Time for another small business chat – I’ve brewed up a cup of Professor Elemental brand tea and settled down to find out what my old friend, Paul Alborough, aka Professor Elemental, is up to these days.
I first interviewed Paul in February 2013 and his answer to my last question, where he wanted to be in a year’s time, was, “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”. Well, the brand extension is going well, with tea, t-shirts, comics and a novel on the go as well as his splendid chap-hop videos and songs – and he’s embracing the strategic side, but not at the cost of the fun and eccentricity of the Professor and his doings. Read on to find out more!
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Much to my delight, I am pretty much where I’d hoped to be. I had a lovely year in 2013 and it’s allowed me to be a bit more strategic for this year, but without sacrificing the silly fun which is, after all, the most important part of the job.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Well, much of my income still comes from live shows, that hasn’t changed. And while I dearly love the travel, the people and the opportunities that a live show brings, I am working new ways to push other creative projects which don’t involve me having to stay in a travel lodge in Basingstoke on a rainy thursday night. Steampunk is still a fine place to spend one’s time, I am still making silly music with people who I like and I am still dancing around like a loon about twice a week.
In terms of what’s changed, the opportunities seem to be getting slightly more exciting and varied. There’s been things like voice over work for Disney and a publisher for a novel that I have written with a friend. These have taken the Prof in exactly the direction I wanted to push him. I have also come to terms with just how well organised you have to be, and how much creative projects benefit from careful planning and timing. This has meant that I can plan my year ahead, rather than just being at the beck and call of promoters or my own whimsy.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Always ask for a deposit when working for a private party, file your receipts properly, don’t mix your drinks at a show, never go out for a massive curry on your own directly before going on stage, getting the audience to do an egg and spoon race during a song is a terrible idea, the further north you go in England, the nicer people are, all Travelodge rooms inexplicably smell a bit of Lynx Africa, if someone doesn’t want to join you on stage, let them stay in the audience, if someone really wants to join you on stage, let them stay in the audience, Irish people dance to anything and if a large, bearded Mexican gentleman who calls himself ‘Wolf’ asks if he can buy you a drink, always politely refuse.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Plan ahead, and take your time. So long as you enjoy the fun, creative part of the project, it’s worth using the rest of your energy to make sure that it is presented exactly as you’d like it and seen by as many people as you want it to be.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Doing slightly more writing and maybe just a smidgen less admin. To be honest, though, if my life continues like this, I can’t imagine wanting it to change all that much …
Wow. I’m sorry, all of my other 100-odd participants in these interviews, but that answer to “What have you learned?” has to be the best answer ever. Read and learn, my friends! I’m so pleased to see Paul doing so well – I know how hard he works and how talented he is, and I can’t quite believe I used to catch a mundane commuter train to an office job with him not a million years ago (well, over 10 …). Do have a look at some of his work, you can access it all from the website below, or say hello on the Prof’s Facebook page. I look forward to reading about the next year’s developments!
f you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.