But wait, there is good news...THIS CAN BE AVOIDED!!!!!
(See the bottom for picture explanation)
And it should be by everyone if they seriously consider what I'm about say.
Figure out what you really want to do with your life. And I mean seriously think about what makes you happy and how it lines up with your interests. You have to seriously consider if what you love can actually support you financially. Do other people do it? Why does it work for them and not others? It's pretty incredible what some people do for their careers, so I'm totally positive that if you've got a legit plan and put it in to action you'll figure out how to make it work.
It's tough to give your life direction when you don't actually know where you want to go.
Once you have given it some thought, the next step is to start doing some serious brainstorming to figure out how to get everything off the ground. Maybe I'm a total weirdo, but I think this is so much fun! I am constantly thinking about what I can do with my own ideas moving forward. A good place to start is looking at similar people/groups are doing.
Let's just say theoretically you're a violist and you want to start a string quartet. Maybe you'd like to just get started with some extra income by doing things like weddings, church services, and other things along those lines. First off, maybe you should do some research and find out how many string quartets are working in your area and elsewhere. This will show you two very important things. First, it will give you an idea of what the marketplace is looking like. If there are a hundred groups that are all fighting for the same work, is there a niche not being filled? If a group is getting a ton of work in NYC doing something that isn't being done in Philly, that should raise a red flag that maybe there is something else you could give a try. Trial and error is a big part of this. Even if there are a lot of people doing what you want to do, it doesn't mean you can't get in on it, but it does mean that you'll probably have to be really unique and creative with your approach.
The second thing that you can get out of looking at other groups is just seeing what kind of specifics you can learn about different niches. If you dig around long enough, I bet you can find just about anything you want to know about the work that is available. Do not be afraid or feel weird about going on a groups website and researching what they're doing. Every successful business in history has gotten to know the marketplace they're trying to compete in. Music is no different.
Continuing with the wedding quartet spiel, the first thing I would do if I were this fictional violist, is find out where I can get my hands on information of other groups. This one is actually really easy because of websites like Wedding Wire and The Knot. Any legit group in ANY city is listed on these kinds of sites when it comes to wedding music. You can look at groups all over the country and get an idea of what they're doing. I would (and have) looked at every single Philly area group's website and their calendar, rates, and organizations they're connected with. All of this information is readily available to us and we should utilize every resource we have.
Like I said, any successful business does this, and you should too. Don't be so naive to think that someone else isn't doing this and getting a leg up on you. If you're going to work in a competitive environment like music, you bet your ass that you better remain competitive to keep up.
It's pretty amazing how much information is available to us if we look for it. I really encourage you to give this some thought and start doing some market research on the area you'd like to go in to. Careers in the arts are very different than most other kinds of jobs and therefore need to be approached in a different way. Figure what you want to do and go do it.
Take those first steps and go make something happen for yourself.
P.S.---If you type in "freelance musician" in Google Images, that is the first picture that pops up. Hopefully this guy just got back from a killer gig and is celebratory drinking instead of wishing he had more work, haha.