Welcome to an update with the lovely and always entertaining (well, that is his job … ) Paul Alborough, aka Professor Elemental. We’ve been having these chats now since February 2013, catching up with him in February 2014 and February 2015 (now I’m feeling bad that this got scheduled in March!) he’s always keeping busy and adding extra strings to his bow – last year, he put out the excellent novel, “Letters Between Gentlemen” and this year there was a new album, “Apequest” which reminded me of Paul Magrs’ “Brenda and Effie” books with its guest appearances by other folk from the worlds of fantasy and sci fi. But even when you’re a globe-trotting rapper in a pith helmet, you still have business concerns. Last year, this was his plan: “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!” and this did result in Apequest, so that was great news, and this year he’s thinking about all sorts of things.
Oh, and can you answer his Extra Question? I’d love to get some discussion going with advice from other small business chat folks and other business people out there …
Hello again, Paul. It’s always lovely to have you on the blog. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I am! Hooray! I did manage to complete my ambitious ‘concept album’, alongside a comic and video and it proved to be the most creatively satisfying project I have ever completed. However, in my enthusiasm, I didn’t spend quite the amount of time I should have on the business side of things, so it was a creative and collaborative triumph and a business minefield.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’ve definitely achieved a lot of ambitions and hit a lot of personal targets last year – everything from performing with a live band to creating games and toys based on the Professor- but I remain delighted to find that things are largely the same, albeit with the collection of muppet figures on my desk threatening to take over completely.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I went all out with collaborations this year, saying yes to everyone and anything, with mixed results. On the one hand I was lucky enough to make some really fun music and created some unique merchandise, which really lifted the year. On the other hand, the thinner you spread yourself, the less focussed you can end up – I missed some of the important but unexciting details of certain projects, or worse still, delegated them without issuing proper instructions, and it cost me dearly. Finding myself with a pile of overpriced merch or shelling out more to contributors than I was making from a project was a painful learning experience!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Freestyling in front of a time lord is a nerve-wracking experience, be wary of gifts when performing a service in a psychedelic church, mescaline is not to be taken lightly, faery folk make for magic audiences, don’t let your ego outshine your business sense, if you have a chance to see ‘Mouse’ perform again… don’t, the best parts of Glastonbury are round the back, Canada smells of maple syrup and kindness, your biggest nemesis can easily end up your best friend, there are few finer sights than a conga line at a fetish club.
BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
How do you successfully delegate work? What tricks have you got for growing your business, but still retaining control?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I will probably keep things slightly more simple this year overall. In amongst the busiest year of shows yet, I’d like to try to diversify – try more writing and some voice work beyond the Professor. I still love life on the road, but it might be nice to see what I can achieve without leaving my house.
Some great honest lessons learned there and good plans for the future. It is hard, especially when you’re creative, to keep control of all the little things. I often think I’ve done OK with my business and kept everything pretty well under control because I was an administrator for years and years – it certainly helps to have that (maybe less creative!) mindset when it comes to the details. But as long as you learn from things, that’s what matters. And Paul’s experiences remind me of other creative people’s in the interviews, so it must be a common feature that needs to be kept careful tabs on. It must be so easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re doing so much fabulous stuff and amazing collaborations, though!
But who can beat those marvellous hints and tips? I’m looking forward to finding out what the Professor gets up to this year!
APEQUEST: the new Professor Elemental adventure is available at www.professorelemental.com, and you can find all manner of things there, including artwork, tea and T-shirts. You can also find Paul / Professor Elemental on Twitter and Facebook.
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. 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.