Back to School Freelancing Tips to Help Students Get Their Careers Started This Year!

bag-and-handsIt’s that time of the year again!

School is starting back up and I want to help all you music students out there make this the year that you really get your freelancing career off the ground.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to start doing some gigging in your local music scene this year and I’m going to show you some things to help make it happen.

I’m going to give a nice little mix of ideas, strategies, and even specific tactics, but first I want to address the one thing that will make or break you in your quest to get out of the practice room and on to the freelance circuit.


Ditch the excuses.

I promise it’s not a personal attack on anyone, but if you ask some of your colleagues at school why they don’t put forth the effort to get themselves out there, you’ll likely hear something like:

“I don’t have any time.”

“I’m not ready to start freelancing.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

Any of that sound familiar?  

The most important thing you can do is make the conscious decision to make this a priority and dedicate a little bit your time and energy to getting started.

If you do that, I can pretty much guarantee you will start making some progress.

1.  Be Proactive

The biggest mistake you can ever make as a freelancer is waiting around for opportunities to present themselves.

Take a look around at your colleagues.

I suspect that you’ll see that the ones that are putting themselves out there are working while everyone else is waiting for the phone to ring.

I can tell you from personal experience as a contractor that nobody does this.

Remember this:  Every contractor needs to know who is playing in town so that they can do their job.  

You can be the solution to their problem.

2.  Get to know the players in town

The secret sauce of freelancing is knowing who is playing in town.

Most gigs (especially when you’re getting started) come from recommendations given by folks around your area.

You’ll often hear people say “it’s all about who you know” and this is definitely true, but I think it’s important to make the distinction that it’s really all about who you have a great relationship with.

People want to work/hire people they like working with.  Period.

I’ve talked about networking before, but from the pespective of a student, here a just a few people that you should absolutely, 100%, no excuses, reach out to and let them know that you’re looking to get started freelancing:

  • Your teachers (don’t forget that they’re likely freelancers too)
  • Your teacher’s friends
  • Your teacher’s former students that are in the area
  • The local freelancers
  • Contractors

Be observant and you’ll start figuring out who you should meet

Friend them on Facebook, email them, go to their gigs and say hello (nobody does this, I promise), take a lesson with them, or anything else.

If you don’t know what to say, click here.

If you want to get started as a freelancer, get outside of the practice room and start meeting people in town that are working.

Pro Tip:  The best way to get in with the local freelancers is to pass them a gig, even before you have met them.  Even if they can’t take the gig, they will appreciate that you thought of them and might even return the favor!

3.  Ask for help

Students have a unique position in the freelancing world because people inherently want to help students get started.

Everybody in the freelancing game was starting out at one point and remembers exactly what it’s like.

With this in mind, don’t be shy about asking for help.

If you need advice, ask.

If you’re not sure what to charge for a gig, ask someone.

Really if you have any questions, just ask.

The worst thing someone will tell you is no.

It can be a tough world to take on by yourself so make sure you take advantage of every opportunity for some guidance (especially while you still have the student status).

Just a quick little sidenote here, I recently learned a huge lesson about the value of networking and maintaining good relationships.

You have to build your network before you need it.

Busy freelancing careers take years to build and while you’re in the school is the absolute best time to get started.

Transitioning from life as a student to professional is so. much. easier. when you’ve got a foundation already in place to build on.

Good luck this year and if you have any questions, please comment below or send me a note.  

I just got off a Google Hangout yesterday with a reader and I absolutely loved it so I plan on doing much more of that in the the future so please don’t be shy and send me a message!

Now get off the computer and get to work!  🙂