Steve Lawson is the UK's leading solo bass guitarist and respected educator and music journalist. He will be amplifying Small is Beautiful. Here is writes about his story as a micro.
Plan A - Proudly a Micro-Enterprise.
It happens less as I get older, but variations on the question 'when are you going to get a proper job?' plagued my 20s and early 30s. The obvious concern of parents, backed up by the suspicions of my gainfully employed friends who viewed my sole-trader-self-employed status - doing all manner of creative and curious things - as some kind of affectation that I'd one day grow out of and get that "real" job. Or worse, the allusion this was the thing that I was lumbered with after some imagined failure to land the job of my dreams.
It didn't matter how hard I argued that this WAS the job of my dreams, it seemed to fall on deaf ears. And on the occasional dark night, looking at a dwindling bank account and a fairly barren diary, I questioned the path myself. But, as is the preferred model for narratives like this, I'd reflect on my journey thus far. Not just the adventure of being a musician, teacher, writer and latterly a social technology consultant and facilitator (as well as a cultural commentator and lecturer on what the internet makes possible for musicians like me) but also on the number of previously gainfully employed friends whose industries had fallen apart and left them with none of the security their education had promised. I'd reflect, and I'd trust my own story. I'd trust in the oft-repeated pattern of one area of my work picking up when another tailed off for one reason or another. I'd trust that the complex cyclical calendars of those multiple professional interests - impossible to predict from the front, but easily visible in hindsight - would do what they'd always done, and it would work out OK.
Sure, I'd forgone the cloak of security that 'normal' employment brings. I'd faced the bemused frown of the mortgage advisor when presenting them with my earnings, and had spent many a January fretting over the more arcane requests of a tax self-assessment form that didn't seem to grasp that what I did was actually a job at all. But after all that, I was pursuing my creative passions for a living. I was helping others unlock their creative potential, and managing to pay the bills. Slowly, I made peace with the uncertainty, I saw it as part of the experience, that leaving room for the unexpected meant being open to the serendipity of unexpected wonder as well as to an occasional month of financial uncertainty.
Over the years I've found an ever-growing community of like-minded travellers. Musicians, obviously, but also techies, teachers, thinkers, doers, makers. Gardeners, electricians, painters, actors, knitters. Almost all of them expressing the same relief, when first meeting, of feeling a little less alone in their adventure. Few things are as reassuring as the feeling of being understood. It makes the puzzlement of those who really don't get it more amusing and less of a challenge. It feels like being part of a club, a group of adventurers who had forgone the fetish of continual growth, the pressure to relinquish our creative freedom for the shackles of "company expansion". After 20 years in what can still - remarkably - be thought of as a business, I remain micro-and-proud, the sole practitioner in an enterprise focussed on doing better work and making better art rather than solely turning a profit and eventually taking on staff. Long may the adventure continue!