Professional musicians, entrepreneurship, primadonna singers, and why you are stuck in your career

baby crying

stop whining about your career NOT progressing and do something about it!

Admittedly, this is, at least in part a RANT driven by frustrating conversations over the past 3 years. However, there is an underlying message here that you shouldn’t miss. It applies as much to musicians and artists as it does to new and experienced I.T. professionals..

Heck.. it applies to anyone who hopes to move their career forward.

Premise: Your fastest way to earn more money in a given professional area is to do it for FREE!!!!

There are those who disagree and I respect their right to have an opinion. I don’t respect the opinion because they are just wrong! DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM!!!

Scenario: The “I must be paid to perform because I am a professional” artist

Several years ago, I was referred to a vocal coach and performer who was frustrated with their personal career and wanted to move it forward. They have some talent. They had also spent a great deal of money recording a CD – with hired musicians, a producer, and professional mixing. They have nearly 3,000 copies of said CD.

These CD’s were mostly in boxes in her garage, collecting dust. I suggested she needed to get them and herself in front of people. Her response was that she was a “professional singer” and therefore needed to be paid for any engagement.

My thought was that the word “professional” had somehow changed definition to “foolishly stubborn”.

As we spoke about the situation more, it was revealed that, other than her vocal coaching, she had performed 2 times in the prior year as a paid performer. Twice!

I have to explain something.. if you are a professional eye doctor (insert any profession) and you do 2 eye exams over the course of the year, you are failing at your profession.

She is clearly not a “professional” singer.. she is a hobbyist who is sometimes paid to sing.

Later I approached her when my band was looking for a backing and shared lead vocalist. She said she could not refer any of her students because members of my band are not paid for every gig. She told me, her students want to be professionals. Ummm… you mean, like her – perform two times a year and have 3,000 drink coaster..er. CD’s in boxes?

It is true that those who perform with my band are “members.” ie: they are looking to build something and grow it – and reap a reward for doing so. This means, they are not paid unless we make money. Fair! Yes!

And they are professional – in demeanor, skill, and approach to music.

You see, until you are in enough demand, have grown your base, have proven your worth in the open market, whether computer professional, accountant, consultant, or building contractor, you will work for free or pennies. With the subjective nature of the arts, even more so.

I’ve coached many computer professional to go find an internship – pay is not the issue – opportunity is. You must trade pay for opportunity!

Being highly trained is not what makes you a professional.. being professional, intelligent, and proactive makes you a professional. Pay follows the functional application, it does not precede it.

If you wish to be a writer, write for FREE!

I get the same response from some writers who refuse to write for free. Foolish children, listen closely.. and this is NOT new. If you wish to write professionally, write for free, intelligently, and with a specific outcome in mind – ie: growing your platform and public awareness of your work.

I know many “writers” who got their degree in journalism or some other writing specific degree. They believe they should now be paid as writers. On the other hand, I’ve coached two WRITERS (truly writers because they wrote stuff) this year. Both got published and both have gotten paid for their work.

Imagine that.. While the “professionally trained” writers languish and complain about the lack of opportunity, the “entrepreneurial-minded,” proactive, write-for-free writers will get paid for their work.

Opportunity is NOT being taken advantage of!

I’ve gladly provided free and/or low-cost services in order to be given a project of my liking! I don’t consider it being taken advantage of by those who allow me the privilege of learning a new skill in a truly applied professional setting. I do so because I believe I can leverage that talent, experience, and those connections down the road.

Once, I was looking for an intern and got some strange responses. While I found a few, intelligent and proactive people to take on the work, I received “hate” email for taking advantage of people and not paying them.

Note to whoever believes free interning is taking advantage of people:

You are foolish beyond belief!

Interning is the fastest, most effective way, to open up doors, build your professional network, and create a portfolio of what you are capable of. Plus, I give those who intern with me, amazing knowledge and opportunity to learn new things – to apply what they’ve learned in theory (in school) and put it into actual practice. Quite frankly, and I am being sincere, I should be paid for the time and knowledge I give them.

Oh wait.. I am! They provide something of value – time and fledgling but developing talent. I provide opportunity and knowledge.

If you want to be a professional and move your career forward – singer, musician, artist, programmer, writer, actor, accountant, etc, – make sure the word “professional” is NOT a synonym for, “foolishly stubborn.”

Look for opportunity!

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

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