The biggest challenges of running your own teaching business in drama and singing

Jane 1What are the biggest challenges about running your own business in Performing Arts?
The five things that spring to mind for me are:

  • Understanding how to market your business and not just rely on word of mouth
  • Operating safely
  • Recruiting and growing so that it doesn’t all rely on you
  • Getting through the month of August
  • Doing every aspect of the business alone

 

So taking each point step by step

  • What is your market? And to say “children’ really isn’t good enough. There are approximately 9.1 million children in the UK today however not all of those are going to be your target market. You really need to understand who your market is, where they are and what sort of messages through which sorts of media they will be most open to listening too. You cannot build a business on reputation and recommendation alone – certainly not a sustainable one that meets all of your goals. Once you have set this plan in place you then need to start crafting your marketing strategy and it really isn’t as scary as it sounds.
  • Operating safely is IMPERATIVE! There are so many teachers that set themselves up in their own homes, within schools or community buildings that really do not have all the relevant documentation in place. A bullet proof risk assessment is a must and insurance as a bare minimum. Anyone could fall on your front steps or going up to the toilet before a lesson. You have to protect yourself and those that you teach. Equally it is important to understand what your responsibility is after an accident happens. Policies and procedures are so often overlooked and ‘passing the blame’ or presuming that that element is not your responsibility is the irresponsible way of running your business.
  • What do you want to achieve? What is your ultimate goal? Living day to day and week to week, month to month and year to year is brilliant and serves a great purpose but ultimately knowing your end goal is absolutely eye opening and helps you to get really focussed. It also means that if the goals are sizeable then you can start to plan how the teaching will not all be conducted by you. As much as we love teaching you only have so many hours in the day and there is a limit to what you can charge so you will need to get a system in place. It is why joining a supportive, systemised network can help. I was watching the programme about “Dominoes” pizzas last night and it was fascinating to watch their most successful millionaire franchisee! Franchises make millionaires so if you have big goals perhaps looking at a franchise network is a good idea.
  • This comes down to having a system again because you need to make money all the way through the year and ensuring that you have courses on in the holidays will help to sustain the business and avoid seasonality. Brainstorming ideas of what you could deliver in a short course is a great place to start.
  • It is lonely being self employed and running your own business. If you feel this way you should look at the options available to you in terms of a franchise because as they say ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and a team of people working towards the same end goal provides priceless support for you. The theory is that you become the average of the 5 people that you hang about most with – so surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial and it would be my biggest piece of advice for anyone setting out to achieve their dreams!
    Feel free to contact me and discuss anything that is of interest in my blogs jane@littlevoices.org.uk 01254 207516 www.littlevoices.org.uk

My Top Tips for Running a Business and Having a Baby

IMG_2948

Can you start a business with a young baby  – my 5 top tips

These are the things that I wish I had known and implemented straight away all those years ago when my baby was 3 months old. Instead I learnt the hard way and I am hoping that I can help you in your pursuit of a successful business and prevent you from making the same mistakes that I did. Lots of people are there giving out good advice take it all and use what works for you.

  • Find a saying that resonates with you and read it every day without fail, put it in front of you almost like a vision board. The saying ‘If you can dream it you can achieve it’ is absolutely true and the one that I used you can get through every trauma that was sent to me. My husband left me when I was six months pregnant and to say that my heart was shattered is a pretty good description of how I felt. I was a self employed Singing Teacher in many schools across the North West and as no maternity pay was going to come my way I had to keep the wolf from the door and the roof over our heads. This meant working up until the day before I was induced (I was 14 days late) and going back to work days after my beautiful daughter was born. The loneliness, devastation and journey I went on following his affair and the birth of our child was immense. It was when she was 3 months old that I developed the idea of my business around a coffee table with a friend and we set up Little Voices a month later.
  • Learn the art of delegation sooner rather than later

You do not have to do everything and this is true in your business, your home and your family life. There are others that will do it better than you and this will relieve your time. Time is one thing that we all have the same amount of – it is how we spend it that varies so vastly from one person to the other. It is really important that you recognise what you can outsource and delegate from the beginning. Get a cleaner, ironer, gardener and bookkeeper as a must. Realise what role is important for you to be doing – MARKETING the business. Please remember this piece of advice and absolutely every day try and do something that gets a new customer into your business or nurtures business out of a current customer. If that is the only thing that you do in the day that is good enough.

  • Use a virtual telephone number and do not have emails coming to your phone

Having emails and phone calls coming to your phone will destroy your family life and your time with your baby. Ensure that you schedule a time to make all of your calls according to your agenda not when someone else has decided to ring you. Your baby comes first and that time with your baby is so precious and goes so quickly. Make the business fit around you not the other way round. Emails coming to your phone are destructive and again schedule time just for emailing and responding to everyone that works with your agenda. A virtual number will enable you to easily remove yourself from the answering of all calls when your business reaches that point – it is much easier than training them all to no longer ring your home landline or mobile!

Put your baby first and set your working hours around him/her not the other way round. It is tremendously difficult but be strict with yourself.

 

  • Have an outstanding support network around you

I couldn’t have done this journey of being an entrepreneur without my mum, my dad, my sisters and extended family. I now have a wonderfully supportive partner too but I didn’t have him for the first 5 years of my business journey as I was nursing a broken heart and huge trust issues.

You need a support network around you. Those that will help you with childcare especially in emergency times and listen to your tough days. There are a lot of them but ultimately you push through and the good far outweigh the bad.

 

  • Know how to work your numbers

Ensure that you are very clear on your numbers in your business. Turnover is all well and good but profit is what you need to keep an eye on. You need to be absolutely aware of your expenses and be living frugally, personally. Keeping your business frugal too do not purchase anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Think PROFIT. Learn about your numbers.
One of the best books that I have ever read is ‘Profit First’ and I highly recommend it. It helps you to review your personal expenses as well as your business ones. The best business people in the world often speak about looking at the numbers on a daily basis and I wholeheartedly agree. Have your finger on the pulse! However that doesn’t mean that you have to be the person in your business that physically sends out the Invoices and collects the money in, its just about being in control of what you are spending and also what you are bringing in.

One of the things that is really important is that you stick to the financial part of your business plan and making it a working plan month by month and quarter by quarter. Ensuring that you have really thought through how much working capital you need to get established and how much you will need to live is so important. Money will provide you with so much worry if you haven’t got it all in order.

I had no other income to rely on when I had my baby and the mortgage didn’t get paid if I didn’t pay it. That meant working several jobs to keep income coming in and working in the night to ensure the business got off the ground. It is hard work do not let anyone tell you any different. Keep those dreams and visions in your mind’s eye at all times.

 

Contact Jane on twitter @LittleVoicesltd by email jane@littlevoices.org.uk or telephone 01254 207516

Jane's Interview for the Talented Ladies Club

IMG_2948What’s your career background?

I read Music at the University of Sheffield, took a year out to run the London Marathon, work for the family business in administration, raise money for charity and prepare for my Music Conservatoire audition. I wanted to be an opera singer. I successfully gained a place on the Masters degree course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama to fulfil my ambitions of training as a Mezzo Soprano.

The goal was always to sing professionally however it became apparent after I graduated that the life of auditioning and the life of a singer was not for me. I loved performing (and still do) but I needed more stability of income and lifestyle. I started teaching singer and quickly gained an outstanding reputation as a singing teacher in all the independent schools and music departments across my local area. However I still was not totally fulfilled, I knew something was missing. It wasn’t until I had had my daughter that I really found where I felt most comfortable. I went on to take marketing, leadership and business qualification after I started the business because being an entrepreneur was my calling and I knew it!

 

 

How did your career change when you became a mum?

 

I had someone else to care about. It was no longer just all about me and I had to make decisions that would be best for my family life. If anything stopped or changed most dramatically it was the time I had for me however by running my own business I replaced all that with a love for my business which ultimately was killing two birds with one stone.

 

 

 

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

 

I started my business in September 2007, my daughter was 3 months old and I have to be honest I had no idea at that point how far it was going to develop and flourish. The dream did not start out to be a National Performing Arts organisation that supported Mums / Dads with an interest in Drama or Singing, Actors, Actresses, Singers, Teachers how to run their own successful business in the subject that they loved most as it is now. The dream at that point was simply to run classes on one night of the week from 4pm until 6pm and provide excellent tuition to children and young people and work specifically towards examinations. But all great businesses have to start with an idea and what is so special is that that core ethos and belief in excellence and working to the individual child’s needs remains at the heart of Little Voices nationally today. We really care at every level of the business. It started with an idea however it has manifested itself through everything and everyone that is involved within Little Voices.

 

What experience from your career helped you start a business?

My vocal training at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow (now known as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) with outstanding professional singer, Jane Irwin, absolutely provided me with the catalyst to understand the workings of the voice, the importance of vocal health and to ensure that training children’s voices was done in a careful way working with each voice as an individual instrument in an inherently musical and most importantly, natural way.

 

During my Masters training I studied alongside other fabulously talented singers. Some had beautiful voices, others had amazing stage presence and several could absolutely deliver the intense emotional subtext of a song. I am talking about (to name a few) the fabulous Cheryl Forbes, Margaret Keys, Carolyn Dobbin, Posy Walton and Catriona Clarke. I am proud to be connected to them all  (as well as many other) through Social Media; LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

 

All of this observation and learning equipped me with the tools to put together inspirational lessons for children. I could absolutely ensure that a child had the foundations of good vocal and dramatic technique and that they could go on to layer their exam performances with emotion, characterisation, an understanding of sub text, context and deliver it with poise, good posture and confidence. Fundamentally Little Voices provide an excellent framework of lessons concentrating on all the elements of performing and skills that are transversal in all areas of a child’s life from job interviews, to college interviews to presenting themselves anywhere!

 

 

It was the idea for ‘excellent training and tuition in drama and singing’ that started the business. It was my expertise and that of my then business partner, Holly Hammond, that brought the idea to life and sheer grit, determination, tears, risk and passion that has seen it grow and embrace so many people across the UK.

 

 

 

How do you promote your business?

 

We know that promotion, advertising and marketing as a whole is all about building relationships. We attract pupils and parents, tutors and potential franchisees through so many different mediums. Liking and engaging with our Social Media presence; Facebook pages is a classic one https://www.facebook.com/LittleVoicesLimited and chatting on twitter @LittleVoicesltd and LinkedIn.

 

We pride ourselves on personal connections and it is no surprise to learn that there are many individuals involved with Little Voices that attended my old school, Westholme, Blackburn. We have current pupils from the school who attend our lessons and receive a high level of Drama and Singing Training. The co founder was a Westholme Teacher, we have Franchisees running their own Little Voices businesses with us that attended the school, Tutors across the country, and several Head Office staff too. 10 members of our organisation all attended Westholme or have a connection with them. I would say that that was a record for any school?

 

Our website drives us pupils and parents, all forms of offline and more traditional media are also very beneficial to us in promoting what we do and nurturing relationships with parents and professionals.

 

What have been the biggest challenges you have had to overcome? And how did you?

 

There are many challenges in business and initially it was just coping emotionally with a traumatic marriage break up, managing as a single parent as my husband had chosen someone else and just managing to survive day-to-day, financially.

 

The work / life balance has to be the main one for any mum. I really struggle to handle the guilt of working so hard and feeling like I am not good enough as a mum to my daughter at times. Learning to cut off from work is incredibly difficult when it is your second baby. Ensuring that I can be a super mum and run the household, care for everyone at work, remember every school date, activity and demand for reply slips, sports days and events is incredibly hard!

Juggling a personal life and generally having no time for yourself is a given outcome I think and one that you have to accept!!

Splitting form my business partner, Holly, was worse than my marital divorce however I did overcome this successfully by ensuring that we remained friends afterwards.

I believe that you get back what you give out and therefore I always cope by giving much more of myself to everyone than most people seem to. It really has stood me in good stead.

 

 

And what have you found surprisingly easy?

 

I have found that there is no part of the business that I do not enjoy. I love every aspect. I love the operations, the HR, the systems, processes, marketing, sales, finance and even IT at times!

 

 

How do you balance your business around being a mum?

 

Balance is at times impossible. I heard these words from a wise and successful businessman called Nigel Botterill – “you cannot be all things to all people all of the time” and I TRY very hard to segregate my time. It isn’t always successful I have to admit but I do show willing to this way of operating my diary.

I turn off my mobile phone, I do not have emails through to my personal mobile, I have the weekends with my daughter and partner, Gary. However when I am at work I am at work and nothing gets in the way of that either! I think FOCUS is the most important piece of advice I can share.

 

What advice do you have for other aspiring business mums?

 

Do it, never stop learning, follow your dreams and NEVER give up. These really do seem like clichéd bits of advice. However they are absolutely true! Believe in your end goal and ambition you really can do it and there will be tough times but ultimately you will have the life that you have set out to have.

If you want to contact Jane ring 01254 207516 or email jane@littlevoices.org.uk
@LittleVoicesltd