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The Contractor's Work


As I get into this, it’s apparent that each item mentioned below could be expanded to a separate post or conversation. But I have to start somewhere!

A contractor’s work is broken down to the following:

Get the job

Hire the job

Collect payment

Pay the musicians

That’s as simple as I can make it. It does require administrative and bookkeeping skills, so if those are lacking, you might not be suited for this field (or at least need to hire an administrator or bookkeeper!)


You’ll need to know something about contracts and negotiating the pricing. I start with the bid phase. This can often have more than one option. If you get the schedule and instrumentation and notice a problem, you’ll want to alert the client. Perhaps there’s a huge conflict that takes out a bunch of freelancers. Then you’ll want to see if the schedule can be tweaked for when people are more available. When it’s firm, that’s it. Then you price it out. I don’t assume that it’ll be accepted. Wait for acceptance of the bid and issue a contract. Then you can move to the next phase.


Keeping up with the Workforce: Are you good at keeping up your database? I suggest using Contacts or another database that will allow you to do quick searches. This comes in handy when you have thousands of folks with whom to keep up. In the database, you’ll want to put in all of the instruments that each person plays and which organizations where they perform. I’ve found it handy to collect schedules of various orchestras.

When I offer someone a job, my word is my bond. I don’t ask multiple people for the same position and grab the 1st person that responds, which is called the Cattle Call. That would be like offering 3 or more contracts for the same position. When someone gets back to me, they know that that job is there for them. Details such as location, dress code, what to bring, etc., will be covered in another post.

TIP: Avoid Cattle Calls. It immediately gives you away that you are not a professional contractor.


You’ll want to make sure that you have received full payment before or the day of the event. Anything else is trouble. For a lot of events, you’ll want a 50% deposit (weddings, especially). Most churches pay in full at the rehearsal or mail in advance.


Pay the musicians on the last day of the event. There’s a psychological reason for this. I like to pay at the beginning of the last service. Then you don’t have nervous musicians wondering if they are going to be paid. And most like to quickly leave as soon as it’s over, so you don’t hold them up. My business is run where I cut the checks to all contract labor through a company.

IMPORTANT: You have to report earnings to the IRS in a 1096 form, due at the end of February. And you have to send out a 1099 to anyone that you paid over $600 in a calendar year, due at the end of January. W2s are also due at the end of January if you run federal payroll. There are lots of tax laws that change annually.

STOP: If you ever run federal payroll, I strongly suggest a conversation with your CPA! Very few freelance contractors are required to run federal payroll. But there are many things to understand about withholding, collecting documents from employees, and changing tax laws. Avoid trouble! (They are not contract labor on these jobs.)


Scott Stratton is based in Dallas.

If there’s a particular area that you’d like for me to cover in a future post, you may include that in a comment below.

Happy Gigging!


61 views2 comments


Debbie Brooks
Debbie Brooks
Jan 23, 2019

I haven't needed to do that . . . yet. Communication is changing all of the time. Younger folks text and don't use email much. I can either complain about that or roll with it. If I don't get an email response in a few days, I'll either resend or send a text reminder, especially if they are young. Personally, I love texting because of the efficiency, but it's harder to search back when needed. And there are plenty of times when you need access to that record.

When I started freelancing, there were no cell phones or email. You had to call, and you had to answer the phone. So, we got answering machines and would have to get…


Ling Ling
Ling Ling
Jan 23, 2019

From the freelancer's perspective, the cattle call also stinks because it causes undue anxiety. Sometimes you can respond to those things within the same minute that they are sent out and still not get the gig. It's especially unnerving when the person who sent it doesn't respond unless you are the person who DID get the gig.

Personally, I would rather know my place in the contractor's world, even if I'm not the first call (or second call, or third...whatever). Working for people who are loyal to the players they've hired for years is good, because it gives a sense of job stability in a field that isn't always predictable. Just work down the list one at a time. T…

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