Welcome to a new Small Business Chat with James Burton of JBB Sound. James was a client of mine when he worked for another company, and he asked me to look over his web text for him when he started the sound engineering business up as a full-time effort. I’m always encouraging people to make this move, so I’ve helped there and tried to what is rather revoltingly called “leverage” my contacts to help him. In other words, I mentioned him and some other people in the music industry in the same Facebook posts and whatever. It’s surprising what this kind of odd comment and link can do for someone’s career, so it’s always worth putting people in touch – but not forcing the issue – if you think they’ve got something in common or can help one another.
James has been lucky enough to be able to develop a career in an area that started off as a hobby and which he loves doing. He’s got some interesting things to say about sourcing funds and about applying knowledge (or not) from his day job.
Let’s say hello to James and see how he’s getting on so far …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
It’s called JBB Sound and I set it up in June/July 2012.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
Well, to be honest I had been an enthusiastic graduate amateur/semi-pro sound engineer, mostly doing favours and bits and bobs here and there for friends and family ever since I was young. Then I realised that my skills had grown to a point where the work I was producing was of real commercial value, so I tentatively started charging for it. People were surprisingly welcoming of my charging for the services to be honest, as it’s a unique set of skills you hone as a mix engineer. Sound engineering has always been an area of interest for me, and I achieved my first degree in the field, so it made sense to do something I loved as a job if people were happy to pay me to do it.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Interest, knowledge of it and experience in the field, really.
Had you run your own business before?
No, not really. I did a bit of guitar teaching to ease my way through my second degree, but that was it really.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep yourself going …?
I started off part time, coinciding with my other job as a marketer for a point of sale company, but then got made redundant from the marketing job and decided to go all out and do what I loved.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Not to bother with approaching banks and go for crowd funding right from the offset. The banks I’ve approached did not want to lend at all to me, which made equipment and investment in premises very difficult to fund initially. I don’t honestly know if that’s the experience of every new start-up, but it was certainly my experience.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
To target my market better and more effectively, bizarre coming from someone who previously worked as a marketer, but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget everything you know when you have everything else to think about when running a business. It would’ve given me the push to be able to take it full time much earlier, rather than waiting for redundancy to push me into it.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I’d started earlier, to be honest, so as the above answer.
What are you glad you did?
Went for it and got involved with some very good clients who have regular work and enable me to provide them with the best mixes and audio possible.
What’s your top business tip?
My favourite business motivational type quote thingy is “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t … you are right”. Maintain a positive frame of mind all the time and prioritise the work that is most profitable.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
It’s definitely diversified. I’m getting people approaching me for Audio Books and memoir dictation, film work, audio edits, corporate video sound tracks and sound bites along with a growing number of producers and musicians who seek my bread and butter recording and mixing work. Education is of growing interest too, in that lots of people want to know the ins and out of how to record, mix and master music. That’s all something I can help with. Actually, all of this has come within a very short space of time, too.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
Hopefully with a new premises from which I can operate the recording side of the service, as currently that’s all outsourced to various local studios I work with.
With a bit of publicity and some crowd-sourced funding, I’m sure James will get there – he’s got a very good reputation in his field already, and is both knowledgeable and creative, two things you need in this kind of work. We look forward to finding out how he’s doing this time next year!
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