We’re living, as we’re reminded several times a day, through unprecedented times. Few workplaces have escaped unscathed from the unexpected challenges coronavirus has flung at us, and many people are facing an uncertain economic future.
The period of lockdown has been a time for reflection for a lot of us, too. What do we really want from life? Are we happy with our work-life balance? Do we even want to go back to the way things were, if we could, or are there any changes we’d like to make?
Perhaps, amongst the challenges, there are also opportunities – and for some, that will mean taking the plunge and trying to carve out your own professional future. What would you really want to do, if there was nothing stopping you?
It’s always daunting to start a new business, and you might think that now is not the right moment. But with the right support, the timing could be just right.
Step forward City Business Library, who can offer remote support and guidance to any new businesses or social enterprises, whether you need help with learning and training, market research, or building Business to Business (B2B) contacts lists.
For Simon Short, their help and encouragement meant he was able to turn his passion for music (he’s previously played keyboard in a punk band, mandolin in a folk act, and bass for popular rock band Lyoness) into a successful business venture.
Before starting his own business, Simon worked for many years with an audio engineering company, selling recording equipment to large studios. This meant that as well as his own expertise, he had exposure to the production and engineering process, from start to finish.
Now, Simon Short Music provides a range of music industry services including mixing, producing, arranging and performing in both studio and live scenarios – as well as consultation on recording studio build and design.
Simon used to spend every spare moment and holiday recording and playing music, often using up all his allocated annual leave to tour with the punk band Wonk Unit, or in a studio somewhere in the world writing and recording.
Over time, pursuing music as a full-time career became more realistic, so he decided it was time to take that leap. He registered as a sole trader.
“As a small business owner I have to wear many hats,” he says.
“I do all of my own accounting, booking, marketing – this is less exciting to me than the music, but is really essential to understand how profitable you are and where you need to go.
“When you start getting your first clients and your first pay days you get very excited – but you need to remain aware of your costs, past, present and future so you can continue to plan effectively.”
Simon’s background in sales and business development helped him to understand what he felt were reasonable goals when he came to write his business plan.
“My network is invaluable to me, I have far more business opportunities meeting and engaging with artists than sitting at home with a swanky website,” says Simon.
“I had to start planning how I was going to engage, and where to invest initially to develop a pipeline of work to carry me through the first few months.”
Simon attended seminars, contributed to forums, spoke to other self-employed producers and engineers and engaged with old friends.
His success, Simon believes, comes from providing the best possible service with a personal touch.
“Music means everything to me; I bring this passion into my work and develop strong relationships with my artists to help them really take their art to a new level.
“I am always watching live music, researching production techniques and new technologies – this ensures that I stay relevant and maintain a deep insight into where the music industry is and where it is going.”
What advice has Simon got for those who wish to start their own business?
“Take the time to analyse how you spend your time and money,” he suggests.
“Your time is so important, value it and work appropriately. When you are starting out it’s tempting to undercut the competition – in reality, people consider your pricing to be commensurate with quality. If you start quoting too low, you can price yourself out of consideration!”
If, like Simon, you decide to take the plunge and go it alone, there are resources available at the City Business Library that will help you understand your market, how to price your service, your legal requirements as a business owner, how to file taxes and much more.
There’s never been a better time to check out their free resources online, to ask for help, and to build the relationships you need to get up and running.