Welcome to part 2 of the Real Women, Real Business series!
This series is about understanding the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of quitting a job and starting a business.
Before I left my corporate job, I was so in awe (and still am) of women who had taken the leap and set up their own business. I wanted to know how they came up with their idea and what gave them the courage to finally go for it.
This week’s interview is with a comedian!
If you love what you read, here are the other interviews in the series for you to peruse at your leisure!
An interview with Rachel Creeger, a comedian, writer, and director!
Ruth Bloch Photography
What is your business?
I am a full time stand up comedian, and a part-time writer/director. I gig around the UK circuit and last year took my first full solo tour to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
At Time2Shine Productions I run creative writing, performance and team-building workshops for adults and children, schools, charities, community groups and corporate events.
What was your previous job?
My previous work was in social care, I was a School-Home Liaison Officer in Pupil Referral Units for 11 years across 2 London boroughs, which essentially entailed acting as an independent conduit and mediator between the statutory agencies and families who have children excluded from school.
The role was affiliated and funded by the local authority between Social Services and Education, and it was very specialist. In one of the units, we also supported families where the children were out of school due to physical or emotional health reasons.
Prior to that, I was a substance misuse worker specialising in working with children and young adults, and a counselor and supervisor on a crisis helpline.
What made you decide you wanted to leave your corporate job?
I had been a performer in my younger days and rediscovered this passion a few years before deciding to leave. I was working with a theatre company in my spare time and starting to find myself fielding inquiries about writing, directing and performing with others.
I had always incorporated the arts into my practise and had some training in art, music and drama therapy which was useful when working with challenging young people.
I came to a crossroads professionally whereby within the same couple of weeks I was involved in a case which was mismanaged by the borough concerned, putting all of those involved in a very difficult position, a manager reviewed my role and decided that I needed further training so I was offered a free Masters with a 3 year “golden handcuffs” contract, and they also found I was on the wrong pay scale and was owed back pay.
This seemed like the perfect moment to jump ship and try something else.
Ruth Bloch Photography
How did you decide what business to set up?
A friend and I had discussed the idea of setting up a performing arts production company which focused on the journey rather than the destination.
Our aim was to create opportunities for people to try something new and gain confidence, in a supportive atmosphere that enabled them to feel a tangible sense of achievement. This idea came out of our personal experiences as young performers, when we always felt that we were less student and more a marketing tool for our instructors.
We also thought this would give us the chance to develop a range of skills and work out what we each wanted to do long term.
We set up Time2Shine Productions together and after about a year my friend left to focus on photography, although occasionally still working on music, other arts projects and running the odd workshop for me.
Over the next year, I found my direction within theatre and comedy and began to follow that path.
Was everyone supportive of your idea?
I gave myself a year to explore this new area of work and committed to doing it properly or not at all. If it hadn’t worked out within that time frame I would still have been able to return to a job in social care without too much trouble.
My family and friends were very supportive and commented that it was about time that I gave this a go.
Did you have an ‘emergency fund’ to tide you over while you set up your business or did you start it on the side while still at work?
I was owed the equivalent of 4 months salary in back pay, which I knew I could eke out to at least 6 months. I also had some workshops and a script writing/directing job for a community group booked in, in advance. I handed in my notice and left at Xmas 2009.
Ruth Bloch Photography
Did you have to get any outside investment to get going?
I didn’t have any outside investment. To date, I have only had one project which received Arts Council funding but everything else has been through my own blood, sweat, and tears, sometimes literally!
Did you take any courses or qualifications?
Although I didn’t take any formal qualifications, I was lucky enough to have a large number of transferable skills. I also made it my business to learn from other, more experienced practitioners and took on work that would challenge me and help me to grow. I undertook unpaid opportunities to shadow people and ask them questions.
Did you have any particular fears about starting a business and if so how did you get over them?
My biggest fears were around my dyscalculia and dyslexia and managing the admin side of things. Luckily I became involved with an organisation called DYSPLA
which supports the work of neuro-diverse creatives. It was a game changer for me.
What was the hardest thing about setting up the business?
The most difficult thing about setting up Time2Shine was fine tuning it to one concrete idea that would still allow us to aim for our goals. Once my friend left the company my biggest challenge was isolation and loneliness, especially when working on writing projects.
I solved this by organising work buddies who I could meet up with regularly to bounce ideas off, or just sit and work on our individual projects but in the same space so that I have a sense of having colleagues.
An area that is especially hard for me now that I am a full-time performer is that this is such a highly competitive industry and everyone is chasing the same work.
It’s very complex for your mental health – you are your own product, you stand on stage and reveal personal thoughts and views in your jokes, and people then judge them directly in front of you as well as in reviews.
Did you make any mistakes when you were setting up?
We made many, many mistakes! They have all been great for learning but very stressful at the time. One of my biggest mistakes since setting up on my own has been in trusting the wrong people, making the assumption that if you work with friends they will have your best interests at heart.
This is true for some and most definitely not for others. I also tried to do too many things and spread myself too thinly. Now I try to make sure that I am working on a limited number of concurrent projects so that I can give them each enough attention.
Ruth Bloch Photography
How long did it take before you made enough for a full-time income?
It took me about 3 years to gain a full-time income through the arts, and then another 3 before I was making a living solely through comedy.
How do you manage your time? Do you take certain days off?
As an orthodox Jew I don’t do any regular work on Friday nights or Saturdays, just occasionally travelling for the weekend to speak at synagogues or in communities. Either way, for 25 hours every week I am offline, no computer, no phone, no tv and that is amazing.
When I’m at home we spend that time talking and socialising, when I’m away speaking I use it to rest outside the performance. I wrote an article about it here.
I am a wife and mum too and make it a priority to find quality family time within the week. My youngest is in secondary school so it is a lot easier now. If I’m gigging in the evening I make sure I am around for school pick up so that we can hang out first and if I am going away I make sure that we do fun stuff together before and after.
The really hard part is the summer when I am at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for up to a month. We are in regular contact through video chats and phone calls, but it is hard. My whole family sacrifices for my job.
Photo courtesy of Mark Adri-Soejoko
Do you ever procrastinate and how do you deal with it?
Procrastination is a terrible habit of almost every self-employed person I know! I try to make lists in priority order to help me to motivate myself, and I try to remember that I am in a position of privilege as I’m able to follow my dream and do a job that I love.
How do you market your business? Word of mouth/types of social media?
I market through social media, a mailing list, and of course through press and performance. I’m also part of a few professional organisations including Equity, The So and So Arts Club
and Funny Women
which really helps.
What is your favourite thing about having your own business?
I love the fact that every day is different, that I have to answer only to myself and that I can progress at my own pace to my own agenda.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to women who want to start a business?
I would advise women to make a clear plan, take advice from people with more experience but trust your gut instincts on what’s right for you.
Thank you so much, Rachel!
If you want to find out more about Rachel you can find everything you need below.