As a freelance musician, I often worry about the next month’s bills.
Though I do so many different things, the jobs are often inconsistent and pay little. For example, I know that my pay check from Centre College — where I teach as an adjunct– will come on-time twice each semester. However, most of my other musical jobs keep me guessing as to when and what I’ll be paid. As a freelance musician, this is terrifying.
High schools have crazy schedules and may need me twice one week and not need me at all another week. The youth orchestra program usually matches the schedules of local school districts and typically meets only during the academic year. The regional per-service orchestra may need me once per season. Maybe they’ll call me 9 times. It varies on the repertoire and orchestra needs. My clinic schedule varies each semester and depends on my availability. One semester I’ll have time to do 10 clinics (live or via Skype). Another semester is so busy with other stuff I can only do one or two clinics.
Summers are an entirely different story. I have written marching percussion arrangements for high schools and colleges since I graduated high school in 2005. Some summers, I’ll only write for one school. Other summers, I’ll write 3 or 4 high schools shows on top of putting together 1 or 2 college technique packets AND writing their shows.
Summers are a great time for research. Last summer, I spent a ton of time researching and practicing audio mixing and mastering techniques. I checked out MainStage and figured out how to use it at a pretty advanced level on the marching field.
This summer, I’m getting back to some interests I’ve had for years, but haven’t acted on in a long time. I have always loved working on my website and putting together my blog. But with 11 years of college, my interest in web design had to stay put away while I focused on music. Now that I’m out of school, I’m putting web design and social media management back on the plate. And this time, I’m adding Facebook Ads.
As a freelance musician, it’s been a thrill to pick up as many music jobs as I have had in the last 13 years. These opportunities have been integral in my development. I’ve been given opportunities of a lifetime by teaching various high schools, WGI/DCI groups, travel, writing shows, etc. Many of these jobs have resulted in lifelong friendships and lasting organizational relationships.
As an artist, it’s been frustrating to have to take so many music jobs. While I have benefitted from each job, they often distract from artistic endeavors. Because I have to pay bills, those jobs that are responsible for much of my financial security must take precedence. I suppose that’s the case for many artistic interests. I’ve wanted to self-publish my timpani etude collection for two years now– all the content has been completed for years now! But time is money. And sitting behind timpani to put the final recordings together takes time. Time I need to spend writing music for the high school that’s financially important to me.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I love teaching and doing the things I’m doing. I love working the jobs I have that help me financially. And I give 100% in those jobs. It took me a while to stop thinking of music as a thing I am willing to do at any cost, even if I have to work for free. And to start thinking of myself as a professional independent contractor. As much as I love teaching and doing my best for the students, it’s important that I remember the business side of it. As a freelance musician, why do I feel guilty talking about money?
I have to eat. I have to keep the lights on. I have to support my wife and baby (coming November!).
So moving forward, here’s my plan.
I will be the best at the intersection of my skillset: music, Facebook advertising, social media management, and web design. If you don’t know your skills, check out these strategies to uncover your skills to create your perfect side hustle.
I have been designing websites for friends here recently. (All musicians so far. Why not? It’s what I know, I suppose. I’d love to pick up some sites outside of music.)
I’ve recently been doing tons of research, attending online webinars, and studying advertising analytics for advertising on Facebook. Facebook is home to 1.8 billion (1,800,000,000) people and business pages. And there are only a few hundred million businesses advertising there so far. It’s a fresh space, though ads have been running for years now.
I’m strategically trying to find clients, using $100 of their dollars to advertise for them for one month, free of charge. If I do a good job, I’m planning to ask them to hire me on a monthly retainer for $1,500/month. I’m hoping to land even just 5 clients with this retainer. For any legitimate business, $1,500/month for an advertising specialist is nothing.
That could be $90,000/year for my family! And Facebook ads can take only minutes per day for each client.
If I do it right, that could mean working less than one hour each day on ads. That leaves 23 hours wide open for me to take care of a baby, take a vacation, practice a TON, make more blog posts, perform recitals, teach only the places I want to teach, and so many other things.
5 clients. That’s it. That’s all I want. And I think it’s absolutely possible.
Imagine working 5 hours each week. Making $90,00/year. Doing all the musical and personal things I want. How many commissions I can put together. How many recitals I could travel and perform.
I am gonna get back to studying adverts now. I can’t wait to plunge in hard and make this a reality.