Self-Start Mums showcases mothers who have created their own self-employed business or opportunity. I’m very happy to share my interview with Composer, Katy Abbott.
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Katy Abbott Interview for Self-Start Mums
1. Tell me about yourself?
I am a Melbournian although I have also lived in Sydney, Malaysia and Dubai. I have twins aged 16 and a ‘twelvie’ (as his brothers call him). All delightful characters. A pooch Archie and cat Antigone.
2. Tell us about your self-employed business?
I am a composer. I am a ‘late-starter’ to composition, only beginning my composition training at the age of 27. I write music to commission for all sorts of (usually live) settings: orchestral, festivals, for chamber ensembles, choirs and solo artists.
I feel my business began when I was studying for my PhD in Composition and most of the music I was writing at the time commissioned. I started to see a career was possible. My career/business grew along-side my children who were all born during my PhD candidature.
My role is to compose music but also to manage the ‘life following premiere’ of my work. This involves liaising with performers and organisations, producing recordings, public speaking/presentations, adjudicating and mentoring.
3. How did you transition to working for yourself?
I used to feel trapped working in a job where my time was particularly scheduled and as an introvert I craved alone time.
4. What was your previous career?
I taught in high schools as I have a teaching background.
5. Describe a typical day in your working life?
The wonderful thing about my working life is there is no typical day. Just the way I like it. An ideal day would be composing in the morning and working on conceptual ideas for future projects and administration in the afternoon. Sometimes, a day might be in the recording studio, or editing or workshopping music with the performing artists.
I also have a part-time academic university position lecturing in Composition at the University of Melbourne. The two roles work perfectly together. I love being able to contribute to the next generation of (incredible) talent but have time away from that to work on my own artistic practice. Uni dishes up a lot of admin so I try and do this outside my best composing time.
6. Do you supplement your income in any other ways?
I have my part-time University position as mentioned which pays the bills through salary. The freelance composing pays the bills in the form of commissions. My three boys and I run a one-bedroom luxury AirBnB in a converted recording studio. We use the money from this as our holiday fund!
My Uni job allows me to contribute and mentor through teaching and lecturing and my freelance business gives me the space to compose the music.
7. How do you manage your family and working for yourself?
It’s a constant juggle. The number one thing that made the biggest difference a couple of years ago was when I prioritised getting enough ‘me time’. As soon as I started giving myself this gift, I found I am more able to juggle the other demands and have capacity for all the requirments that crop up on any given day. This involves sitting on the verandah with a cuppa, walking with neighbours and listening to the silence of a quiet office or house. These things nourish me.
8. What challenges did you face in setting up your business?
Early on, I took on a lot of projects to gain industry and artistic experience as well as being primary carer for my three children. Although I needed to do this, I’ve learnt to be judicious about the projects I get involved in. It helps that my children are older now and my career allows me scope to take on more meaningful work but I always need to fight the inclination to say yes to everything. Although I’m grateful for the work, I’m now a big believer in saying ‘no’ to activities which then in turn, allows me space to say ‘yes’ to the work I really want when it arises.
9. What’s the best thing about working for yourself?
Flexibility. I work significantly more effectively when left to my own schedule. I’m motivated and love it.
10. What’s your best advice to another mum who is considering setting up her own business?
Enlist or pay for help for the things that you can, when you can. Understand your best working/thinking/downtimes of the day and try to work with this knowledge. But mostly, be true and honest with yourself and create the culture of the business that is inherently you – not what you think it ‘should’ be.
11. What’s next for you and your business?
I’m travelling to Canada and USA later in the year (as part of Fellowship Award I received through Australia Council for the Arts). I will be visiting symphony orchestras and talking to them about their Education and Community programs as well as showing them the orchestral works I have composed for this demographic. I’m also writing a new chamber (60 minute) work – the second in my Hidden Thoughts series. It’s significant both as an artistic and personal challenge for me as well as producing a new large work focusing on the ‘hidden’ thoughts of Australians.
Are you a self-starter mum? Read more interviews with self-employed mums here.
To chat about taking part in this series and sharing your story, contact Mim here
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I hope you’ve enjoyed my interview with Composer, Katy Abbott.