New to the profession?

By Kate Cole  -  04 February 2015

So youve just graduated from music college and are entering the exciting and daunting world of professional music.  What now?  Ive been freelancing for nearly four years and Ive come up with some top tipsto remember.  Ive made my share of mistakes along the way, so I hope this will help you avoid some of the pitfalls.  Good luck!

The lovely Kate practising hard...

1) Learn how to take rejection and criticism: Can anything compare to the anguish of a bad audition?  Or being told youre no longer on a trial for a job you were dying to get?  When I first started trialling and auditioning, I took each rejection so personally and every one was a little wound I carried around with me.  It was really damaging to my confidence and its taken me a long time to get over.  I try to remember that each setback is a learning opportunity, so I always ask for feedback in order to turn a negative into a positive.

2) Be proactive:  Contact professionals you admire for extra work auditions and lessons, audition for every job that comes up, and send your CV to freelance orchestras. When I left college, I made it a rule to dedicate at least one day a week to professional development and it really helped.

3) Keep taking lessons:  You’ve finished music college, but this doesnt mean you’ve finished growing and developing as a player.  One lesson with a really great teacher is worth weeks of practicing on your own, and can give you insight into the profession that you wouldnt have without them. Believe me, its more than worth the money.  

4) Treat what you do like a job:  Youre an artist, but you still have to do normal stuff like administration and taxes.  Speaking of taxes, KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. Youll thank me next January.

5) Triple check your diary:  It can be really tricky to keep track of a busy schedule, but believe me, you never want to get the phone call from a fixer asking, Where are you?. I still get nightmares about the time it happened to me. Do whatever it takes to be organised and on time.  

6) Use your free time well:  Youre always preparing for your next big gig, even if you havent been booked for it yet.  Its incredibly disheartening to look ahead at an empty diary and can make it really difficult to find motivation, but remember that you could get a last-minute call at any moment, so keep practising!

7) Use social media for good not evil:  Do promote events, cheer your friends on, and share cat videos. Dont surreptitiously brag.  No one likes a clanger!

8) Dont compare yourself with others: There will always be someone doing better than you. The sooner you make peace with that, the happier youll be.

9) Value your time:  So youve had a slow month and someone asks you to do a two day patch of work, but theyre offering very bad money . What do you do?  This is tricky, because we all need to pay the bills, but its important to look at the big picture when it comes to low-paid gigs.  If its a favour for a friend or a project you care about, go ahead and take it! Remember though, that some people take advantage of young musicians by offering very low fees.  This is exploitative and it hurts the profession.  Youre better off getting some private pupils and using that time to practise. 

10) Remember why you became a musician in the first place: Youre pursuing this career because you love music and cant imagine a life without it.  Most of the remuneration you get from this career will not be monetary.  Foreign travel, impromptu drunken chamber music evenings, and lazy Monday mornings - these are some of the experiences that make it all worth it. Be grateful for what you have, dont dwell on what you dont.

Kate Cole is a London-based freelance violinist who graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2012

About Kate Cole

Kate Cole, graduate of the Royal Academy of Music is a London-based freelance violinist making it out there in the world of music...

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