Sometimes you find that perfect career for yourself and you go after it from the moment you know it. Other times, you follow a path with lots of turns and twists. That’s what happened with our next guest Suzie. She started out training as a violinist and instead of finding a career playing, she found herself teaching. But when teaching turned out to be stressful, she turned to blogging and writing as a way to reduce that stress and eventually was able to quit her teaching job. Continue reading and learn how she found a new career.
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
I’m Suzie, I’m a blogger and social media manager and I’m based in Birmingham in the UK.
Your first career was as a teacher, was that something you always wanted to do as a child? If not, how did you decide on education?
If someone had told me when I was at school that I would go into teaching as a career I wouldn’t have believed them. I actually trained as a musician, studying the violin at the Birmingham Conservatoire with the idea of becoming a session musician. However, after discovering that there was a ridiculously high level of competition for just a small number of jobs in this field, I applied for a job as a Learning Mentor in a local school after I graduated (purely because it sounded like a fun job) and got it! A year later, the school offered me the chance to train as a teacher, and as the funding for the Learning Mentor role was being cut, I took it. I sort of fell into the role rather than actively pursuing it as a career!
What did you teach and at what grade level? What did you find satisfying about this career? What wasn’t so satisfying?
I was a music teacher for nearly ten years. We don’t have ‘grades’ in the UK system – I taught secondary school and sixth form age which is 11-18. The best thing about teaching was definitely being with a group of students who embraced every task you set them – there was nothing better than being surprised by an amazing piece of work that showed the student really understood what you were trying to teach them. I also loved some of the extra-curricular groups that I ran after the school day had ended – I had an incredible a capella group that I looked forward to working with every week.
What wasn’t so satisfying was pretty much everything else – the hours, the pressure, the pointless meetings and the constant changes to the curriculum were soul-destroying and eventually got to the point that it started affecting both my mental and physical health. I developed anxiety, panic attacks, and depression and eventually was hospitalized for over a week with a severe kidney infection and a virus. The final straw was when I found myself searching on the internet for ways to break a bone without it hurting too much, just so I didn’t have to go to work. Not a good mental state to be in.
Why did you start blogging and what did you originally blog about?
I’ve always used writing as a form of therapy, amassing a ridiculous amount of notebooks that I used as personal journals or somewhere to write random scribbles. My husband (who I call The Bloke) was working as an IT technician at the time and he suggested that I start a blog, and so after a particularly stressful day I signed up for a free WordPress account and started writing! I didn’t think much about a niche or theme – I just wrote whatever thoughts or ideas were in my head at the time in the way I would have done with a paper journal.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. You decided to end your career as a school teacher to work at home blogging and as a social media manager. Why did you make that decision?
After a few years of blogging, I was making a small amount of money through different sponsorships and was beginning to attract more clients for social media management, although this was nowhere near what I was earning as a teacher. At the time The Bloke and I weren’t married, we didn’t (and still don’t) have children or a mortgage and I realized that if I was going to take the risk of leaving and changing my life around then this would be the perfect opportunity. I was very lucky in that my headteacher offered me a supply position when I handed in my resignation – meaning that I could work on a freelance basis and cover lessons for absent teachers – which allowed me to decide on my own working days and build up my own business at the same time. It was a brilliant opportunity- I was independently employed by the school and I had no responsibilities of marking or planning lessons. I did that for about eighteen months after resigning, working six to ten days a month as a supply teacher and spending the rest of the time working on the blog and social media management.
Was this something that you’d been planning ever since you started blogging or was there a point at which you realized that you could do it?
Not at all. I had no goals or expectations when I first started blogging as it was purely somewhere for me to write. However, I kept seeing lots of bloggers offer different sponsorship services on their blogs and after a few years the number of views and followers I had gained had grown substantially, so one day I decided to put a post out about sponsorship on Suzie Speaks. I got a few responses within the first days, and it developed from there.
The social media management happened because of my Canadian bloggy friend, Elena Peters – she had suggested that my focus on Pinterest for quite a while and over time she essentially taught me everything I know and gave me the confidence to put myself out there.
What do you love most about your new career? And what do you miss most about your old career?
Whether this sounds cliche or not, I wake up every single morning and feel unbelievably relieved that I don’t have to get up and go to ‘work.’ I love pretty much everything about what I do – it allows me to be creative, I get to meet new people and read lots their posts and I am able to decide on my own working hours. For the first time in my working life, I have to remind myself to take a day off because it doesn’t actually feel like work.
What do I miss about teaching? Absolutely nothing. Not a single thing.
Looking back to when you made the career transition from teacher to fulltime blogger/social media manager/writer, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently or anything that you felt wasn’t working out and you dropped or changed along the way?
I have only two regrets when it comes to the teaching/blogging transition:
I wish I had really spent some time focusing on and understanding how to use social media right from the very beginning – I now get 75% of my views from social media and yet didn’t even look into my own social media accounts until well over a year after signing up for WordPress!
I wish I’d have started sooner!
And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone looking to make a career change to a full-time blogger or social media manager?
Patience. Patience is key. The blogosphere is full of seeming overnight success stories when in reality it has taken years to reach the point where it becomes a viable career option – I’ve been blogging for five and a half years and I’m nowhere near at the goals I have set myself! If you are easily disheartened, stay away from posts that show how many thousands someone has made in a month – these are often the worst things to read when trying to boost your self-esteem!
Be aware of who your audience is. If you are looking to market certain services and ideas to your community it is important that you know who they are and what it is that they are looking for.
Be prepared for VERY long hours and to put the work in before you make the transition – I was maintaining my blog while still working as a teacher.
Start by offering services out for free and gaining testimonials – you’re more likely to build a client base if you have proof of what you’re capable of!
Even on the days where it feels like everything is a complete waste of time, never give up. Have a cry, talk through ideas with someone you trust, keep setting your goals and carry on!