Tuesday, August 20, 2013

4 Steps to Jump Start Your Freelancing Career.

Well, folks.  It's that time of year again.

Many of you might be starting a new year of school or even moving to a new city.  Whatever you're doing this Fall and beyond, I bet you've got high hopes for what you're going to achieve in this upcoming year.  I know I do!

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what has proved effective in helping me get my freelancing career moving and I decided to write a little bit about it.  As most of you know, we musicians (and many other careers) depend a lot on freelance work for extra income.  So I decided to give my spiel on what has worked for me thus far.  I'm a big believer that by defining and measuring what works, you can not only achieve success, but replicate it by applying those principles over and over again.  The following have worked wonders for me (and many of my most successful friends) and I hope that you'll give them a try a let me know how they work for you.

1.  Acknowledge that it takes effort.----I know a ton of people that sit around moaning and groaning about how they never get gigs.  Some people seem to think that it will just magically happen someday.  Wrong!

This may seem super obvious, but it is amazing how many people will never take the time to put in the work it requires to really get yourself out there.  It takes some time and energy, but it's all a matter of making it a priority.  We've all got the same amount of time, it's just a matter of how we decide to use it.

2.  Reach out to others for guidance.----The only way to ever get hired for anything is for people to know that you exist.  You can spend hours everyday in a practice room perfecting some random 8 bars of some random symphony, but if nobody knows you're around, you'll never get called for anything.  Anywhere you go, there is someone who was in your same position at some point.  Reaching out those people for advice can go a long way.  Nobody starts out on the the top of the freelance scene, but everyone has experiences they can share that will shed some light on what might help you along.

I am still very close with some of the people that took time to sit and talk with me several years ago.  One of them has passed along countless gigs to me, I currently work for two of them, and another one hooked me up with my current teaching position.  Once you've started making these connections, you'll be in the perfect position to put the next step in to action.

3.  Create opportunities to hire other people.----Being in a position to hire other people is a very powerful networking tool.  Find the people that you want to work with that can and will return the favor.  Before you know it you'll have a nice little circle of people that are totally willing to help each other out as much as possible.  A huge chunk of my freelance work comes from my friends that referred me to a contractor or conductor.  The more opportunities you have to help others, the more opportunities you'll be presented with.

From my own experience, starting your own group is the most effective way to kick start this process.  If you're constantly generating opportunities to hire others on your own, that means that you always have the ability to expand your network.  This can take a lot of effort on your end, but again it's all about prioritizing what's actually important enough to you that you'll make the investment to get started.

4.  Be a good colleague.----All of these steps are useless if nobody wants to work with you.  Make sure you've got your shit together when you venture out in to the world of freelancing.  No one wants to work with someone that has a reputation of being difficult to work with, unprepared, or irresponsible.  In my opinion, the best people to work with are the ones I'm friends with.  Most people would rather hire someone that is totally awesome to work with over someone that is an amazing player, but a pain to deal with.  Again, this may seem like common sense, but I can think of a lot of people that I will never call just because I don't enjoy working with them.  It's nothing personal, but we all want to spend time around people that we enjoy being around.  I think we can all agree on that.

In closing, I think it's worth saying that the freelancing biz is very much a relationship business.  People want to work with people that they enjoy being around and that add value to their lives professionally and personally.  Like anything worth doing, developing a freelance career is a lot of work, but extremely rewarding.  I hope that all of you that have been looking to break in to your local freelance scene will take this formula and really give it a whirl.  From talking with a lot of my friends that are infinitely more successful than I am, I've found that these steps are universally used in everyone's career.

Take some time and really think about if you're where you'd like to be in the freelancing part of your career.  What could you be doing better and what can you change to improve?

Take a moment to leave me a message or make a comment.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

3 Reasons Why Everyone Should Learn to Sell (and what they mean to you).

I don't know about you, but I often find myself getting really frustrated when I know I have ideas that can  ake a change for the better for something/someone, and I just can't seem to successfully project my thoughts and ideas in way that makes anyone care.  This seems to happen to me in all aspect of my life from my social relationships, professional settings, and in my own projects that I'm working on.  I recently ran across a book that has totally changed my entire perspective and approach to moving others.

In Dan Pink's book, To Sell is Human, he argues that the ability to sell is universally necessary.  The idea that sales is sleazy and only belongs on the used Subaru lot is totally ridiculous when you really think about it.  According to Pink, selling is about more than getting someone to buy something, but more importantly it's about moving others.  This point about moving others is where I really got hooked and my mind starting running wild with ideas.  The whole time, I was thinking of ways that I could others excited about this concept and how potentially useful it is to anyone and everyone.

Here's some of the three big points I took away from the book:  

1.  Learning to sell, means learning to articulate the value of what you have to offer in a compelling way.

When you try to sell someone on an idea of yours, it's absolutely critical that you can clearly articulate the value of what your proposing and why they should care.  This may sound easy, but when you sit down and really try to define why exactly someone should care about your idea, it gets tough.  It's really telling when you speak with someone and ask them to explain why anyone should care about their idea and they can't tell you.  Try it sometime.  You'll be amazed at how often people draw a blank.  I mean, seriously if you don't believe me just look at most orchestra's mission statements.

2.  Learning to sell, means learning to effectively communicate.

Whether you're trying to sell someone over the phone, through a Facebook page, or through any other form of communication.  Selling is all about being to communicate your ideas to anyone through a variety of outlets.  I don't know anyone who couldn't stand to improve some aspect of their communication skills with others.  Getting out there and trying to articulate the value of your ideas in any medium is a great way to learn communication.  You'll learn tons about how to adapt your communication to make it effective with anyone. 

Who couldn't benefit from that?

3.  Learning to sell, means learning to help your ideas spread and influence others.

This is the big one.  We all have ideas that we want to spread and learning to sell will help anyone be more effective in their quest to make some kind of difference.  Whether you want to help your kid become more motivated to fill out their college applications, start a business, or win anyone to your way of thinking, investigating sales will help you accomplish that.  

Being able to sell doesn't just mean getting people to buy things with money, it means getting people to part with resources in exchange for something that will add value to their life.  These resources could be anything from time, attention, money, or virtually anything else.  Coordinating these various resources to help you accomplish your goals is what selling your ideas is all about.

Think about it.  Everyone has a friend or family member they'd like to influence in some way or maybe some big idea they'd like to implement at their job.  It's all a matter of coordinating the resources necessary to make it happen.  Whether you're a freelance horn player (like myself), a parent, teacher, or anyone looking have some kind of influence (which is everyone), the skills involved in sales will make you more effective.  

If you're interested in doing some research, I would highly recommend Dan Pink's book To Sell is Human.  It's probably the most "un-sales-y" book on sales you could possible find.  It's an extremely engaging read that is filled the brim with fascinating psychology to learn about.

The image up top is by artist Hugh Macleod, a favorite cartoonist/author/marketer of mine that totally gets it.