Saturday freelance chat – Zoe Austin

10 Sep

Welcome to the newest freelance chat interview – and this one’s with someone I’ve known for years!  I met Zoe Austin back in 2005 or 6 when we were both working at the University Library. We met via BookCrossing (she had some books to donate to the library’s BookCrossing Zone) and bonded over that and the lovely earrings she made to sell for the library charity. We kept in touch when Zoe moved away to Cambridgeshire to study Music Therapy, and I’ve been interested and proud to see her set up this creative and helpful business. As well as teaching standard music lessons, Zoe is expanding into using her qualification to provide professional Music Therapy sessions to people in her area.

Personally, I find it very interesting to see what people in the creative sector have to say about business – there are many ways the more traditional of us can learn from this and use their ideas in our own lives and businesses. So let’s say hello to Zoe!

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

I registered my name as ‘Zoe Austin Music & Therapy’ but at the moment I am marketing it as ‘Zoe Austin Music’. It will probably change again soon!  I began teaching music privately whilst at Exeter University in 2001-2002 to make a bit of extra cash, but took it up again properly in 2009.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I qualified as a Music Therapist in 2008 from Anglian Ruskin University with the plan to establish a part-time private practice whilst working in a related field for my day job, looking for other Music Therapy work for an agency like the NHS in the meantime. Well, the Music Therapy has not quite appeared yet in the way I had hoped (watch this space!) but I have been able to continue with what I call ‘standard’ music lessons and ‘therapeutic’ lessons/sessions in which I have taught, for example, a client with mental health difficulties and another with Down’s Syndrome.

Since September 2010, I have been teaching on a Saturday with the Cambridgeshire Music Fenland area academy, teaching and conducting young people. I have found this to be immensely rewarding and it has further cemented my lifelong love of music and the fact that, when I am sharing music in this way, I am living my authentic creative life. This is the reason why I am now expanding my business: so I can make music my livelihood as well as my life’s work.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

See above! Music has, I am lucky to say, always been a hugely important part of my life. I began learning violin aged 3 and the lifelong love began! As the song goes, music was my first love and it will be my last. Now I am determined to make it my living and letting, as Rumi put it, what I love be what I do.

Had you run your own business before?

Nope. I always fancied being my own boss and that is still the ultimate goal – full-time self-employment, operating out of my own premises with perhaps a member of staff to do admin things.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I have been working part-time teaching music in the evenings and at weekends whilst working full-time in children’s social care.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

This won’t surprise you, Liz! Register for tax self-assessment in plenty of time as you can’t complete the thing before you receive their PIN number through the post, which can take up to a week!

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

I feel that I am still new to all this, really. Hmm … Maybe what Julia Cameron reminds us in ‘The Artist’s Way’: leap and the net will appear. Also, importantly, ‘YOU CAN DO IT!!!’

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Again, kind of hard to say at what still feels like the beginning of all this but … there was the tax thing, so maybe don’t be afraid of the admin side of things and get them done and in order as swiftly as possible so you can concentrate on more interesting things.

What are you glad you did?

Registered with It has been the main way in which, thus far, people have found out about my business. Now that I have set up a blog and Facebook page, I am hoping to attract more business. I am hoping that the business cards I have been pinning to community notice boards county-wide will also yield results!

What’s your top business tip?

At the moment, for me it would have to involve purchasing and completing The Artist’s Way. It is a 12-week course for creative recovery, so is obviously quite pertinent for me as a musician, but I would also recommend it as a general tool for helping with clear-thinking and prioritizing what is important in our working lives.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

Again, watch this space! I am, all being well, on the brink of some major changes which I can’t really discuss yet as nothing is set in stone yet. I will say that things seem to be changing for the better in my work life and for my business.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

Teaching music, providing Music Therapy and doing paid performances – all together providing my complete source of income. I hope, as more money comes in, to be able to invest in more advertising and an actual website rather than just my little blog (proud of it though I am). I would also like to be able to afford to receive music tuition for myself again, attend music workshops and MT conferences. Musical self-sufficiency, really!

I would also like to be able to afford to offer free or reduced-price Music Therapy in areas of need within Cambridgeshire, such as Oxmoor estate in Huntingdon  or the Arbury in Cambridge.

Can I just add: Thank you so much for interviewing me and helping to spread the word!

Thank you very much for participating, and I for one really look forward to watching your progress as you grow and expand the business!  Zoe’s Facebook Page is here  You can email Zoe or call her on 07791 308546.

A quick update: Zoe submitted these replies to me a few weeks ago, and there have been some exciting developments since then (the power of the Freelancer Chat Interview at work before it’s even posted?!) – I’ll let her tell you what’s happening:

“I will be teaching and providing Music Therapy through Huntingdon Regional College for 3 days a week and am very happy to have found  some part-time paid employment in this field – ideal really, as it allows me to do what I love and continue to expand my business. I am covering a 2 term maternity leave teaching violin privately in three Peterborough schools and, thanks to word of mouth and, I am also giving a singing lesson at Priory Grange Hospital in St Neots and hope to set up a Music Therapy group there in the near future! I am so happy and grateful for how things are working out!

Congratulations, Zoe: I’m very pleased for you!

 If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please click here for more freelancer chat.


Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


Tags: , ,

4 responses to “Saturday freelance chat – Zoe Austin

  1. petefernando

    September 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    That’s a great interview! Totally agree with the whole tax thing! That’s such a nightmare! I remember trying to get mine sorted, I ended up having to take the plunge and sort it out via my accountant!


    • Liz at Libro

      September 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Ah – you see, I went on the Becoming Self Employed HMRC course and they told me what to do and how to do it (I think I’d already registered actually) – I highly recommend that to anyone starting out. I wrote an article for another blog about all that, which ended up being just for editors – I might write a more general post for this blog explaining all that.



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