If the thought of being a freelancer scares the bajeebers out of you….I completely understand. Because it IS scary. Especially if you’ve had a good few years feeling the comforts of a steady paycheck and insurance a “regular job” can bring. After being a freelancer (aka being a music business owner or entrepreneur) for 15 years now, I’ve figured some stuff out. I’ve put together six steps that can help you crunch the numbers, zero in on your skill sets, and help you take that first step into entrepreneurship!
Assess your priorities.
We all have different circumstances. We are all in different stages of life. What worked for one person taking the plunge into freelancing is not guaranteed to work for another. So, we must start by assessing where our priorities are. I created this worksheet (opt into my email address and I’ll send it to you here) that helps you organize your priorities in order of the absolute must-dos/must-haves (for some people, it’s their day job, for others, it’s their gym time).
Envision your dream future exactly as you want it 5 years from now.
Jot it down. Share it in a comment for us all to see. Give us excruciating detail. Not simply saying “I want to be making a living from my music”, but describing what a day in the life of “future you” would look like. The purpose in creating this vision in detail is so that we can map out the exact steps necessary to get us there. It keeps us focused on why we are getting up at 4 am or why we are turning down another gig that does not bring us closer to our optimal life. Write. It. Down.
Assess your skills.
Since we want our “dream” to actually be realistic, here’s where you are going to take an honest and detailed inventory of all of your skills that you can monetize. Think of evvverrryyyything.
- Teaching/coaching (instruments, songwriting, vocals, recording, arranging, etc)
- Top line
- Beat making
- Vocal recording
- Vocal editing
- Session musician
- String arrangements
- Horn arrangements
- Sheet music creation
- Live performance (solo artist, acoustic, full band, trio, etc)
- Sheet music creation
Next to each skill, do some research and see if you can make an estimate as to how much you could charge for that particular skill or service. If it’s a remote job, you could visit sites such as https://www.airgigs.com/ or https://soundbetter.com/ to see what others are charging. If it’s for a local clientele (such as in-person teaching), see what the local market charges by visiting websites of people working in the same industry.
Assess areas that need attention, growth, or development in order to monetize them.
If your list of skills seems a little short, figure out what other skills you think you might be able to monetize with just a bit more work. Write that down and then make a plan of action to get you to the level you need to be at. For example, let’s say you can record vocals but haven’t really gotten good at editing them yet. Editing vocals is all about practice. Make a plan to take on some vocal editing jobs (can be music or podcasts) for a discount so that you can get more experience.
Assess your financial situation by creating a budget.
Adulting 101 includes creating and living within a budget. Be sure to include an emergency fund, savings, advertising, investing back into your business for equipment, etc. Figure out your bottom line in real $$ to sustain you and anyone who depends on you to provide. Include your day job income, if you have one. See what the actual dollar amount is that you need to live comfortably and make that your hard dollar goal for your freelance work. Remember that the typical freelance cycle can be very “feast or famine”. It’s important to SAVE! It’s also important to budget it the unexpected. Don’t create a budget based on the “best case scenario” but the “worst case scenario”. Then when you have the more plentiful months with extra income, stash that extra into savings so that you have a bucket to draw from during the famine periods.
Assess consistent income sources.
How much does each income source make, and how many of those jobs can you realistically do per week or month? For example, teaching can be a very consistent income source. It also demands a certain amount of time. Figure out how many regular student slots you can have weekly, then how much income that generates. How much time is left every week? How much more $ do you need to make to meet your monthly financial goals? Be realistic.
By this point, you should have a solid plan in place. “These are the skills I can monetize now, starting today.” This should help you formulate a real business. Give it a name. Grab the domain name. Build a site. Start making it happen. It’s important to not jump all in too soon. Be realistic about your bills and goals. If you are still working a day job and only have time to allocate 5 hours a week to do side freelance work, then start there. If you are disciplined with your budget and hone more skills that can be monetized, in time you’ll arrive at that place where you can replace the day job income with freelance income.