A flood that forced me out of my apartment could not keep me from posting; however, a hardware failure on my computer did. My sincere apologies to everyone who missed me–I am back now, though, and refreshed from my enforced vacation!
If you are a musician, and you do not receive a salary from a regular employer for your music, you are an independent contractor. If you are an independent contractor, you own a business–and that brings with it a whole truckload of legal obligations. So far, the IRS is not targeting musicians, but that could change at any moment, so get prepared now:
- Get your financial house in order: organize all those receipts, travel expenses, equipment repairs, and everything else. Impose a filing system. Get a copy of some accounting software and devote just ten minutes a day to entering in all those receipts. Devote another ten minutes a day to thinking about yourself as a business owner. You will find that changing your thought patterns will influence the way you understand your transactions with your employers and co-workers.
- Get your legal house in order. Consult a business attorney (if you cannot afford an attorney, and you are in the USA, visit your local office of SCORE). Get some business advice and make a business plan. If you have been doing business on a handshake, get some contracts drawn up. Don’t worry, you can still have the same terms as you had before; the only difference is it will now be in writing and can protect you and your family.
- Set out your goals for next year. What would you like to do with your business? What resources do you need to meet those goals?
- One thing successful business owners do is network. That means get out there and meet people with a purpose in mind: to build successful lasting business and personal relationships. If you approach networking with a give-first philosophy, and look for ways to help other people, you will find that it is much more rewarding. And networking means to meet everyone—you never know where your next job or student will come from!
Many musicians have the perception that business is bad, and in your experience, that may be true for traditional businesses. However, by looking at business in a different way, and changing your mindset about what business is, you may be able to be much more effective as a musician. If you are a professional musician, you should have a professional attitude. And I watched Faith Mbazi give a talk one time, and something she said struck me: that being an entrepreneur was not about making money, but about changing the world through business. So don’t be afraid to think of yourself as a business person; instead, think about how you can change the world through your business of being a musician!