Gemma Sugrue is a professional vocalist and vocal coach. She founded her own singing school, Voiceworks Studio, in 2011 in Cork, Ireland. Gemma has released her own album, In My Nature, performed with the RTE Concert Orchestra and performed backing vocals with some of her artistic icons; Bon Iver, Damien Rice, and Roisin Murphy. Gemma's primary passion is vocal coaching ~ check out her YouTube channel.
How does your creativity present itself?
I feel like my creativity is a currency. If I can budget it well by managing my creative cash flow daily I’ll have access to business and marketing ideas, imaginative instructions/insights when coaching my singing clients and maybe even write a song or a blog post that day too! I’ve noticed that my creativity is more present when I’m relaxed or when I feel like I’m ready to relax. I’m most relaxed in the early morning or in the evening time when I feel like I’ve ticked all I can tick on my to-do list for the day. I view playing some piano and having a sing as a reward.
Coming back to the idea that my creativity is a form of currency. In the past, I’ve occasionally spent all of my creativity on projects that didn’t really fulfil me and then I had nothing left over for what really mattered to me. These scenarios would usually be driven by my ego with me trying to prove something to other people. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become a lot more aware and accepting of myself so I tend to spend most of my time working on things that bring me a lot of joy.
What is creative about your work?
I would classify anything that's novel as creative. A new spreadsheet, what should it look like? What font choice and colour scheme would keep us returning to this spreadsheet to keep this project ticking over? Most of what I do in my business follows the path of; create to perform or create to delegate. I’ll brainstorm a presentation for my weekly staff meeting and perform it or I’ll brainstorm a marketing campaign and delegate it.
What is your most used item / software / app in your work?
OMG there are so many. I’m a bloody productivity app collector!
To name but a few:
Trello - the team management app. It's so visual, fab and user friendly and there are checklists. I love a checklist.
Airtable - this app is spreadsheets on steroids. Another visual one again but the filtering and sorting options, different sheet views (like kanban and calendar) are heaven.
Fantastical - this is my calendar app which also connects to Google Cal. You will have your calendar entry in this baby in less than 5 seconds flat including title, time, date, location, duration and maybe some deets and it makes a really satisfying whoosh sound when the entry is completed. Drool.
Jotform - I don’t know an organisational problem with a group of people that can not be solved by a Jotform that is downloaded as CSV file on to Airtable, oh the data!
Doodle - I always schedule my one-off meetings with many using doodle.
Google everything is great, I use Drive for storage, shared spreadsheets, calendars and love dragging and dropping my emails into labels on Gmail, using template responses, etc.
I’ve also developed my own software with an Irish company, CourseCo. Much of it is still in beta but I’m so excited for the future with it. We’ll be able to instant message students on our Voiceworks Studio app, there will be a Learning Management platform on there, timetables of course and accounts for your subscription payment.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
The unpredictability of my industry. I’ve to be mindful of giving myself a sense of certainty because I can’t really get it from the career path I’ve chosen. That has started to eat away at me before and although I thrive on the uncertainty and excitement of spontaneity and variety, a level certainty needs to be met too to keep me balanced.
I’ve recently made a 3 year deal with myself. I’ve told myself this is what my life, career and priorities look like for the next 3 years, settle down and get stuck in. Tony Robbins says 'People over-estimate what they can do in 1 year and under-estimate what they can do in 5.' That’s the thinking behind this plan but I also think it’s giving me that sense of certainty which calms me down. I think I’ve always had one eye on the exit throughout my career which you can do as a freelancer. Example, I’m bored of being a singer so I’m going to write songs and do some coaching for a while.
How do you top-up your creative cup?
Doesn’t our cup runneth over these days with what’s available to us online? Business podcasts, audiobooks, meditation, yoga, a run, a run whilst listening to a business podcast, a run whilst meditating (this is hard), listening to music, a phone conversation with my Dad (he has a poetic approach to conversation), poetry if I stumble upon it and deep philosophical/idle chats with my best friends on our Girleen’s Whatsapp group. I bet there are many other women like us in their 30s who send each other lengthy voice memos on a Whatsapp group and often threaten to release the content as a podcast because it’s 'gold'.
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