Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone felt like the end of December was a rush to the Grand Finish of 2017. There is a relief in looking at an empty week after a busy two months, and January is always a amazing time to recharge and reflect.
It has almost always been my experience that the first ten days of January are blissfully relaxing, and a real sense of panic sets in as the utility bills hit my mailbox. I always make sure to save a bit from December, but I find myself with my pockets turned out, much like the Monopoly man on the bankruptcy card. When the cards are not in your favor, what's the best way to turn the tide? Is it better to put those cards on the table in front of your colleagues, or is a brave face the side to show?
I have struggled with this question for as long as I've been in school. I am so well-versed in that feeling of constant panic, when I felt like every horn player I knew was winning a competition or a major audition. In fact, I always thought the last rehearsal of my undergrad would start with an announcement from the Orchestra Manager congratulating me on the job I had just won...but that never happened. I spent most of my conservatory years desperately seeking information from the teachers around me, or anyone that would hear me play. I had a burning desire to get better on the horn, win a job, and be able to play that job when I won it. As a result, I think I left a negative impression of myself as someone who was working hard but was getting nowhere. I lacked the basic confidence that all students need to receive information and to process it in constructive way. Due to this past experience, I find it extremely unnatural to meet someone new and lead off with a quick run-down of my resume: not a great place to come from as a self-marketing freelancer.
I'm sure that all of us are familiar with those posts from our colleagues that start with "I am so honored to have..." or "Office for the day..." as we scroll through our various news feeds. I respect these musicians who are excited and ready to celebrate their good fortune. Some of these colleagues who follow this model subscribe to the belief that confidence breeds good karma and more work. I've definitely posted some of these myself, but not usually for the sole purpose of trying to find work. More often than not, if I post about an opportunity I've had, it's also for the sole joy of having been a part of something that I felt was special.
On the other hand, many musicians are very comfortable asking for work via social media. I always admire those who can be honest about their situations while maintaining confidence. A simple "I'm available to play on this day, if anyone needs an insert-this-instrument" speaks volumes for the person that posts it. Not only do they indicate a need for work, but they are also implying that they are trying to fill a busy schedule. So the question is, which of these approaches attracts more work? Which posting musician will get the phone call or email?
In my own personal experience, when I've sent resumes and advertised the many places I've worked, I've gotten a head nod and a terse "ok, thanks for letting me know". It's extremely rare that I've received any follow-up work from these encounters, though it has happened once or twice. It's really come down to those car rides for me, when I've told my fellow musicians "I wish I was working more" that I've found leads and ended up in some situations that have filled the financial gaps. A frank and raw description of my current circumstances and hopes for the future have worked for me, but the one factor that all of this is hinged on is me, with my unique situation, talent, personality, and work history. I've also heard from some contractors that the most important thing is to have a sense from your social media activity that you're still working on your instrument as a professional, which I believe has helped me quite a bit. On the other side of the transaction, I'm more likely to think of someone to recommend that has announced that they're free and available to play.
The bottom line seems to be this: do what makes you comfortable. The approach that gives a portrait of you in your best light is always the best way to present your product. A full accounting of my accomplishments feels uncomfortable to me, and therefore doesn't work because I'm sure that it comes off as unnatural. I thrive when I have goals to work towards, and when I feel that I'm approaching that goal, I play at a higher level. Maybe I just need to let that principle manifest in my life as a freelancer too. I always wish I had more opportunities and I am still grieving over situations that haven't worked out. Having said all of this, I am deeply in awe, and sometimes a little jealous, of musicians who can put their self-worth at the front of how they are seen every day. Maybe I'll be able to do that later but, for now, I think I'll just be honest about the fact that I'm definitely free to play anything that comes my way because I'm not in demand...yet.
Which way do you lean when you're trying to attract work? What works better for you? Comment below!