Welcome to another Small Business Update – this time with my ex-colleague, now performing in pith helmet and safari suit as the rather marvellous and steampunky Professor Elemental, Paul Alborough. I’ve watched Paul’s career with huge interest and admiration, and he’s managing to sustain a career in what I think is called Chap Hop, with forays into novel writing (I review his novel on my book review website), comics, Kickstarters, trans-Atlantic appearances and more. We first met Paul in this interview series in February 2013, when he’d been freelance for just a year, and when we caught up with him in February 2014, he had had an exciting year and was reaching a nice steady phase that he wanted to continue, telling me that for the upcoming year he wanted to be, “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 …” When I got in touch to sort out this year’s answers, it came at a time when Paul was creating what he described as “the world’s biggest spider diagram” in an attempt to work out what 2015 looks like, and he told me that he finds it helpful doing these interviews every year – I do, too, and I know many of my other interviewees do. Anyway, let’s see what the Prof has been getting up to …
Hello again, Paul! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I’m delighted to say that I am. By which I mostly mean I am safely tucked up in my rented office, surrounded my toys and comics, larking about on the Internet, while eating crisps.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
There have been some subtle but important changes over the last year; Thanks to my brilliant new manager, we are finally getting to grips with organising shows so that I am not at the mercy of whoever books me. I’m going off to the States a bit less too, it’s a great experience but can be very disruptive to the rest of my life outside of work. I was also lucky enough to harness the power of crowd funding last year and that was a brilliant, if exhausting experience- one that I am keen to repeat and expand in 2015. Most importantly, I have a new rule that I am not allowed to start the day without writing at least one verse or story. This has put creativity back in it’s place at the top of the ‘to do’ list each day.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Things that I have learned in 2014: Rich bankers make terrible audiences, people are very kind, Radio 6 will play your music if you can get it to the right person, if you are chosing a butler, a polite Canadian is an ideal choice, you *can* have too much of a good thing, Swedes don’t do small talk, don’t release more than one project at the same time, reindeer tastes better than you think, never, ever drink home made moonshine from a jar. Even if it would be rude not to.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Find good people to collaborate with in as many ways as possible. Every project last year came about in partnership with other creative and business types and it made such a difference to productivity. Not only do collaborations make projects more fun to work on, but they can also help meet deadlines and boost your enthusiasm if it starts to wane. Plus, the more people who are involved, the more people who will help you shout about your project when it is completed.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Having experimented with releasing comics, novels, toys and card games alongside the music, this is the year where I want to try tying it all together. My aim is to create a project that tells a story using every medium I have at my disposal, while also involving all of my favourite creative friends that I have worked with so far. Even better, if I can get the crowdfunding right, i can ensure that we all get paid for our work too. It’s the biggest thing that i have ever attempted though, so wish me luck!
I always love what Paul tells me he’s learned during the year (check back to last year’s interview for more hilarious learning points) but obviously there are some serious points here, too. It’s always fascinating to see what happens when a new freelancing project or business settles down into the mature stage, a time when you can reassess your work schedule, redress the work-life balance and enjoy a sense of control and freedom. I can’t wait to see what happens through 2015!
If 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 books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.