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How many hats do you wear?

The Sensible Flutist: How many hats do you wear?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How many hats do you wear?

Ask a classical musician what they do for a living and be prepared for a less than straight forward answer. We do a lot. Most of us perform, teach, compose, write and do many other things that all fall under the freelance title. The challenge of succinctly describing to laypersons what I do is ever present, and most time I simply reply that I play the flute.

I have many income streams that I'm in the process of developing. Currently, I teach, perform and write. I'm also working on capitalizing on my day job experience to create new work. My goal as a musician is to be portable and flexible; however, like any small business, income streams take time to develop into money making ventures. The key is to not give up.

What unique skill sets and interests do you have? Does being a musician completely define you or do have a broader scope of experience that you can draw on? I worked a full time day job outside of music for nearly three years. I treat that work experience as my business management education since my job consisted of accounting, human resources and operations components. Aside from that, my other day jobs have been primarily clerical in nature so I draw on my organizational and administrative skills there to handle day to day stuff and not get overwhelmed. Although I'm now beginning school to obtain my physical therapy degree, these skills will serve me well.

Don't be afraid of the additional experience a day job can give you. If you feel you need more business experience, try to find a administrative position. The hours may not be as flexible, but you're gaining experience, honing your skills and earning a paycheck in the process.

Another question to ask yourself as you begin to develop income streams is how many can you handle? For instance, if you're interested in self-producing concerts, the amount of work involved in handling all the details from securing a space, negotiating fees, hiring additional musicians and promoting the event to get an audience is a huge undertaking. I didn't even mention the hours of practice needed to prepare a program!

Instead of thinking about each separate hat you have to wear under the auspice of generating income via performance, think about the project in its entirety then break down the steps into manageable bits from there. You'll otherwise risk burnout and becoming overwhelmed with all the little bits of work that need to be done.

Become a self-sufficient musician means that you have to develop business skills. Choose income streams that reflect your interests and match your values. You'll be more likely to stick with it especially when the monetary payoff isn't immediate.

We're artists, but we're also forced into the tricky world of business in order to cobble together a living for ourselves. My next set of posts will attempt to give you some perspective on how to overcome these challenges and keep moving ahead even when it seems that you're stalled.

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At May 8, 2012 at 12:38 PM , Blogger Peter Amsel said...

Very interesting post, Alexis - quite thought provoking, in fact ... I know that if I wasn't on a disability pension I would still be teaching - something that was both a source of frustration and joy, depending on the students I had at any given time, but it was also quite lucrative at times - especially when I was teaching for a private school outside of town. At the same time, it is easy to see that the teaching was very difficult for me emotionally and physically - the pain that resulted would cause me to require several days to recover - one day of teaching could cause me to be practically bedridden for three or four days.

It is much more fulfilling - and personally enriching - to be able to say that I am (only) a composer and writer ... though I am doing some teaching, via the Internet, but that is an entirely different can of worms.

Good luck in your future endeavors.

At May 8, 2012 at 11:02 PM , Blogger anna said...

Good post, and so relevant to today. If you say you are a 'musician,' you've got all your bases covered. The music side of my self-employment is a bit quiet at the moment, so thanks for reminding me to do some brain storming to boost the 'musician' in me a bit more :)

At May 14, 2012 at 7:01 AM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

The beauty of what we do is that we can creatively figure out ways to generate income in spite of limitations. The internet has made this even more possible. Thanks for the feedback!

At May 14, 2012 at 7:02 AM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thanks for commenting!


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