Thursday, October 20, 2011

Straight Talk on Learning and Freelancing

I'm a huge fan of Penelope Trunk's blog. She pulls no punches, speaks her mind, and isn't afraid to make enemies. Two of her recent articles are worth reading if you're a professional freelance musician or music teacher:

1. How School Affects Future Earnings looks at some current thought regarding what's important in a child's education. Trunk's emphasis is on striving, confidence, goal-setting, doing the work, and unconventional solutions for each child. I also like the importance she puts on finding a mentor.

Let's face it - individualized instruction is not part of a successful business plan in the education sector. Class instruction is what pays the bills, and most schools simply can't afford to give students private instruction, even in cases where special education needs require it. Which is where private music teachers come in. It is impossible to develop any decent level of proficiency in a musical instrument without hours upon hours of individual lessons. Therefore, private music lessons might be the only one-on-one time that a child ever gets with a teacher (Elissa Milne has also stated this several times in her blog). This puts music teachers in a unique position to have a tremendous influence on a child's development, not just in terms of their progress in learning an instrument, but in their overall attitude towards self-confidence, work, achievement, and finding their true calling. Penelope says it very well:
I coach so many people who want advice about their career, but so often, these people really just need to learn how to figure out what they want: experiment, find what might be fun. Try it for a bit. People need coaching on how to take risks and not worry if they fail. People need coaching on how to find a mentor who is invested in their particular path. I see that all these things are related to earning power, and all these things are what kids learn when they direct their own curriculum.
2. Every freelance collaborative pianist should read Finance Tips for the Self-Employed. Being a freelancer in an urban music scene can be rough. You might rarely have access to your own dedicated studio space. You might go your entire career dragging a backpack around a school of music. You'll often make insane amounts of money from February through April, but have trouble making ends meet in September. Penelope's article won't change any of that, but will help you deal with the difficult stuff. Two of Penelope's points in particular are applicable to many people's freelance work:
4. Have one great client.
5. Self-employment stability requires doing stuff you hate.

1 comment:

  1. Mike Langlois6:55 AM

    I would add to (sub)point number 5 that "doing stuff you hate" requires finding a way not to hate it, or rather, to become interested in it at some level. Would be easier if we had some concrete examples of that -- I really think it is a worthwhile discussion to have.