Before officially launching In Transit Studios in the Fall of 2010, I was the drummer for the Christian rock band This Fires Embrace. A “normal” path in the time between high school and the start of my career would’ve consisted of years spent at college but mine were spent making music, perfecting my craft of drumming and traveling the states. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

By way of preface, I must state that I’m not against college or a more traditional path. That pathway works for many and is necessary depending on the professional field chosen. During that time I ended up completing a 2 year undergrad degree in Digital Design & Graphics at the community college here in Columbus that was very valuable. I am against the mindset that you HAVE to go to a 4 year college to make a successful career. Particularly in web design because it simply isn’t true.

I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career nearing my post high school days but knew that I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle, doing work that I didn’t care about while making ends meat to pay the bills. I was also leery of the advice from my high school guidance counselor who effectively said that if I didn’t go to a four year school, I’d end up on the streets. Well she didn’t say those words exactly but that was certainly the message.

Shortly after graduating High School I had the opportunity to be a founding member of a professional band that taught me just as much, if not more than a 4 year degree could have. I think many of my family and friends, not all, but many around me thought I was wasting time in those band years. But truth be told, I learned a vast number of valuable lessons that only real-world life experience can teach. Most of those lessons translated seamlessly into starting and running my business today.

In this post, I want to discuss the top 5 ways being in a band helped prepare me to start and run my business in hopes to inspire you wherever you’re at in your life/career. If you’re wanting to get into graphic/web design but are in a seemingly unrelated career, you’ll see that no matter where you are in your life, your experiences can translate directly to running a business.

Let’s get into it.

I learned,

1) How to work with different personalities

When you’re a member of a band you have to learn how to relate, empathize, understand and deal with different personalities. This is crucially important in the creative process of songwriting, live performance and day to day band life. This skill translated seamlessly to my business. How? Because business is people, and people have different personalities.

One of the most important skills you can have to be successful in any business is to be able to work with and adapt to different personalities. Some people are easy going, some are very difficult, some are organized, some are scattered, some are intense, some are mellow, etc. I credit my ability to adapt to different personalities largely to my time in a band because I met and worked with hundreds, maybe thousands of people.

Outside of the band members working directly with each other, we worked with venue owners, promoters, recording studio folks, fellow bands, marketers, concert coordinators, record label people, fans, etc. Every experience with a different personality type effectively trained me for dealing with similar personalities in business. It’s funny now looking back because I still encounter people in the business world who are a perfect personality match of someone I met in the band days.

So no matter where you are in life, remember that who you are working with or interacting with can be used as training for dealing with different personalities if you’re intentional about it!

2) How to stay cool during the highs and lows

As with everything in life, there are highs and lows and good times and bad times. There may be no better extremes than in a musician’s world. Case in point, showing up to perform in front of thousands of people versus showing up to play in front of ten. The need to be level headed and even keeled is more important in those situations than perhaps any other.

Such is the business world – when you didn’t get that account you were banking on. When a project grows legs and becomes more difficult than you thought. When a website gets hacked, etc. You need to keep your cool. I was challenged in the most intense of situations in my band days to stay level headed and even keeled. When we showed up to a show, there were many times we didn’t know whether there was going to be a thousand people or ten. Either way, we had to set up our gear, our merch, put on a friendly face and play our hearts out. Even if 10 people showed up, they paid to be there and we owed it to them to give them their money’s worth.

In business, I’ve found this just as vital. In a recent speaking event I was invited out to, I prepared an elaborate hour and a half presentation and powerpoint and planned for anywhere between 10 to 20 business owners. There ended up only being a few but it didn’t matter, I needed to give my all no matter how many showed up.

You’ll find yourself in several situations where no matter the outcome, you need to stay cool and give it your all. I’ve learned that what happens around you isn’t nearly as important as how you respond to it. It will lead to more satisfaction, more fulfillment and good sleep knowing you did your best no matter what.

3) How to sell and market a product

The art and business of creating songs, making an album, recording it, marketing it, selling it and seeing it affect countless lives is a fascinating process. It was a major factor that initially drew me to being in a band. That process is mirrored almost step by step in my business when it comes to creating a website.

  • In music, you have a goal or idea and you create the lyrics, melodies and song.
  • In web design, you have your clients’ wants and needs so you come up with goals, vision and strategy for the site.
  • In music, you have the songs but need to come up with an album title, concept and artwork before getting it manufactured and printed.
  • In web design, you have the content, vision and strategy for the site, but you need to design it, lay it out and create the online presence that will achieve your client’s’ goals.
  • In music, you have the album but you need to get it out to the world. You market it, play shows, promote it and sell it online.
  • In web design, once a site is live, you need to help your client market the site, help them know what to do with it. Help drive traffic to it, etc.
  • In music, you see people loving your music, singing along and telling you awesome stories about how your music touched their lives.
  • In web design, you see your client’s business grow, you see them use your work to help achieve their goals and grow their business.

It amazes me how these 2 seemingly unrelated processes parallel each other virtually every step of the way. Perhaps what you’re doing now will be the same!

4) How to set goals, create processes and meet deadlines

This Fires Embrace wasn’t signed to a big record label, which meant we had the freedom to release our records as we pleased and play shows when we wanted to. A blessing and a curse all the same, but we had a structure in place that we had to follow. Our band income was tied directly to album sales, merchandise and playing shows. We learned that a record every couple of years was the best way to produce new music, new merch and be able to return to the same venues and festivals without repeating the same act as last time. Therefore, we had to set goals, processes and deadlines.

In the web design world, every new project I bring on follows this same structure. There’s more than likely a deadline as to when they want to go live, which means we have to come up with a plan that will ensure we can design and develop the project and go live on time. It also means that we need to have some sort of process in place that enables this success. And as I’ve learned the hard way many times, deadlines are the most important thing in business. If you can’t hit them, you better expand your team, work more hours or set better realistic expectations.

5) The art of compromise

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned how to compromise. In the band world, this meant that if I loved my drum beat but it didn’t fit the song or didn’t jive well with the other members, I had to bite the bullet and do what worked for everyone. If I really, really wanted to do something with the artwork but the others didn’t like it, I gave in and went with the majority vote. If I didn’t want to play a show but the others did, I gave in and tried to put my best forward. So true as it is in business.

With web and graphic design, you have a certain amount of pride and creative preference in your work. This is also a blessing and a curse because frankly, you might be right and the client might be wrong. But if you’ve run a business for any time at all, you know that the client is always right. Unless you can convince them otherwise 🙂 But similar to my band experience, I’ve had to compromise on numerous things over the years.

There have been so many great logo designs that I’ve created that aren’t in the world today because the client wanted to go with a different, perhaps bad idea. There are beautiful website designs that were totally changed because the client didn’t like my first draft. And there are many websites and designs not in my portfolio because they changed so much from my initial vision that I’m embarrassed to have them on my site. But it’s ok, I’ve learned to compromise where I need to in order to keep my clients happy, get referrals and more importantly…get paid.

When you’re in a creative field you need to check your pride. Sometimes you just need to do what the client wants to do in order to complete the project, hit the deadline and get paid. This was a skill that I did not have in my youth and unfortunately for my fellow band mates, had to be patient as I developed it.

I hope this has inspired you in some way! I could discuss hundreds of lessons I learned in my band days but wanted to put the top few into writing; not to prove my old guidance counselor wrong or prove to some of my family members that I wasn’t a deadbeat just making noise but to show you that no matter where you are in life, your situations can be used to help train and empower you in ways to start your own business!

Thanks for reading and for your continued support in what I have going here! I’m not currently accepting comments here but if this inspired you or encouraged you in some way, feel free to drop me a note at [email protected]

I would also like to thank my fellow band brothers whom I share a special bond with, grew with and were patient through those formative years. After all, we did all contribute to coming up with my business name in a van in the middle of Nebraska after launching our 3rd album InTransit 🙂