Becoming a Successful Independent Broadcaster & Taking Back Your Work/Life Balance

I’m not going to bore you with my full backstory. I want to jump right into the details that will be able to help you make a decision that could quite literally change your life. I’ll start with a brief intro so you can get the basics. Like many of you, I found my love and passion for the weather at a very young age. I grew up on a barrier island and saw how nature shaped life on it. I was 4 years old during the blizzard of ’96. THAT is the storm I credit with setting the course of my career.

I did weather on the morning announcements in elementary, middle and high school. I treated it as a real job and actually forecasted and made my own graphics. When I was a junior in high school, my TV media teacher told me to put out a demo reel and see what happenes. I was hired – at just 17 to do weekends at our local NBC station based out of Atlantic City. I eventually started working the morning show and prime time shifts as needed and started building a brand. When Comcast came in and purchased NBC, they decided not to renew our network affiliation (because we strongly competed with NBC in Philadelphia) and the ownership group decided to close the station in hopes of selling the signal in a spectrum sale (never happened).

Age 17. First few days of broadcasting

For the next few years I led the weather program at another local tv station that was built in NBC40’s imafe by a local business guy. It was great while it lasted, but not sustainable as he was shelling out millions from his pocket. 4 years into the endeavor, he closed it down. I learned about the planning closing a week before everyone else on my way to the Keys for vacation. I was beside myself. I didn’t know where to turn. Prior to going full time in weather I was a store manager for a grocery chain… I REALLY didn’t want to go back into retail but I also didn’t want to rebuild in a new market after spending my entire career building myslef here in Jersey.

As I ran all possible outcomes in my mind like a computer, I decided the only course of action was to start my own company – NorCast Weather was born. I picked up the phone and contacted every advertiser we had on the air with us and explained that we were closing and I was starting a hyper-local digital weather broadcasting company and I’d appreciate their support. I started with about 15 clients saying yes – this was enough to sustain me.

I rememeber sitting in the hottub making calculations and coming up with ad packages. I remember the uneasiness that came across me – but I channeled the teachings of my favorite books, The Alchemist and The Secret – and I was OK. I knew what I had to do.

When the station shutdown, I brokered a deal to purchase the Baron equipment that was new just the prior year. I determined that buying out the contract would make life much easier and would save me a TON of time. Back then my now-husband and I were living with friends in a townhouse. I took up the livingroom with lights, a camera and big screen TV so I could broadcast my weather. After a few months of that and feeling bad for getting in the way, we purchased our first home so I could build a better studio in the basement.

My first tiny-basement studio

Within a little over a year, the business exploded so much, THAT space was no longer big enough or convenient so we upgraded to a bigger house with a room specifically dedicated to my office / studio.

When I started, I was making somewhere in the ballpark of $8k a month – which was a bit of raise from what I made at my previous station. It was great – but I wanted to continue to build. Covid happened, SOME of my retail clients suspended but my legacy companies… the service industry clients like HVAC, roofing, appliances etc, did not. I was able to get through covid and actually GROW the business taking on new clients.

I steadily grew in revenue. I am now in my third year of being independent and I am closing in on almost $30k… a month. Yes. You read that right. I do not, in any way whatsoever write that to brag. I’m not like that. I come from humble beginnings, my family was on welfare. I was literally at the bottom. I am telling you this story because it’s doable. It’s real. I’m living it. This can be replicated.

It doesn’t stop there. My bread and butter is Facebook. I post hourly forecast graphics from 6am to 11pm and 6 video forecast updates a day. Every solitary thing I post to FB with the exception of pics of my dogs, vacations, quirky stuff etc is sponsored. I just recently had my website rebuilt which breaks down my DMA into different zones. All graphics are populated by my Baron scheduler so it’s a “set it and forget it” kinda deal (feel free to take a look for yourself).

Example of Sponsored facebook graphic

At any rate, there is TONS of room for sponsorships in the form of 1400×200 banner ads. The way my site is set up I’ve got room for 40 banners throughout. 40 @ $200 (very affordable for any size business) is an additional $8k a month in residual income. I haven’t even started really selling it yet. I just hired a sales person to take care of it for me, commission based.

I am also in the process of building a 24/7 streaming channel that will also be fed by Baron. Radar loops, forecast maps, current conditions, wx cams, my video forecasts, commericals… it will all be fed into the channel and streamed to YouTube and apps on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon and any other OTT platform I find. This is being done with the TREMENDOUS help of the Tennessee Valley Weather team who already has this in place. This will give me the ability to run full :30 tv spots for customers and open up an additonal source of revenue.

Finally, the same company that built my website is also working with me to develop a subscription email service. This will be targeted towards the folks that are tired and fed up with social media. There’s a lot of them. Why not capitalize on it? $1.99 a month. 6 cents a day. They get a written forecast specific to their area, a forecast video and forecast graphic I built that shows the day planner, AM/PM commute and 7 day in one.

My goal by January is to bring in $50k a month. It’s doable with all I can offer. I determined I can’t do this alone anymore. I hired a weekend meteorologist who comes in on Friday nights and takes care of things for me through Sunday night. I return to work on Monday morning. I am likely going to take my husband on full time to be my manager in the Fall. He is a marketing and video guy. He will be able to take care of all my customer’s needs and creative so I can take THAT out of the equation and focus solely on building my company.

There are ALL kinds of sponsorships you can do. Last year I started a morning live show on facebook that sets the tone for the day and THAT is sponsored at a higher cost than everything else. People love it! Example here:

Now…how can YOU start this on your own? It’s really not that hard. If you have about $10-15k to invest up front, you can start… you can try to negotiate with Baron, that’s the best case scenario. That is HUGE. If you have a graphics system, most everything you do is automated. It will make your life easy. Now MOST of that investment would be fore the Baron equipment. Work station and scheduler. There is a cheaper way to do it as well… using a combination of photoshop/powerpoint and WSV3. I did it back in the day before my station even had a graphics system (I pushed them to buy it). Overhead would be much lower.

There’s a third option. Become part of the NorCast brand. I am in the process of franchising my business. I would provide: Camera, lights, computers, software, website, email marketing, sales kits and sales training. My deal would be for the powerpoint/photoshop graphics as Baron doesn’t want to commit to the project as they are afraid of undercutting TV stations they work with. I AM in talks with WSI however. We will see how that goes. To keep overhead low on your end, franchising with me would take care of everything and you’d pay me a single monthly fee and have an advisor helping you every step of the way as you build your business.

What’s the time commitment look like on your end? I know some may be thinking “well I’m going to be working more than I do now!” Nope. Not the case at all. My day starts at 5am (I do some work for a local radio group and call into their AM show….so I’m an early riser) and on a GOOD day work ends by 8/9am. I take full advantage of scheduling things WELL in advance. Again, on a day where you know how things will play out verbatim, that’s the route to go. You open your life up to SO much free time. Now, severe weather days are totally different, you could be working 16 hours straight…but that’s the nature of the beast.

Whether you’re interested in the franchise idea or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I want to give the highly talented folks out there that are thinking of leaving the industry for OTHER fields hope that you CAN make it work in the digital world we live in. It’s NOT going back the other day. This is how you get ahead of the curve. I am always available for questions…Feel free to reach out anytime.

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