July 3, 2020 Creative

Singing online.

Belinda had worked in community services for ten years. She had burnt out. “In my final few months of coordinating a community legal centre, I was in tears more days than not. I quit my job in February 2017, spending three months recovering my mental health, then considering whether to look for another job in that sector or try something different.”

Singing in a choir and conducting a community choir, had been ways for Belinda to relax from her day job, for many years. She took the big step of turning that hobby into her own successful business.

The Belinda Gillam Sing Studio was the business idea Belinda brought to Holmesglen in Glen Waverley, to develop in the NEIS training program. Offering individual lessons, group lessons and conducting choirs, the Studio is for anyone who loves singing and wants to do better.

“The most important thing I learnt in the NEIS program was to set myself achievable goals,” says Belinda. “I started my business with a goal of teaching one new student per week, or an average of ten students per term. I knew this would give me plenty of practice listening to and teaching different voice types. I also knew this would gradually build my client base at a manageable rate. I have a history of burnouts and didn’t want it to happen again. In this way I could pay sufficient attention to each new client and give myself the best chance of retaining them as students or choristers.”

Belinda’s students range from young, aspiring singer/songwriters and music theatre performers, to more mature singers who have already performed professionally in cabaret, opera, musicals and church choirs. Many are adult beginners; ‘empty nesters’ who are now taking the time to pursue an interest of their own. Other students are keen to experience the mental health benefits of singing, as part of their NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) or VOCAT (Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal) packages. “I cater for the individual needs of students with hearing and visual impairments, dementia and intellectual disabilities, and I am happy to discuss the specific needs of anyone wanting to improve their singing.”

“My strategy of expanding my home studio slowly, with one new student per week, has worked well, with a high retention rate of weekly, fortnightly and occasional students; many of whom return for another block of lessons every few months. I’ve been continually challenged and busy, but never overwhelmed by the demands of either my choral or individual singing work. Two and a half years later, I taught my 100th client,” says Belinda with a smile. “My work as Musical Director of the Yarra Valley Singers has also grown from one ensemble in the first year to three this year.”

The Belinda Gillam Sing Studio made a major revision of its business model due to Corona Virus restrictions. An entirely face-to-face method changed to a completely online delivery in less than two weeks! “Whilst I experienced an initial drop in both private students and choristers, due primarily to their loss of income or lack of access to online technology, there has since been a steady gain as the choir has gradually managed to connect its members on aging laptops, borrowed tablets and mobile phones.”

Both the choir and private studio have also gained new singers because of this online service. This is particularly important given that singers are super-emitters of droplets and microscopic aerosols. Face-to-face lessons and choir rehearsals are likely to be amongst the last activities to return to ‘normal’, post pandemic.

“It’s good to know my business can continue to thrive even though its core activities of face-to-face singing may not be possible for many months, or even years!”

Do you have a great new business idea? NEIS is an Australian Government sponsored new business training program, to assist with self-employment. Use the postcode finder for your local provider and contact them for a chat.

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