Today I'd like to shed some light onto my work as a freelance musician. There are plenty of varying models and examples of successful freelancers, but rather than get into the infinite permutations of possibilities, I'll try to focus on what kind of work I do, how I do it, and why I do it.
Why am I a freelancer? I certainly could try to design an easier, more stable work life (while still being a musician) with benefits and a higher level of dependability. I supposed it comes down to priorities. I've realized that I become pretty unhappy if I don't have the freedom to be creative. I love to improvise, play original compositions, collaborate with like-minded people, and strive to create fresh and exciting music in the moment. I love working with students who chose to study with me. Ultimately, I value artistic, fulfilling experiences through playing, writing, and teaching more than I value the perks of a “normal” job.
I think of my work as being divided into 3 categories: playing, writing, and teaching. The amount I spend with each topic may fluctuate slightly each day, but usually they are all present to some extent every day. Here are the activities within each category:
gigs, rehearsals, recording sessions, festivals, concerts, recitals, and all of the practice & preparation that goes into each
arranging & composing music for bands, schools, churches, orchestras, string quartets, etc.
private lessons at home/schools, group lessons, masterclasses, middle school beginner classes, high school wind ensemble sectionals, college courses, etc.
Let's look at a typical work day, and how I fit in things from each category. I will use this past Monday as an example, which had a fairly even balance of events. Here is the breakdown:
11:00am-12:00pm private lesson
12:00pm-12:30pm lunch/administrative stuff
3:30pm-4:00pm caffeinated tea/new yorker cartoons/stare out window mindlessly
5:00pm-7:00pm private lessons
7:00pm-8:00pm dinner/commute to gig
10:00pm-11:00pm post-gig kombucha/wine/chess game
This schedule is pretty productive, and the tasks are broken up throughout the day, which helps to give a sense of flow and variety. I did plan this day out in advance (as I do with most work days). By committing to the specific time frames outlined here, it keeps my business/work well rounded and continuously growing and improving. I have had periods of time where I worked 8 hours a day on one specific thing (either playing, writing, or teaching). The problem I've noticed by doing that is although I might make big strides with a particular area in a small amount of time, I get burnt out, lazy, and ultimately accomplish the same amount in the long run as I did with shorter, more focused efforts on a variety of things.
A quick note that only musicians might find interesting: No matter what is happening on a particular day, I try to get in 3 hours of focused practice time. This helps to keep me in good shape for any upcoming gigs, as well as advancing my playing toward whatever goals I have set. As a doubler, I've chosen to focus my efforts on three instruments: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, and clarinet. Some days I will practice all three, some days only one. The average breakdown of practice time is usually around 70% tenor, 20% clarinet, and 10% soprano. This may get flipped around for various reasons. For example, this past Christmas I was called with short notice to play a somewhat challenging soprano solo at a church service, so I spent about 80% of my practice time on soprano for about a week to prepare. In future blog posts I'll share what I do to maximize practice time.
I realize that this is a broad look at my life as a freelancer, and there are many areas and sub-categories that I could get into. I may delve deeper into these topics in future blogs, but for now feel free to send me any questions/comments you may have. Thanks for reading.