THE FREELANCE CORNER
Contractors never work alone. Without a competent workforce, we are dead in the water. Contractors have enormous respect and even genuine affection for those who work for us . . . or at least should! There’s now a forum on this site where anyone, contractors and freelancers alike, can become as engaged as you want to be. You are cordially invited to join! (I’m still figuring out how this site works, so please be patient with me as I get it set up.)
TOPIC: How to get yourself “fired” as a freelancer
I imagine that I have your attention now! Contractors are rarely this upfront and public on this topic.
Wait a minute . . . Is that even possible? As contract labor, you really don’t get fired. You simply don’t get rehired. And you may never know why unless you have the guts to call the contractor to see what happened. And the contractor may or may not be forthcoming in a way that can help. Sometimes, it’s the performing part that needs work, but more often than not, it’s the other things.
What are the “other” things?
I cringe at some of the things that I did when I was younger. If I can prevent one young person from making the kinds of mistakes that can hurt their career, this whole blog is worth it. Sometimes, I marvel that I was able to overcome it. If I did those same things today, I likely wouldn't have a freelance career at all. But if you have made a mistake, you can certainly overcome it.
OBVIOUS OBSERVATION: We all make mistakes.
There have been a number of musicians that have called me to ask why they don’t get offers any more. (These are folks with a history of work.) I can’t speak for other contractors here, but many times it’s just as simple as the person doesn’t come to my mind any more. I’m not one of the many contractors that has a set list of musicians for everything. I trust my gut that I have the right person for the situation, which means that no one plays everything.
Perhaps nothing at all went wrong other than the ebb and flow of life and who you see or who comes to mind. This is where social media can help if used properly. But how can you use social media in such a way that actually helps? (This does not apply to those who use social media to share family and personal stuff only.) A lot of folks use social media with the intention of promoting themselves and their career. But many students and young professionals are under the impression that they have to be aggressive in this way. It’s my personal belief that college programs and books on the topic tell you to “get yourself out there!", and then certain boundaries aren't honored in the process.
TIP: Find out where the boundaries are in your location. This requires a little homework.
But if you don't ask either the contractor or trust-worthy colleagues, you won't ever really know. It's up to you to take that step and reach out.
Where social media does NOT help . . . (or things that annoy me):
You post EVERY day about everyday stuff. Trust me . . . it feels like self promotion and not just sharing. This looks to me like you’re desperate to get noticed. That tells me that this is part of your personality, and I may not want that much personality on my gig. I can just hear it now from a church music director: Be sure and send me the person with the most personality . . . NOT EVER!
You’re big into the gig brag. Not just once, but with annoying frequency. It’s not just contractors who are annoyed but other freelancers, too. You think that it’s innocent, but there’s always an underlying intention. Check yourself every time: What is my intention in posting this? The result is often not what you hope. People may think that you’re so busy that you don’t need a gig. Contractors may not want pictures publicly posted, especially if it’s a private event . . . and even more so if it’s in someone’s private home.
OBSERVATION: The freelancers that work the most are usually the quiet ones. They rarely post about the gigs that they play. Think about your scene (in your area of the country), and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Who is the busiest?
TIP: Don’t come across as aggressive, needy, high-maintenance, or attention-seeking. No contractor that I know wants that in their workplace. And it puts off other musicians. And then other musicians tell us that they don’t want to work with you . . . you see where this is going. Will I tell you if this is the situation? No. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. And I do need to know if someone is problematic in the workplace. Musicians need to know that I can be trusted with information. Plus, even though it’s a contract-labor situation, I am well aware of privacy rules for employers.
OBSERVATION: The busiest freelancers do not have an ego problem. They are simply confident and have no need to show it.
A HUGE BLUNDER: Don’t hand out your personal business card on someone else’s gig . . . ever. Always refer to the bandleader or contractor who brought you. Always. This is a sure-fire way to be at home next time and maybe for a long time.
An obvious one but still needs to be said: Don’t come inebriated or in some other altered state to the gig. This extends to not taking advantage of the open bar. Keep your head and wits about you.
Every contractor has a culture in their workplace, something that they’ve honed carefully over the years. You either fit in or you don’t. I didn’t even mention the playing part. You could be a truly excellent player and not get called because of these things.
IF YOU HAVE TO TURN IT DOWN . . .
It will not hurt you to turn me down because of a prior commitment. In fact, that tells me that you keep your commitments, which is a good thing. But if you turn me down a lot, or even worse, seem casual about it (like you don’t need the gig), I’ll remember that you’re not as hungry as many other musicians. Of course, it’s perfectly okay not to need work and to have your own boundaries about what you do. But when you hire a lot of people, you remember who always says yes. . . . then it gets to that memory thing about coming to my mind.
OBSERVATION: The busiest freelancers keep their original commitments.
I feel like I’m out on a limb here and would LOVE other contractors and freelancers to weigh in.
If you are a contractor, feel free to comment on those things that especially annoy you so that it’ll be a cautionary tale for those who want to increase their work. If you are a freelance musician, please share your experiences and opinions. That is why I now have a forum if you really want to get into it.