From TV to Speech Writing (Plus Post-Shift Update)

What job did you do in the past?

I have worked in the television industry for over 15 years, directing, producing and producing a variety of light entertainment shows.

I’ve worked on shows including The Sharon Osbourne Show and The One Show, and a lot of crap in between.

What are you doing now?

Most days, writing wedding speeches for grooms!

About four years ago I founded Speechy – a wedding speech writing service that uses the talent of TV writers to help people give great wedding speeches.

The team works with brides, grooms, best men and women, fathers and mothers, and designs modern, witty and memorable speeches. We help people tear up the old etiquette manuals to deliver something heartfelt and humorous. No clichés or obfuscations in Google!

How did you feel in your job before you decided to make the change?

I enjoyed my work – it was interesting, challenging and creative.

Yes, it depended on what show/TV company I worked for, but I grew in confidence over the years and could usually handle the pressure and hours involved.

why did you change

I had my second child and knew that as a freelancer it would be difficult to negotiate flexible hours.

Sometimes necessity breeds creativity. I wanted to be able to eat dinner with my kids (even if they were throwing their fish fingers at me and arguing about the color of their paws).

It is obviously very frustrating that a career change is often necessary after having children. There are mothers who manage to maintain a television career after having children, but there are so many of us who just don’t see it as a viable option.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I started thinking about a change during my second maternity leave.

I wanted to work from home, at the hours I chose (also known as the classic parent’s dream).

There was no big eureka moment, just a lot of crazy thoughts going through my head while pushing the stroller or squeezing my underwear through yet another ridiculously small tunnel during soft play.

How did you choose your new career?

I started thinking about what I am good at and how it can become marketable.

I also wanted to be my own boss.

I enjoyed the writing aspect of my television career; Plus, a few years earlier I gave my own bridal speech (and wrote most of my groom’s!). A few friends also asked me to help them with their wedding speeches, so I knew people needed help.

I started researching the wedding speech market and found that there is definitely a place for a more modern writing service.

Are you happy with the change?

If you had asked me a few years ago, the answer would have been a resounding no.

But last year I finally started to see the effort paying off, and my answer is now yes (with some caveats).

I would not recommend starting a new business to anyone who wants an easy life. It was Hard. It involves a lot of stress, expense and uncertainty.

No matter how good your idea is, running your own business is a lot more effort than you imagine.

What do you miss and what don’t you miss?

I don’t miss anything about my old career.

It just wouldn’t work for me with my two young children.

How did you make the transition?

I started designing a website.

I’m a bit of a tech-phobe (at this point I didn’t even have a Facebook account), but I knew the content and look I wanted.

I worked with a great design company that took me through the back end of a website, and how I could upload and develop technical content.

I naively thought that once I had a website, people would come knocking. Turns out that’s not really the case…

What didn’t go well? What wrong inquiries have you made?

Lots!

Probably the biggest ‘mistake’ was investing thousands of pounds in an exhibition at “Wedding Fair”.

It just wasn’t the right marketing route for us. Writers should sell themselves with words, not a pulpit. (Also, the demographic was 90% female and there is still a reluctance to shake up the traditional ensemble or for brides to think their groom might need help with his speech).

On a more fundamental level, I seriously underestimated the hours and stress involved.

Starting your own business meant that in addition to gaining credibility in my field, I also had to be a businessman. I had to learn to make informed choices (ie instead of spending money hoping it ‘might’ help business). I needed to understand my accounts, GDPR, marketing, social media, SEO and much more.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

I was fortunate enough to have enough money to set up the business and cover costs until we made a profit.

Of course, the biggest financial challenge was in that initial year, when I had all the big costs and yet a limited business. There was plenty of soul-searching (and bank accounts), wondering if I did the right thing, and sometimes I was convinced that no, I didn’t!

What was the hardest thing about the change?

I believed that being my own boss meant that my work hours would be under my control.

It seems a ridiculous idea now!

When your business is online, it means being accessible 24/7. So, while I try to manage my workload into my ‘workday’, I end up responding to emails in the evening or talking to clients in the US at night. Even though I now have a team, it’s still far from easy.

What help did you get?

Super supportive husband.

Yes, he gets frustrated with my constant email checking, but he appreciates that my career change has benefited the whole family.

He is more technical than me and helped me with everything from SEO to Google Analytics. I think he actually enjoys being involved and I know he’s proud that I made Speechy a success.

I also feel that we were very lucky with our web design team. They became trusted allies.

What resources would you recommend to others?

If you are starting your own business, I can recommend Westbrook Creative and People Per Hour.

Also, digital moms are a great way to handle your social media.

What did you learn in the process?

While a good business relies on great services or products, making your business work is all about persistence and hard work.

It was a massive learning process, some days felt painful and pointless, but eventually, those days became rare.

Doing something that I believe in, and knowing that the customers appreciate, helped me to continue.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Think very carefully.

I probably would have had easier part-time career options available to me if I had taken the time to consider them.

However, running my own business, employing three great writers and making clients around the world happier as a result of my business is extremely fulfilling. And most of all, it works now for my family.

We are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. Speechy gets a lot of attention in the press (from The Observer to Radio 1), our online stats are great and our turnover is enough to keep my leg with hot chocolate.

Sometimes the effort is worth it. But note, it will include Much of flourishing effort.

We caught up with Heidi recently to see how her shift has been going, some three years on. Here’s what she did, and the biggest lessons she learned.

What has changed for you in your career since we first published your story?

Speech has grown exponentially.

I recruited more talented writers to the team including professional comedians, journalists and writers.

I bought the .com for our website (formerly speechy.co.uk) and since then our clients have become more international. The British are still our core market, but visitors from the UK only make up 30% of our website visitors. Last month we received 35,000 visitors to our site and we expect to double that over the next two months.

I was also commissioned by the publishing group Little, Brown to write a modern guide to wedding speeches. I just completed the first draft and am already very excited about the launch.

Over the past few years, Speechy has also had incredible publicity – featuring everywhere from the Daily Mail to the New York Times.

How do you feel about your job now?

I am surprised and happy that Speechy has become so popular and appreciated by our customers.

I’m a little shocked too!

The idea was originally a lifestyle business but it grew into something more. In fact, it has proven so successful that I now have to consider how to make the business more manageable from my personal perspective. Not an easy answer yet.

What challenges have you faced since doing your shift, and how exactly did you deal with them?

Covid was definitely a huge challenge as we specialize in wedding speeches.

We actually had to shut down for six months (which I was happy to do given the impact of homeschooling!).

This period proved that even a company focused on online service accumulates considerable costs. It was a challenge financially but the following year, our busiest yet, helped ensure no long-term damage was done.

How is the financial side of things developing, and is it what you expected?

I thought making money would be much easier than it really is!

There are so many costs involved in running a company, and getting to the VAT threshold was incredibly challenging. Suddenly, 20% of your revenue is gone and that’s a big hit for a small company.

What have you learned since your shift?

I still go back to my previous advice.

Starting your own business is going to be much more difficult and much less profitable than you imagine. I think I’ve aged about a decade in the last five years.

Running your own company can be rewarding, both professionally and financially, but you need a great support system to make it work. I’ve seen a lot of fellow entrepreneurs give it up to go back to their careers, so before taking the leap, make sure you talk to people who have done something similar and whom you trust to be honest with you.

Remember, the shiny image of business owners is only the image they project. They don’t post pictures of themselves up at midnight answering customer emails and firing off invoices.

If you still want to go for it, good luck and have fun with it!

For more information on Heidi’s businesses, visit www.speechy.com.

What lessons can you take from Heidi’s story to use in your career change? Tell us in the comments below.

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