How to build your network by turning down gigs (seriously)

d9fwnzushr0-adamara-1I wanted to pull my hair out.

I had just opened up my email to see a gig from one of the ensembles that I had been trying to get my foot in the door with for years.

But there was just one problem…

I was already booked on the day of the concert and couldn’t do the gig.

Of course this opportunity came on a date that I was already booked.

Every time I looked at my calendar it got even more frustrating, because I was literally free for every rehearsal, but just couldn’t make the concert.

Heck, I was even free every other weekend that entire month.

That’s why I wanted to pull my hair out.

If you’re a fellow freelance musician, you’ve probably experienced this before and know how frustrating it can be to turn down gigs.

I used to get really bummed out by this until one day I realized that I could actually use this as a huge opportunity for myself.

It’s just a fact of life for freelancers that you can’t do every gig.

Most people will just reply and say they can’t do it.

But I want to share a strategy you can use next time this happens to you, so that you can turn what could be a major bummer into a big opportunity to build your network.

Always recommend other players to take your place

The biggest mistake you can make in this situation is to simply turn down the gig.

Instead, you should turn down the gig AND take this opportunity to recommend other freelancers who can take your place.

This accomplishes two things:

  1. You help out the contractor

By offering them some other names they can try, you are helping out the contractor.

The reality of contracting is that sometimes you find yourself reaching out to tons of people you don’t know in an effort to fill the gig.

This can be a lot more difficult than it sounds.

It can be a major pain when you have to track down people’s names and their contact information, especially if you’re not even sure that they’re a good fit for the gig.

When you go out of your way to help out the contractor, they will remember you.

Trust me on this.

As someone who does a fair amount of contracting work, I can tell you that even if I don’t need the names, I always remember when someone tries to help me out.

They have to hire someone anyway, so you may as well try to help them out.

The contractor will likely remember you helped them out and just might reach out to you the next time (even if you didn’t even play).

  1.  You create opportunities for your peers

If there are people in your area that you would love to connect with but have never had the chance to meet, this is a great way to put your name on their radar.

Every freelancer wants more gigs.

By passing along their name to a contractor, you just might get them a gig they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

If you can get them a gig, they just might want to return the favor by passing work your way.

We naturally want to reciprocate good deeds to others who do things for us, so use that to your advantage.

You don’t even have to have met them to recommend them.

Just find out who the working freelancers are in your area and recommend them to contractors every time you have to turn down a gig.

By being someone that is adding value to both the contractor and your peers, you will find that more people will want to work with you in the future.  (<—click to tweet)

Everybody wins.

Exactly what to say when you turn down the gig

OK, let’s talk about how to actually do this.

I’ve been doing this for several years now and have seen time and time again how powerful this can be for building a network with other musicians, so I want to share with you exactly how to do this.

After turning down more gigs than I care to think about, I developed a script that can be used for just about any situation.

Here’s an exact script you can use next time you turn down a gig:

Hi contractor that contacted you,

Thank you so much for reaching out, but unfortunately I’m not available to play this time around.

In case you need any help filling the spot, I highly recommend the following people:

Name­­­ – email address

Name – ­­­email address

Name­­­ – email address

Name – ­­­email address

Name­­­ – email address

Feel free to let them know that I sent you their way. Any of them would be a great fit for this opportunity and would do a great job.

Thanks again for reaching out to me and I hope you’ll keep me in mind for future opportunities.

-­Your name here

That’s it.

Those few lines have helped me dramatically grow my network while also generating countless gigs over the years.

If you use this script each time you have to turn down a gig, you too will grow your network and hopefully avoid wanting to pull your hair out.

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