From Stockbroker to Singer-songwriter

“I found an old career questionnaire response I'd written. It said 'If I could do anything in the world, I'd be a popstar.' Suddenly, the truth was loud.”

From Stockbroker to Singer-songwriter

Some careers seem like pipe dreams; so sought-after and exciting that it's almost not worth bothering to try to get there. But, as Danielle W. Carter shares, when you're finding joy in the journey, the destination gets closer of its own accord. Here's her amazing story.

What work were you doing previously?

Previously, I was a licensed stockbroker working for a private wealth management firm.  At night, I was also taking courses to apply for the international financial planning designation.

What are you doing now?

I am now an independent performing artist and songwriter.  Currently, I’m fundraising for The Dani W Project on Indiegogo.com to record my first album of original songs. It is exciting to be partnering with my supporters to create this first album.  Also, it’s amazing to be working with talented U.S. producer Cori Jacobs, whose credits include Beyonce, Lauryn Hill, Sly Stone and The PussyCatDolls.   

Why did you change?

Music has the power to shift moods and inspire action.  I changed careers to align my life with helping others to create moments that relax like a hot bath, heal like laughter, encourage healthy relationships, and ignite passion among lovers.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

A couple of years ago, I found an old career questionnaire response.  I wrote, “If I could do anything in the world, I would be an Asian Popstar.”

Suddenly, the truth was loud.  At that very moment, I realized that my dream is huge and that my purpose is to connect with the world through singing and writing.

I saved as much as I could, turned in my resignation letter, and hit the ground running.

Are you happy with the change?

Extremely happy and grateful.  I am living my passion and helping others live theirs.  Freedom is contagious.  

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

I miss my previous coworkers and having set “office hours.”  I don’t miss sitting in a cubicle.  I love creating music and collaborating, so it’s a challenge to stop working.

How did you go about making the shift?

Outside of the office, I spent my free time singing in a choir and performing with a funk band to feed my passion for music.  When I found The Roots class at The Songwriting School, I got hooked on the joy of writing songs and began developing a style.

Taking classes, learning about the business of music and networking at industry events provided a basic foundation.  All along, I was saving up and prepared to take a leap fully into songwriting and singing.

During the shift, I rarely slept because I was so excited to take on every opportunity to grow!  I volunteered to sing background vocals for talented local artists like Nina Storey and Roxie and the Ki and some weekends I had three or four shows.

Because I spent so much time volunteering at The Songwriting School events and offered a useful skill set, I began working there part-time.  Now I have the pleasure of helping other artists and musicians get the resources they need to create their music as well.

I’m preparing my solo project and the most amazing feeling is knowing that I am a part of an extremely supportive and talented community, both in and outside of music.

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

I created a budget and dug deep into my savings to pay monthly expenses while developing my craft.  I found ways to trade my financial and administrative skills in exchange for voice lessons, seminars, and songwriting lessons.  We all have expertise to share.  Now I understand that money is an exchange of energy.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

The most difficult thing about changing is staying focused.  I recommend building a positive support system around you and getting a part-time job in the industry whenever possible.

There is usually a steep learning curve so being patient and persistent is critical.  When you find a great community, it’s easier to remain calm and make the learning and overall transition a fun process.

What help did you get?  

I sought out many mentors for specific areas of learning in the industry.  I would find these mentors through conferences, classes at The Songwriting School, and through personal referrals.

Also, if I like someone’s work, I start a conversation.  Sometimes a conversation can lead to a new song, a new project, or even a partnership.

What have you learnt in the process?

I’ve learned there are no shortcuts.  There is challenging and fun work that helps me access more layers of my craft and to connect with amazing colleagues.

There are many paths within music.  I’ve had to define what success looks like and break it down into milestones.  Developing this career and fine tuning my instincts is an invigorating process.

I’ve learned how to appreciate each step and find joy in the journey.  I am not waiting to get somewhere or be someone else.  I embrace the amazing people in my life and relish the joy of each day while living my dream.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

Looking back, all the dots connect.  The business skills are helpful and I am grateful.  However, I definitely wish I had discovered and pursued my passion earlier.  After college, I was so focused on getting a “real job” and a lifestyle by societal norms, that I forgot to ask myself what I truly wanted from life.

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

For anyone who’s searching for clarity, I would suggest that they “free write” every morning.  We have most of the answers inside, but we often search outside ourselves for affirmation.

Clear your mind and ask, “What do I already know that I am pretending not to know?”

Another thing that helps me to stay focused is keeping my goal chart on the wall.  I write out my main goal on a blank piece of paper and then chart out everything I need to reach it.  No limitations.  The resources keep presenting themselves and I add them on.

Make sure the daily tasks and lifestyle truly align with your dream career.  I shadowed people “on the job”  to get a preview.

Also, partner with others that compliment your strengths. When you lead with your passion to do “the work,” you will foster new relationships.  That’s when the best opportunities present themselves.

What resources would you recommend to others?

For singer and songwriters, checking the Billboard music charts and blogs to study what people currently like is insightful.  However, when you’re in the creative process, set what’s popular aside and create art from your heart, from the inside out.  People will resonate with the naked truth.

Children give unfiltered feedback.  If they like and can sing back your song, that’s a great start!  Feedback is great to help identify your strengths and areas that need growth.  Above all, always trust your gut feeling.

Seek community among your local musicians at live music venues, school music programs and online.  Local and international resources like The Songwriting School of Los Angeles, Soundcloud plus business and music seminars are alive and well for networking and skill building.

I keep a “Resource Center” on my website with access to conferences, organizations and communities that have helped me get started as a singer/songwriter. 

Overall, shifting careers is a roller coaster so the best resource to maintain is your health.  Treat yourself to down time.  Whether through meditation, hiking, yoga, bubble baths, or other activities, keep your mind free, relaxed and centered.  

Take inspired action.  If you don’t love it, don’t do it.  Life is too short.

Please feel free to reach out to me, or view a list of resources here: http://www.daniellewcarter.com

What lessons could you take from Danielle's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below. 

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.