Durban - TV mogul Connie Ferguson says lack of employer benefits was among the biggest challenges actors faced in the television industry.
During her time on Generations, where she spent more than a decade playing the lead role of Karabo Moroka, she admits she received a lucrative salary which sustained her needs.
“I was at Generations for 16 years, I was paid very well," she said.
"I know as actors we always say we are not paid well, but that’s because we don’t have benefits. I was paid a good salary, I stayed in a nice house, drove a nice car and I was able to pay my children’s school fees," said Ferguson, who was the guest speaker at the Durban Business Fair's Women Economic Engagement forum.
The event was held under the theme - She Grows, She Inspires, She Leads.
Ferguson said she realised that despite receiving a good salary which left her with very little for the future after paying her bills, she was building someone else's legacy and not her own.
“My industry is very hard, a lot of my colleagues live from hand to mouth. We are what is called independent contractors, meaning you get paid only when you work, there are no benefits, you don’t have medical aid, you don’t have (pension / provident fund), that’s on you, so there are no employer benefits because you are seen as self-employed,” she said.
“Shona moved from Botswana to Johannesburg, it was hard because he had to start from scratch and here was this woman who was more famous then she was rich. I was very famous but my bank account didn’t say I was that famous. He was more from a management background and together we put our heads together, we had so many ideas we wanted to introduce and implement,” she said.
After meeting her husband, Ferguson started treating her brand as a business and employed an accountant to manage her finances.
"Some months would be dry and some months it would be like rain, so on the heavy rain months, I would make sure I preserved for the dry months and this became my practical training into business management,” she said.
When she left Generations, she gave herself an opportunity to convert her passion to business, opening the television production company Ferguson Films with her husband. The company has produced popular local dramas for Mzansi Magic, including The Throne, Rockville and The Queen.
"In 2010, I did the scariest thing ever and left Generations, sometimes this is where you have to trust your instincts and take a chance. I had sleepless nights thinking If I had made the right decision. We knocked on many doors and eventually M-net's door opened,” she said.
She encouraged women not to be afraid to compete.