Founder/Director Donna Kirk
In the second part of this exclusive interview with Donna Kirke, founder of Legacy Vocal Coaching studio, the conversation moves into the importance of networking as a sole trader, as well as keeping things fresh and exciting...
Vocal coaching is most commonly known as something for singers - but Donna is starting to tap into a more niche market of voice coaching for speakers - including comedians, actors, and even people giving presentations at corporate events. A big part of how she made this gradual discovery was through meeting organically, through her existing professional network. When she touched on this, I wanted to know more - it seems as though networking is the lifeblood of this unique business...
“It’s been quite an organic process, through social media”, Donna explained, “some of it has been through conversations with people, through friends of friends...I was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and I got chatting to so many comedians who said things like “ooh, I could do with a voice coach” or I’ve GOT a voice coach, but she doesn’t do the stuff you do”. I think I must bore people to death talking about vocal science anywhere and everywhere I go, but I just end up creating these opportunities for myself”.
Donna also has a lot of valuable contacts through IVA, the company that she has trained with, and who pioneered the techniques she teaches. A cool fact she loves impress her students with is that the guy from IVA who trains Donna is the vocal coach for bands like Panic at the Disco and The Killers. IVA coaches and trainers are the top leaders in their industry, and they know people who know people who know people who know people...It really is 6 degrees of separation!
As Donna’s studio and client base has steadily gotten bigger, people from BBC’s The Voice have been in touch, asking if she had any promising students that they could use as contestants. She admits that one thing she would love to do some day is to be a vocal coach on one of those shows. Hearing all the great things that have happened at Legacy in recent years, I would say that that is a very real possibility, and Donna definitely agrees with me!
This network is a fantastic resource for Donna’s students. She knows of a few studios in Manchester who offer recording services. She found them through Twitter, and got in touch, and referred some of her students to them, who were looking to record some tracks. As it turns out, someone from one of the studios knew a vocalist who could do with some lessons, and recommended Legacy. That is collaboration in action right there! Businesses bringing business to each other.
Having said that, Donna knows the importance of being selective of who you associate with, and she picks who she works with carefully, because there are all sorts of people out there, and it’s important to protect your business and your brand, while also keeping the balance of being open.
“All of this is so exciting because there are so many different directions it could go in”, Donna says, describing all the possibilities, and areas she could branch into. “I don’t like to put all my eggs into one basket though I do struggle if I don’t focus, because I need to maintain a clear vision and goal for the business, but I don’t like to become so hyper focused and blinkered that I miss opportunities and water down my creativity”.
She tends to swing between the two extremes, and is learning to find her balance somewhere in the middle. A very important key to holding that tension is organisation and time management for Donna. “I have to remind myself to look at my vision at least once a month, or else I just get caught up in teaching and forget to do marketing, and I stop getting excited about what I do. When I have not done any IVA stuff for a while, I tend to get a bit stale. But when I go back and do an extra course, and talk to some of the teachers, I get fired up again.
That community is so important, especially when you are working on your own, and are isolated from other teachers, which is the main reason why I still choose to work at Heather’s studio every week, even though in the past couple of weeks my timetable is really full, and I am almost at the point where I need a waiting list. But having that mid week break where I go to the studio and there are others to talk to, is really important to me. I know I could be making more money if I freed up that time for more students, but it keeps me fresh. With IVA, just when you think you can’t learn anything more, you learn something else, and then you pass it on to your students, and that makes them feel great”.
“Without that input, I could easily slip into complacency, and get a bit boring. It’s so easy for that to happen. I think it’s a lot like keeping your marriage alive. You have to keep dating and flirting with your job! You can’t just get in a rut. You have to keep renewing and changing and re-evaluating - coming back to the original vision, reminding yourself why you are doing it in the first place, and getting inspired by what other people are doing. I don’t know how I would do that without the community. It’s important, especially when you work on your own. You know, when you take a coal out of the fire, it gets cold really quickly - I have to regularly keep throwing myself back into the fire to remind myself how awesome it is to do what I do”.