Freelancing can be described from many different points of view.
My goal here is to sketch out two viewpoints which are polar opposites. (The “pros” are in red, “cons” in green.) If you are considering being a freelancer, look at this as a reality check before you give up your day job. If after reading this you’re still saying “Yes” enthusiastically, then go for it!
Freedom! You don’t have to be at work at the same old time every day, eat lunch at the same time, or take the same route to work and back.
Having an unpredictable schedule. Sometimes you will be working in the morning; at other times, late at night.
Being in control of what and where you play. You can find a concert schedule you are comfortable with, for example.
Always looking for work. When one gig is over, what will you be doing next?
Getting off the treadmill. Heaven.
Going from gig to gig takes up more time than working an 8-hour shift.
Being able to go outside in the daytime. I don’t know about you, but I consider that to be a major perk.
Working early and late. Daytime isn’t the only time you’ll be going outside….
Constant variety. It’s fun to play opera, art songs, solo rep, choral music, coach singers, rehearse with an instrumentalist, and teach lessons all in one day.
The need to switch gears instantly. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.
Meeting people. Even in a large city, the music business is a small town. Everyone knows everyone else.
Collaborating with someone you may not like. Or you may not like their playing. Keep in mind that this is like temping. Find a way to get along or find a compromise in playing styles for one audition, or a few rehearsals and a concert, then go on to the next gig with different people.
Travel. Being a musician is a great way to get out of town.
Never having enough time to see everything you want in a new location. Schlepping more stuff, putting up with inconvenience. Meals at odd hours. Too little sleep.
The shortest interview in recent history
I remember reading an interview that derailed almost immediately due to touring musicians’ punchiness.
Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma play frequent concerts together. In addition, they do concerts apart from each other, such as solo concertos with orchestra. You can imagine what their travel schedules are like.
Because they are so busy, they often miss flights. Sometimes they travel together, but there are other scenarios as well. They might meet in the city where their concert is. Or they might take a separate flight or two each, then meet for the last leg of the trip.
Since they miss flights so often, they have found a way to deal with that. Getting angry is counterproductive ~ they don’t get to their destination any sooner… so they crack jokes instead!
One day, a reporter was waiting at LAX to interview them upon arrival. They had each missed a flight en route, and were tired from an extended period of constant travel.
They said hello to the reporter… so far, so good. And then they started cracking each other up. They proceeded to give the reporter the other guy’s name!
So the reporter became confused and freaked out. No interview. Feeling upset, she called her editor, who then called Ax and Ma’s management in New York!
The manager told them they had to reschedule the interview. And so it goes. It happens. 😉