recruiter and started going to as many networking events as I could. I reached out to a bunch of radio contacts but quickly realized that no matter how great you think your relationship was with a client or agency, they won’t pay you for something they can get for free from the stations.
I did connect with someone from a marketing company who I had called to pitch radio advertising. She hired me to contribute one marketing blog and one interview with a local business owner per month to their company blog. That was a big step, not only because I had my first regular client, but because it came with built-in distribution for my own content.
During the next six months or so, I created a business page on Facebook, revamped my Linkedin profile, and completely redesigned my website to better reflect my personality and approach to content writing and marketing. I started sharing content regularly, whether it was my content or a link to someone else’s content, on various social channels to establish my credibility and build top-of-mind awareness.
Then I was finally contacted by the creative recruiter, who offered me a part-time but open-ended contract position 10 minutes from home. It paid enough to get me off unemployment while still allowing me time to develop new business. Logistically, it was the perfect situation. Another big step.
As new clients have trickled in, I’ve been able to diversify my portfolio and make myself more marketable. With the emergence of social media, especially among small businesses, and Google’s new emphasis on quality content, the timing couldn’t be better. Instead of writing website content for someone and never hearing from them again, there’s a constant demand for fresh content in the form of blogs, newsletters, email outreach and other marketing materials.
While my business is still in its early stages, I know I’m starting to turn a corner because business is starting to find me instead of me always having to track down the business. Referrals are still my biggest source of business, but clients are now coming through Google, Linkedin and Facebook. Huge step.
At this point, I can honestly say I’m working less and making more than I ever have. I’m not sure how impressive that is when you consider I had a radio creative director’s salary for most of the last 16 years, but I’m in a good place.
Working from home most of the time, I spend a lot more time with my now 2 ½- year-old daughter than I would have as a radio sales rep driving 45 minutes to and from the office. She’s my executive assistant and my wife is her intern. It’s an ongoing power struggle.
Would I ever go back? It would have to be the perfect opportunity, but sure. I loved working in radio (the photo above is the WCTC-Magic 98.3 softball team, circa 2000 – definitely one of my happier times in radio), and I’m still a big believer in its power to connect with people on an emotional level. Radio is just starting to dip its toe in the water with streaming and its digital properties, and radio was social media for decades before Facebook and Twitter came along. There’s a ton of growth potential.
Most people consider radio to be “old media,” but I’m proud of my radio career. It gave me a great foundation for what I do now. It taught me how to make my point clearly and concisely. It taught me how to connect with people emotionally. It helped me develop a conversational writing style. I still read everything I write out loud, and if it doesn’t sound like how I would talk in an actual conversation, I rewrite it.
But my biggest frustration from a creative standpoint has always been that the vast majority of radio advertising makes me cringe. It’s embarrassingly bad. Most people who create radio advertising – ad agencies, rep firms and even radio stations – don’t know how to do it effectively and won’t invest in people who do.
Part of me misses radio every day, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for a new opportunity. Thanks to some hard work, good timing and a few breaks, I don’t have to. I’m very thankful for that.