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March 9, 2018

You are not your business – pt.1

I’ve been a rockstar for 6 years now…inserts laughing emoji…joking, not joking. But seriously, it’s been 6 years since I stepped away from a “real job” and took the plunge into the world of sessioning. To summarise, when it’s good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s diabolical!

Imagine, for a minute, that you’re a survivor in a zombie apocalypse. Some days you get a win and you find a can of tinned peaches in an abandoned car and think to yourself, “sweet, today is a great day” as you pry the can open with a rock. Some days you hit the absolute jackpot and find a supermarket that has been untouched and only stocks non-perishables (cue the super-market montage video of everyone being happy and filling their trollies like a scene from supermarket sweep…or the exact scene from 28 days later). And then, some days you’re driving down the clear post-apocalyptic roads and your tyre gets a blow out and you come off the road, you step out the car and land in quick sand, another tribe of survivors spot you, steal your non-perishables from your car, your can of peaches and your rock…and they take your clothes, not because they need them, but because in their previous lives they were a group of chavs that used to linger outside Safeway and doing this reminded them of this one time they followed Jimmy home from sixth form, pinned him down, stole his clothes and ran off shouting, “Oh cheers Jimmy, you just reminded me I need to defrost a chicken when I get home”, it was an ode to their past life. They run off shouting the same thing, which lures in a herd of zombies heading straight towards you (led, ironically, by none other than the undead version of Jimmy himself) – at this point, you’re not sure if the struggle is really worth if and if you should just admit you had a good run and call it a day!

God, that analogy got a little out of hand, but it is scarily close to what it’s like working as a musician. That analogy doesn’t really serve any purpose for what I wanted to write about other than to say that, being a musician is a very turbulent ride, and as I approach my 7th year in this seemingly doomsday-style industry I’ve realised the importance of looking after yourself, appreciating the wins, and creating ways to deal with the…not wins.

I feel like there may be a few parts to this blog post as I explore how to put some sort of distance between me as a professional musician/creative and just me as a person.

There is one really subtle, but quite significant change I’ve made in the last couple of months to make a distinction between me and my job, and that is to set up a different bank account for work and one for personal stuff, in fact, I took it a step further and created a ltd company for all my creative work, with a business account, and then kept a personal account for everything else. Doing this means I can pay myself a wage each month from my business account and use this for all business expenses and then use my current account for my personal endeavours such as funding my candle addiction, saving for my skydiving license and converting a shipping crate into a house…as much as I’ve tried to argue it, I can’t pass off these things as business expenses!

On a slightly more boring, but equally as important note, there are a bunch of financial advantages to setting up this way, including a tax free allowance on dividends (meaning you can earn an extra £5k per year, tax free…bonus!). It’s grown up stuff, but what I’m more interested in is feeling like I’m putting boundaries around my business so that mentally I don’t think that I am my business.

There is a very real danger to feeling like you are your business – one that I’ve been been trying to navigate for years, especially when things go a bit wrong. What things go wrong, I hear you screaming at your laptop! Well, let’s say you don’t get an audition, or a tour gets pulled, or you get fired from a gig, or you get told not to play like that – all things that have happened to me. I have a natural tendency take things very personally when things like this happen, I immediately assume it’s because I’m not talented enough, or perhaps I don’t look right, or perhaps I’m not sociable enough, or that fear that everyone has that you actually smell pretty bad but you can’t smell it…everyone has that, right?! But actually, more times than not, it’s none of these things, it’s down to things that fall outside of your control. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally, but consider that perhaps you didn’t get that audition because you weren’t the right fit for the gig – not because you’re playing is awful! Or perhaps you got fired from that tour because of budget cuts, rather than your boring choice in conversation…it’s so easy to look inwards and think that we are not good enough, but actually, it’s simply that your product isn’t right…i.e. the services your business provides are not right for the buyer, and that’s no reflection on you or your ability. It’s like pitching blue pens to a company that is looking to buy red pens…the company don’t hate you and your pens, they don’t go home and condemn you to hell for showing them blue pens and blacklist your name across pen forums worldwide, no, they just want red pens.

Thinking like this, for me, gives me a better headspace. I feel a sense of space and clarity in how to make business moves – it may even feel like my business is failing (and it often does), but, I don’t feel like I am failing – and part of that comes down to this simple act of separating out my finances to help reinforce this subtlety important distinction.

For me, this approach is very new – hence why it feels appropriate to blog about it. But, as someone who often feels insecure about my career, it feels about time to grow up realise that I am not my career.

P.S. Pic is from a time I flew business class to Australia to play on TV, got off the plane, and couldn’t afford a bus ticket…lolz

P.P.S I very quickly touched on the idea of setting up a ltd company and business account – message me if you’d like more info on this – bit reluctant to make a blog post about accounting…not sure how I could make that fun