How I Switched Careers

Photo by: Vanessa Heins

Photo by: Vanessa Heins

Before I became a freelance writer, lifestyle blogger and started working in digital content and social media strategy – I was a DJ.

Yup.

I have DJ’d over 400+ weddings and events during my six year career, working for myself and running my own company. After about the millionth wedding, I could not listen to Canon in D or Shook Me All Night Long any longer – it was time to jump ship, even if it was the ship I built.

Working every single weekend was starting to get to me. I was missing out on my own friends getting married, I had to turn down family BBQs, I rarely saw my husband, my 20s were just sort of flying by and I just felt like I was missing out on life. Anyone working in the service industry can surely relate. The money was amazing, but I wasn’t happy and I couldn’t picture myself doing this for the rest of my life. I also think that I gave it a good go – six years was something to be proud of, but I knew it was time to move on.

So I chose a new career.

My non-negotiables? I had to be able to work from anywhere in the world. I would only consider jobs and careers where I could work for myself and work remotely. Being in the wedding industry tied me down to a time and place almost a year in advance, I wanted a career that would offer me the opposite. So freelancing was the life for me.

If you’re thinking about making a career switch or even busting out on your own, there are a few things I would suggest you consider:

 

DJ-ing a corporate event in Toronto.

DJ-ing a corporate event in Toronto.

1) Have 6 Months of Living Expenses in the Bank. If you know you are going to be quitting your job or switching careers you need to have six months worth of rent + living expenses in the bank. It may take you longer than you think to get yourself up and running again, so you want to give yourself as much of a cushion as possible. I knew a year ahead of time that I was leaving the DJ game. I aggresively paid off all my debts, my car, reduced my expenses and banked everything I could. Setting a quitting deadline for me and sticking to it really helped. It was a motivator for everything that I set in motion once that date was set.

 

2) Test the Waters – What are you thinking about pursuing next? Take a class, read a lot of books, intern, volunteer, talk to other people in your field or at your new company – do whatever you can to test the waters to get a feel for what it is you want to do next. It’s very important that you research your switch as much as possible so you know what you’re getting into. At the same time, you need to go with your gut – it’s right 90% of the time. You don’t want to scare yourself out of making the switch, you want to make as educated of a decision as possible. This isn’t necessarily about taking a leap of faith, this is about creating a well thought-out strategy for your life, your well-being and your career.

An article about me back in my DJ days in Toronto Life.

An article about me back in my DJ days in Toronto Life.

3) What is the Business Model? – Thinking of starting your own thing? What is business model of your competitors in your city, country and continent?  Are they profitable? Will you make enough money to support yourself? Do the research before jumping into something blindly. Maybe your passion will just be your part-time hobby and will not replace the income you are making now. Are you ok with that? Can you truly live off your passion?

 

4) Hustle Hard. – For me to replace the very handsome salary I was taking home every weekend from DJ-ing, I had to hustle hard to make it as a freelance writer and lifestyle blogger. What did this mean? Going to networking events, creating and hosting events, meeting other bloggers and editors and telling everyone I knew what I was doing now. I have always treated my blog as a business because I had no other choice. It was either this or go back to working weekends as a DJ and that chapter of my life was very much over for me.

Some of the fun stuff I get to do now as a blogger - speaking at The One of A Kind Show in Toronto

Some of the fun stuff I get to do now – speaking at The One of A Kind Show in Toronto

 

5) Cut Expenses – Since I was not rolling in dough after making the big career switch I decided to cut expenses. I started to cook more and didn’t eat out as often. I spent less money on stupid things I didn’t need. I cut back on traveling. Can you move into a smaller place or live with roommates or back with your parents? Ask yourself are these the sacrifices you are willing to make in order to switch careers?

 

6) Consider a Part-Time Job – Until your own thing finally takes off, you may want to consider taking on a part-time job to cover any gap in your expenses during your transition phase. Or maybe freelancing in your field will be part of what makes up your overall lifestyle and career. Would your current employer allow you to become a freelance contractor? Would you consider doing this part-time until you transitioned fully into your new career?

I became an ambassador for American Express because of blogging.

I became an ambassador for American Express because of blogging.

 

In the end, you have to do what’s best for you. I made the decision to leave DJ-ing behind and I’ve never looked back. I don’t miss it because I felt like I left at the peak of my career and I have now been there and done that.

 

Have you ever made a major career switch? If so, what advice would you offer? 

 

 

 

  • lindsey

    I love that you touched on this. It really is something that requires a lot of preparation both mentally and monetarily and with so many people doing the switch (bloggers particularly) it’s really refreshing to hear about what it is actually like. Thanks so much!

    Lindsey W
    Stylust Magazine

    • I totally agree. You should never feel like you’re jumping into anything blindly – always a bad idea. I think the perfect combination of research + going with your gut is the best way to do things. Even starting out part-time before taking the full-time plunge can be helpful.

      Thanks for sharing Lindsey.

      • lindsey

        Agreed. And knowing yourself and what you think you can handle versus what you are good at. So often people take it hard when they’ve made a career change and realize that doing the thing they are most passionate about didn’t work out and take it as I must not be very good at my passion. It’s good to know the difference between a passion and a career.

        • Great point! With that being said – not every passion should be turned into a career. I read a great post about that way back when. Sometimes it’s ok to just have your passion be an awesome hobby that you have. There’s no fault in that at all.

  • Thank you so much for the advice. I am not switching careers, but I am going from an internship to hopefully a full-time job and I can tell you first hand, I did not save up at least six months (I should’ve listened to my dad). Anyway, i’m lucky enough to freelance a tiny bit just to put something away in the bank, but your advice is a must read! Thanks! xo – Jessika

    • Congratulations on going full-time from your internship!

      We did something a bit more extreme – we ended up selling our house after 4 years and spent 2 years renting a condo to see if we liked the lifestyle and the neighbourhood. It was also a great way to save money (we moved into a small studio instead). I realized that I was putting in almost $10K a year in upkeep and home renovations on our 80 year-old started home.

      In the end, we didn’t end up buying a condo – we felt light enough that we moved to LA instead. Crazy how life turns out?

  • Leah Leitch

    Hi I’m curious about your reasons for moving to LA. Were/are you hoping to pursue more opportunities there?

  • Cathy Canton

    That is a riot and very cool.Career switches are easy. I was in banking then SAMH for 19 years. Slowly looking at options, and started a blog. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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