- Cheryl Ritzel decided to quit her teaching job after 26 years. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the pandemic.
- She was only five years away from retirement and receiving full benefits from her pension.
- Ritzel started a local photography company called FocusEd Camera where she was much happier.
This article is said to be based on a conversation with Sheryl Ritzel, a former teacher who quit her job to start her own business. Edited for length and clarity.
I didn’t always want to be a teacher. My original plan was to become a lawyer, but after completing my undergraduate degree, I realized I didn’t have enough money to go to law school. Instead, I headed down the path of becoming a teacher. I have taught preschool, middle school and high school and have been working for 26 years in this field.
I loved being a teacher, because I am really passionate about helping people. Education used to be a space where you could do it creatively, but not anymore. Now, there are a lot of guidelines, limitations and busy time consuming work that we have to do.
During my last eight years as a teacher, I began to dread getting up in the morning. My alarm was going off and I was just crying.
There was a long list of reasons why I quit smoking
These reasons included everything from the rigorous and boring curriculum requirements to the endless amount of work that would be constantly added to our to-do list. For example, they decided that all tests, which were once just multiple-choice answers or short answers, should now include a long-answer question. This made it take longer in class, and we had to do it at home, as there was no time to do it during school hours.
We also had therapy that we had to do before school hours and more paperwork we had to do after school that took up our personal time. And the list goes on and on. I fully understand the reasons behind each of these decisions and they help in making better education; However, the burden on teachers is heavy, and in my job, I have done nothing to alleviate it.
When the school added something else for us to do as teachers in meetings, I would raise my hand and ask what they were planning to remove from our list. The answer was nothing, and the work continued to pile up.
The last straw for me was the pandemic
The rules and requirements kept changing, and I would have those little panic attacks every time the school said, “That’s what we’re going to do now.”
First, they told us that we would be working with some students in person and some digital, by giving parents a choice, and that we would teach these two classes at different times. Then they said we have co-ed classes, some students in person and some on Zoom. This means that we will have to monitor students at home and in the classroom at the same time. This later changed, and we had to move around the class to help the students in person, while also observing the students on Zoom to see their behavior and answer any questions they had. These changes occurred within days of each other.
I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a resilient and ever-changing situation, but it has been very stressful for us as educators as we have been told how things are by people who have not been in the classroom for years. They really had no idea what we were going through.
I ended up taking a vacation in September 2020 for health reasons. I have asthma, and wearing a mask for 12 hours a day has not worked well for me. I was hoping the COVID-19 teaching requirements would fade when I go back, but nothing has changed. So the next school year, in September 2021, I decided I was going to quit.
Being diagnosed with cancer made me think
When I was diagnosed with colon cancer 12 years ago, before I was 40, I had to have surgery and then chemotherapy for eight months. It was a terrible experience. At the same time, the bright side is that it made me more aware of my daily life and made each of those days count. I wanted to stop wishing my life away. Being diagnosed with cancer made me think about other jobs and the world of entrepreneurship.
Years later, after struggling with the stress of teaching, overtime, and changes due to the pandemic, I realized there was a better job for me — one where I would be happy and not wishing that the days would pass until I could make it to the weekend.
When I got away from my teaching job, I got away with a lot of money. I gave up health insurance benefits, my $50,000 salary, and retirement benefits that I would have had in full in my pension if I stayed another five years. But quitting smoking was still worth it.
I knew I didn’t want to get a job working for anyone else
Since I knew I didn’t want to get a job working for anyone else, I decided to start my own company. I ran into ideas and finally started starting a local photography education business called FocusEd . camera In Atlanta, my skills were drawn from my teaching background and my continuing passion for photography.
Before I quit my job, I knew I had to be careful with my money. I continued to contribute to my emergency fund, which was really big. This way, I won’t start my journey as an entrepreneur with a constant fear about whether I can make my car or home payments. I had some amount of money that I could withdraw from if my new business wasn’t making money right away.
I started slowly by creating my own video content YouTube channel. I also built a file website Use WeeblyIt is a free website builder that anyone can use and customize without knowing how to code. Finally, I invested $4,300 in photographic equipment to build my studio.
Since I’ve been a passion for photography my whole life, I’ve already owned some equipment, so these costs may be higher for someone just starting out. I also bought a color photo printer and additional office supplies. I used the large amount of savings I had stashed for years to pay myself a salary and rent during this time.
I subscribed to amazon
I started making money a little after my business was officially launched, but the income didn’t come from clients – it came from affiliate links. I signed up for Amazon (which most people with a business or website can do), and every time I mentioned a product in my YouTube videos, I would share an affiliate link that would generate money from purchases made. . Although I no longer use the Amazon affiliate program (because it was taking too long), I now work directly with the companies as an affiliate to sell their gear on website.
The second way I started making money was by creating and selling photography instruction books Amazon.
Both of these money makers became continuous passive income streams that allowed me to generate cash while focusing on attracting local clients to sign up for one person. photography lessons, which are customized to the needs of the student and made in person or via Zoom. I also offer group classes, registration varies, but I limit the number of students to eight to make sure I have time with all of them. I now have a full class calendar (I show three classes a week), but it doesn’t always get full.
I’m on multiple platforms to promote my new business
I created a profile for my business on Google Business and Yelp to find local clients. When someone in the Atlanta area searches for “photography lessons near me,” my company will appear as an option in their search on Google or Yelp. I also sometimes offer a coupon or discount with Google and Yelp that may encourage the buyer.
I’m on many social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, YouTube and Nextdoor. The only one I advertise is Nextdoor, because these ads are aimed at people who live near me. I use Pinterest to direct people to Etsy and Amazon items. I post regularly on all of these sites and drive traffic to my website, Etsy, Amazon or YouTube.
I also advertise locally in newspapers, such as The Patch, and through word of mouth and business cards in coffee shops etc.
The transition from teacher to entrepreneur wasn’t as hard as I thought
I was spending half my day as a journalism teacher and studying the yearbook, so I was really using my photography and graphic design skills. I spent the other half of my day teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship, so I understood how to create a business plan, develop strategies for marketing (from using social media to distributing business cards locally), and how to price my services so they can be profitable.
Also, being a teacher taught me how to communicate clearly – both in writing and orally – which is useful as an entrepreneur when working with clients and trying to sell my services.
My business is growing
Although running this business hasn’t brought in enough money to replace my professor’s salary or benefits yet, it’s growing, and I know it’ll get past that point someday. I also add other products for sale, produce good art photos to sell, and have more ideas in the works.
However, the trade-off was worth every penny. Anxiety and tension from working as a teacher in the school system disappeared.
Sometimes I miss working as a teacher, because there is nothing better than watching a young man’s face light up when he realizes a new idea. I also miss having co-workers with whom I laugh and talk all day. But I am very happy with my decision.
My advice to people who want to quit their jobs don’t do it right away
Even if you are very frustrated. Make sure you have something else on hand, whether it’s your own business or a new job. It is important to put things in their place before you leave. At the same time, do not be afraid to take risks.
Certainly, if I had stayed as a teacher, I would have continued to earn a steady salary, and eventually received my full retirement benefits. But as a cancer survivor, I’ve learned one thing that no one will be guaranteed tomorrow.
Even if you can’t switch jobs or your career right now, consider starting a side hustle or doing something you’re passionate about as a hobby. It’s good for your mental health to do what you love and spend time with the people you love.