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Building a Successful Freelance Band

It's amazing how many different places you can find inspiration for your musical career. I was reading a book on copywriting, when I came across some great tips. I adapted them for musicians.

FYI. I edited the info a little (like cutting the typewriter comments), and then focused on a small-named band who's getting started booking gigs outside the normal realm of booking like clubs, bars and coffee houses.

1. Never tell anyone you're not successful. Always say you are. Success is a relative term. Are you successful? At what? You're playing live. Yes, you are successful compared to other musicians who aren't. There are a helluva lot who don't get out of the practice room. So believe in yourself. You are a success!

2. It's better to work for a little money than not to work at all. How many small businesses might consider throwing down $25 to have live music. Yeah. The pay sucks, but IF you need more gigs to start building a profile at least you will make something. This also opens you up to focus your efforts on businesses that have steady stream of clients... high profile. So book it. You'll make a few bucks and Feel more professional. Plus, you'll get your name out there better. Just remember to focus on promotion. Have business cards ready and play your best. Some of our best gigs have come from referrals at high profile unpaid gigs. Sad, but true.

3. Write thank-you notes...even for the smallest reason. Thank venues. Thank other bands. Thank agents. Thank individuals. Thank everyone!

4. Offer old clients new ideas. If you've had people book you before. Contact them every six months. See if they have need of your services again. If not, see if they know anyone. Chances are they do.

5. If it's a choice between missing a deadline or handing in shoddy work, miss the deadline-but let the client know in advance.
Think press kits here. Make sure you mail off your presskit ASAP. If you find that you don't have one together and yet it's been requested. Tell the client when you will have it. The sooner you get it out the better.

6. Don't let your fears get in the way. Sometimes you get out of practice making cold calls to businesses. Or don't "feel" like contacting agents. Usually it's just fear. Get over it, and you will reap the rewards ... build your self confidence.

7. Always get your bills paid. The client who owes you money will never give you another job.
When you start booking private gigs, you want to have a contract on-hand. And it is completely acceptable to ask for a 50% downpayment to reserve a date. Ask for it. If they have problems, at least you have 1/2 the money. It'll be easier to forgive them their debt if you have at least half up front (if absolutely necessary). And you'll have a better shot at rebookings (where you ask for more upfront).

8. Charge for outside consultations. But don't charge if they come to your office. Face-to-face sales are easier. If you can talk to an agent in person, you'll be better off and more likely to get a gig.

9. Use outside services. Don't become a typing and messenger service. Okay, I admit it. I do EVERYTHING myself. I'm too cheap to spend money. But there are somethings where it pays to have someone else do it for you. It may be expensive, but honestly, in the long run it is worth it. Scrap together some cash and do it.

10. Don't miss deadlines. Use Express Mail, Federal Express, or a messenger service if you have to, but make sure the copy is on the client's desk by the deadline date-or sooner.

Let's talk about timeliness to gigs here. If you are not on time to your gigs, you look bad. Plan to be at the venue, at least an hour or two before the show. Yes, it may seem like a lot of wasted time, but you can always find things to do: schmooze, practice in quiet, sound check, warm up. Too often bands don't show up till the last minute, or are late... You'll be very lucky getting another gig doing that. Be on time. Oh, and make a checklist so you know you have everything beforehand.

11. Make it look good. The copy should be neat and perfectly typed. No errors. Let's go back to presskits. A B&W sheet of paper with your band name and little bit of shoddy info about your band, plus, a photographed band photo is not going to get you any gigs. Make sure your presskit looks and feels professional. Use solid supplies. But instead of sending out presskits in bulk and hoping for a response. Send inquiry letters. Describe your act and see if they might be interested. Ask if you can send a presskit. The people who respond will be serious.

12. Be yourself. Don't put on a false front when going after new business. If you get hired because of this false front, the client will dump you when your true self is revealed in the course of your working relationships.

13. Keep your cool. Never get defensive when clients criticize your copy--even if they're wrong or rude in the way they do it. Be professional. If the client is a rotten S.O.B., don't fight with him--dump him.

14. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If the client asks whether you understand something, and you don't understand, don't pretend that you do. Instead, ask the client to explain it to you. Remember, it's the client's job to know his business inside and out. Your job is to learn enough about the business to write effective copy. There's no shame in not knowing technical fact or term.

Make sure you get all the info you can about a gig before the scheduled date. Make another checklist of questions to ask: Date, time, sound requirements, do we get to eat, drink, are we allowed to flirt with your daughters...well maybe that's too much info, but make sure you have it all written down. And review it before the show.

15. If the client asks you a question, and you don't know the answer, don't fudge it. Instead, say "I don't know-- but I'll find out." American business would be in much better shape if its consultants said "I don't know" more often.

16. Be flexible. If a business opportunity out of the ordinary comes along, be cautious, but take a look. It may lead to profitable ventures you never thought of before.

"The Copywriter's Handbook" by Robert W. Bly is an outstanding book for anyone wanting to promote themselves in ads or flyers. Good ad copy gets attention! BUY THE COPYWRITER'S HANDBOOK

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