Coming Back After a Hiatus - Franklin Taggart's Virtual Coffee Break
In the category of life imitating art, I am excited to return to production of the Virtual Coffee Break.
You may have seen my last post about the final episode of Your Own Best Company, but if you haven't, be sure to check it out. 2023 has been filled with a lot of reflection and evaluating activities. The pandemic years were good for business, but I ultimately found that any expectations formed during that time were largely abnormal. I've noticed that much of my work has shifted back to the levels and activities I had before the pandemic.
I've also had more than a few people contact me for coaching as they navigate new twists and turns in their career and business paths. Most recently, three find themselves having a Rip Van Winkle moment - waking up from a long nap to find that everything is different for them than before. One has been taking care of a dying parent, another has been sending the last of her children to college, and another has rekindled a music career after taking several years off to start another business. They've all returned to industries that aren't as familiar as the ones they left.
The pandemic effects are still landing for many people.
Music and meeting venues have only recently started reopening, and many have changed formats. I've noticed many businesses have continued to keep shortened or irregular hours than before the disruption. Schools and organizations have also changed their regular routines.
I went through a similar time when my music career was interrupted by a six-year series of health challenges. When I was away, some major changes happened in the places I had been working. One large bookstore chain closed its doors, which accounted for about 40 percent of the gigs I played before I got sick. Several venues stopped offering live music as performing rights organizations started cracking down on even the smallest venues, requiring them to pay thousands of dollars in royalties to offer any kind of music. Yes, this is legal, but it sure didn't help anyone at the level I was playing.
In addition, my audience had shifted significantly while I was away. People who were able and willing to come to see me play before now had new circumstances. Some became parents. Some moved away. Others had just had changes in their entertainment preferences. So, the places I had played and the people I'd played for before my illness had all changed. It was like starting over again.
Update Your Business Model
In situations like these, I talk to people about how to navigate new and unfamiliar territory. The first thing we talk about is how their business model needs to change. It's normal for your model to be adapted as new factors come into play. Creative careers aren't exempt from this. We must come back to identify the value you bring to the arena, the audience looking for it, and all the factors to consider in getting the two together. Getting this information on paper is a helpful step toward feeling less tossed by the wind and more in a position of choice.
Rediscover Your Audience
The second step for my people is to dive into new audience research. We need to understand the changes they've gone through and how they're prioritizing experiences like those you offer. We must find out if they're haunting new venues or stopped participating. I remember having an aha moment when I realized that my audience had shifted away from going out to bars and drinking and started to show up for house concerts and going to craft breweries and distilleries with earlier hours and quiet environments. Suddenly, I had real places to find them and new opportunities to explore.
Focus on Relationship Building
While there are more steps than what I include here, the third one I want to mention is that one thing hasn't changed - the primary work of any business is building strong relationships with the people who will pay for what you offer. That was true before the disruption, and it's true now. One of the biggest changes you may encounter is the new ways people have of building these relationships. When my hiatus started, I still used snail mail and MySpace to market my music. When I returned, both had been replaced by email and new social media channels. There was a learning curve, but the goal of relationship building was the same.
It's also important to remember that there may have been changes in personnel in the places you once counted on for opportunities. There may be a new talent booker, museum director, or a college intern who thinks you are irrelevant. All the relationships count. Patience and persistence are just as important now as they were then.
Frustration About Paying Dues
I've had several conversations with people who are frustrated that they must start "paying their dues" again at this point in their career development. I've definitely felt the same way. I remember being 51 years old and wondering how to start again. My earlier experience made it easier to put the necessary steps and contacts in place to start playing again with the frequency I wanted. The pay rates had actually gone down from what they had been, so that was an adjustment I had to make. And I remember feeling like an entire wave of new artists had started showing up while I was gone, making my sound more oldies than contemporary. At the same time, I see some of my contemporaries working hard and playing great gigs while continuing to grow their audience, and that makes me know that we can still have a shot at doing our thing if we want it.
As I did last year, it is a good time to let go of some things that have become tiresome. Retiring from music performance wasn't an easy decision, but my body had its own plan. Letting go of that part of my career has been of greater benefit than I had expected, and the encouraging thing about it is that I have started to enjoy playing music again, just for its own sake. I've also noticed that some of the aches and pains I had before are starting to go away, and I can enjoy more activities that I had set aside before due to tiredness.
You always have the option to change any aspect of your work, up to and including stopping altogether. If you would like a sounding board and some simple processes to help you re-enter, please schedule your first coaching session with me on my dime. All you have to do is open the calendar at https://bit.ly/BestNextStepCall and find a time.