Joy Loverde dropped out of college, joined the creative department of two major advertising agencies, and then went on to start her own advertising agency. This was all before she self-published her first book, The Complete Eldercare Planner: Where to Start, Which Questions to Ask, How to Find Help.
Through her own marketing and publicity efforts, Loverde sold 1,000 copies within the first two months of publishing. Overwhelmed by the success, she sought a literary agent, later receiving offers from five major book publishers before ultimately signing a six-figure deal with Hyperion. She then went on to publish her second book, Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? with Da Capo Press.
It’s been more than 20 years since the Hyperion deal, and Loverde is now a keynote speaker, mature-market business consultant, a product endorser of aging-related products and services, and a sought-after expert for interviews on aging-related topics. She has been self-employed for over 40 years.
Though she has gained the respect of numerous professionals in the aging-related industries, which allows her the flexibility to work from home and choose her target projects, success didn’t happen overnight for Loverde.
At one point, she was a young single mother of a four-year-old and had no money to speak of, but she went ahead and opened her own advertising agency anyway.
“I had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she says.
Loverde juggled parenting, client recruitment, and several projects while learning about marketing, media relations, the aging-related industries, and how to grow a business. She has appeared on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, National Public Radio, and more.
She has proven that you don’t need to earn a degree to advance your career. In this interview with InHerSight, she shares the secrets of her success, her day-to-day schedule, and what it means to work for yourself:
When did you first know you were a writer?
I began to think of myself as a writer as early as grade school. Teachers boosted my confidence by praising my writing throughout my school years. Ever since I could remember, I enjoyed reading and school assignments that involved creative writing.
InHerSight: What led you to your career as a consultant, and how did you become an expert on the subject of aging?
Joy: Every day, I seem to relive the critical decision I made as a fourteen-year-old attending Trinity, an all-girls Catholic high school, in River Forest, Illinois. When Sr. Dorothy was looking for a student to visit nursing-home residents on Thanksgiving morning, I hesitated; then raised my hand to volunteer. That decision changed my life forever.
Upon entering the nursing home, I observed seven residents sitting motionless in the dark. No one was talking. No one was smiling. Everyone was staring into nothingness. I was shocked at what I witnessed, and immediately started grappling for answers to questions no one seemed to be asking:
Who are these elders?
What series of events led them to a life of resignation?
How did they end up isolated and alone in their old age?
And why are they not with their families on Thanksgiving Day?
Since that visit to the nursing home, I vowed to find answers to these and other complex questions. For the next 40 years, I would advocate and troubleshoot the causes, concepts, and needs of the world’s aging population. “When we plan, we have choices.” This is the promise of both of my books, The Complete Eldercare Planner and Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?
Experiencing the highly challenging process of finding an agent, writing a book proposal; then having my manuscript accepted by one of the top publishers in the country speaks volumes when it comes to being respected and recognized as an expert and author in the aging industry. Unfortunately, self-publishing does not offer the same level of acceptance.
Importantly, I do not think of myself as an expert on aging rather a skilled messenger of communicating the complex needs of our aging population. My work takes on numerous formats: books, blogs, podcasts, social media, radio, television and print interviews, keynotes, product endorsements, and consulting projects.
You dropped out of college after two years. Can you explain why? What did you do immediately following that decision?
I dropped out of college for several reasons. For starters, I was bored and restless and decided that what I was being taught in college, except for “English” and “Philosophy,” was not relevant for me to obtain success, financially and otherwise. After I left school, I decided the best approach to getting an education was to live and work side-by-side with people who were doing the kinds of things—personally and professionally—I wanted to be doing.
Also, I had a strong desire to be a wife and a mother. What I did immediately after dropping out of school was get married to my high-school sweetheart, and I became pregnant with my daughter soon after.
What led you to self-employment, and what is the best advice you can give to others who wish to become self-employed or have just started working for themselves?
When I was employed by others, the glass ceiling was ever-present. I found workplace rules and regulations suffocating. I was told how much money I would be paid. I was instructed where to be and what time to show up and when I could leave. I had to conform to when I could take days off [and how often]. I resented other people taking credit for my ideas. I disliked office politics and pettiness among co-workers and managers.
Also, as a single mother, I could not accept the time limitations of a full-time job. I especially missed the freedom of creating my own schedule in order to be available to my daughter. I knew there had to be a better way to make money and create a quality of life for the two of us. These factors led me to taking the leap and starting my own advertising agency.
Being courageous is the best advice I can offer others who wish to become self-employed or have just started working for themselves. Most fears are irrational. It helps immensely to surround yourself with people who work for themselves. Ask advice of other entrepreneurs, especially questions about the fundamentals of making money.
What has been one of the biggest challenges of your career, and how have you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges of my career is getting paid for my services. I was only stiffed once by a customer after a $5,000 job was completed, and that was all I needed to change my business model.
I overcame the possibility of experiencing this situation again by talking with other consultants. They advised me on how to create a fees and terms agreement and how to get partial payment in advance.
What do you love about your job, and how do you stay motivated?
Being a published author opens the doors to myriad other business opportunities. I love not knowing what comes next. What I also love about my job is the freedom to say “yes” or “no” to new business opportunities, and the fact that I can make as much money as I want.
When you love what you do and you work for yourself, staying motivated is not a problem. The challenge is staying healthy. Physical, mental, and spiritual wellness is always on my mind. I eat right, I work out, and I am extremely choosy about who I am friends with. I cannot do my job and travel for a living if I am sick.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts, or tools you recommend for those beginning their careers?
I use Google Alerts to stay current with anything that is happening in the world that may have an impact on my business. I listen to all kinds of podcasts, not just ones related to my field. Also, LinkedIn is a goldmine for connections, resources, and advice.
Learn more about Joy Loverde and her books Who Will Take Care Of Me When I'm Old? and The Complete Eldercare Planner, both of which are available for purchase on her site.
For more motivational stories on women making waves in the workplace, check out InHerSight's blog!
By Sarah Sheppard
Sarah Sheppard is a professional writer and editor. She worked as a senior manager at an independent publisher in Boston, earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and currently resides in the Midwest. She is working on her first novel. You can find her at @writershep on Twitter, and @sarahsheppardwriter on Instagram.