By: Becky Wilcox
Making a living as a freelance guitarist is not easy. It requires flexibility, professionalism and years of hard work. Most successful freelancers have learned to patch together a variety of revenue sources in order to further their goal of being professional musicians.
In order to do this, you have to have a strong work ethic and a sense of pride as a musician. You also need a few other qualities that are hard to learn, but go a long way in the music industry:
Every day is likely to be different as a freelancer, so keeping track of appointments is critical. Each day needs to include a few hours of practice time to keep skills sharp and learn new material. Updating online marketing tools like Facebook or a personal website should be done every few days, as well.
Networking online is a huge part of freelancing, as it acts as a constant source of new gigs, as well as a way to be a part of a decentralized community of other musicians.
A typical day might include giving a few guitar lessons and squeezing in some rehearsals for a weekend gig. It is critical to properly schedule, so overbookings don’t occur. Be sure and allow enough time in between activities. Arriving late or not at all to a job will kill any credibility built up that the guitarist is a professional.
Being prepared for any emergency is critical. That means bringing every piece of equipment and accessory along to the gig. Besides the guitar and possibly a backup guitar, bring extra strings and picks. Electric guitar players need extra cables for all equipment and some fuses.
If it is an outdoor concert, high output guitar pickups are useful. Any pedals or other special effects equipment should also be packed along. It never hurts to have some duct tape.
Planning for personal comfort is also useful, especially if playing outside. Bug repellent, sunscreen and clothing appropriate for the weather can make the difference between a great show and a miserable one.
As the freelancer builds a reputation through quality musicianship and professional work ethics, more opportunities to play will occur. The organized guitarist can pick up a last-minute side job because they know they aren’t booked during the time slot. By being organized yet flexible, it’s possible to take more jobs and further build a positive reputation.
Remember that your reputation means everything when you’re a freelancer. Not only do you want to be known as professional and prepared, you want to be thought of as someone who can adapt to almost any situation. A positive and constructive attitude will get you more gigs in the long run.
Although most of every day is taken up with practicing, giving lessons, playing private gigs or rehearsing, every working musician must make time to market their reputations. There are dozens of other musicians competing for jobs in most communities, so the working musician must get the word out that they are available. Hand out business cards; maintain a strong online presence.
Most importantly, play well and act professionally. Most professionals never become superstars, but it is possible to make a reasonable and very satisfying living as a freelance guitarist.