Welcome to a fab new Saturday Business Chat! Today I’m thrilled to feature my old friend, Paul Alborough, aka Professor Elemental, a rapper – but wait – in the Brit hop tradition, all Steampunk and Englishness and marvellousness.
Back in the day, we used to commute up to Barnet together. I’d be reading the latest tome from my TBR, and Paul would be scribbling lyrics on an A4 pad. One of the most memorable features of my time at that company was the off-the-cuff rap Paul did for me at my leaving tea. Since then, he’s devoted considerable time and effort to building his music career, and is now doing Professor Elemental stuff full time – well done, Paul! Let’s find out how he did it. And you HAVE to look at his videos. Remember Tone and his model dinosaurs? This stuff is just as cool. Don’t I know some excellent people!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Professor Elemental is the name of the business and the character that I perform as. I have been working full time as the good Professor since January 2012.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I was quite happy just rapping as a hobby to supplement my day job, then was lucky enough to enjoy a bit of success with it. As the amount of work as an emcee grew, so did my day job career (as a teacher), and I was forced to choose between the two. Inevitably, being a mad professor was more interesting than being a regular teacher.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
It was only as I got more into doing shows and realised that it was a possible way to make money out of rapping without being signed. I’ve always loved emceeing in it’s many different forms.
Had you run your own business before?
Nope. I have done a lot of rap workshops, but never as a full-time business.
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 ran the two parallel careers for about a year. This was a very stressful in itself, but did allow me to keep the risks to a minimum when I finally made the jump into ful- time creativity. It feels a lot nicer risking everything when you have a bit of safety net either financially or in terms of other work.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
‘ITS LATER THAN YOU THINK! Sort your life out, you lazy sod!’ I would have liked them to have shouted that to me while shaking me by the lapels. I probably would have cried, but it would have been worth it.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
I am still pretty new I suppose- but I am definitely learning that people value you more if you value yourself. Both creatively and financially.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Got started earlier and not been so pessimistic about my chances of doing this for a profession. I might have saved myself a few years of life wasted in call centres.
What are you glad you did?
Working with other people. Working for yourself doesn’t mean that you have to shoulder it alone and having a good accountant, amazing booking agent and brilliant folk to collaborate with makes the whole process more fun.
What’s your top business tip?
Acheiving your dreams is entirely possible. Particularly if your dreams are relatively modest.
Oh, and be nice to people at every level of your business. That really can’t be overstated.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I have diversified as much as possible. I’m trying to say yes to as many good things as possible and it’s leading to some brilliant, unexpected places. So far there’s been a comic, a web series and some most unexpected gigs.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I’m thoroughly enjoying the freedom to take the professor character into some new and exciting places. There are a few things in the pipeline that might change my life completely. And if not, if things carry on just as they are, then I will be very happy indeed.
I don’t usually include people’s answer to the last question in the published interviews, but I had to here …
Are you happy for me to contact you in a year’s time from posting the interview, to see how you’re doing and conduct another short interview?
Yes, unless it has all gone wrong and I am destitute , living underneath Brighton pier. In which case another interview might be too depressing.
Somehow, I don’t think that will be the case! But isn’t it interesting that in the world of rap and the world of editing, we still like to do things carefully, have backup and do things nicely! Good luck to Paul / the Professor and his modest ambitions!
The Professor Elemental website can be found at www.professorelemental.com and I recommend taking a look at his rather marvellous YouTube videos. He’s on Facebook, and of course you can get in touch via email.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.