Life as a Freelance Guitarist

"So...ummm...what do you actually do all day?"

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that question, I'd have at least a fistfull of singles.

Yes, it can be tiresome having the same conversation over and over with different people...but the question is certainly justifiable.

We all know the gist of what an accountant, web designer, doctor, etc. does at work. But the daily work of a self-employed, freelance guitarist is a bit of a mystery to most.

This is my answer for any of you who wonder what I do all day.

*NOTE: I'm just one of thousands of freelance guitarists, and we all have our own niches, schedules and income streams. That said, here's my take.

What I'm Doing Today

The first and most obvious answer to the question of what I do everyday is to tell you what I'm doing today. Here goes...

  • Like most other working folks, I started this morning with a cup (or 4) of coffee, checking emails and catching up on a few blogs I follow.
  • The next hour I recorded an acoustic track for a songwriter in Chattanooga. Listened to the work tape, wrote a quick chart, played it down, exported/emailed the audio file.
  • Next I invoiced the songwriter for my recording.
  • Once paid, I logged the income on a google doc that tracks all my income and business expenses. Then I transferred a percentage of income to a savings account I use to delineate tax withholdings. (This keeps me from spending it and earns me a little interest till I have to pay out).
  • Spent about an hour doing some online marketing for my remote session work.
  • Shower. Lunch.
  • The afternoon will be spent writing this article, rehearsing some tunes for this weekend, practicing and doing a little work around the house.

    This is a pretty typical day at home. Making some music, learning some music, marketing, bookkeeping, drinking coffee.

    Other Things I Do

    One of the greatest benefits (in my own estimation) of being a freelance musician is the variety of schedule and work I get to do. Here are some other things I get to do for my job.

  • Teach. A couple days a week I teach guitar lessons. Most students I teach via skype/facetime. I love it.
  • Play Gigs. Most gigs recently (and upcoming) are out of town. Traveling is always an adventure - sometimes that's good, sometimes not so good. I play lots of worship events (conferences, retreats, church services), back up singer/songwriters, the occasional restaurant gig...the usual.
  • Create online content. Whether it's writing tips or articles for this site or creating videos for my youtube channel, it's all part of the job.
  • Study. I'm always learning. For one, musicians who stop learning inevitably have short careers. Secondly, I owe it to my students. Third, I can't help it. Active listening, watching musical videos, reading blogs and books about music and recording, working through instructional materials...it's all part of how I continually educate myself.
  • Gear Upkeep. There's always something that needs to be done...strings need changing, amps need upkeep, tones need tweaking, etc. Of course, I also do my fair share of gear lusting and dreaming up the layout of my dream rig.
  • Writing/Arranging. I try to spend time at least semi-regularly writing music and/or arranging tunes for guitar.
  • Practicing. I mentioned it above as something I'm doing today, but I feel the need to mention it again. Practicing is a dirty word for some people, but it shouldn't be. I define practice as any musical activity which fosters improvement. This broad definition includes everything from learning songs to listening, recording, going to concerts, experimenting with effects, etc. Sit with your instrument. Explore. Ask "what if...?"
  • Random other things. Email, text, call, meet up with other people. (This industry is all about relationships after all.) Go to concerts. Create and/or edit charts and lead sheets. Go to rehearsals.

    At this point in time, this is the majority of what I do. Six months from now that may be drastically different. That's the fun of it!

    Hopefully this will answer some of your questions about the mysterious life of a freelance guitarist. Not as exciting as you'd hoped? Sorry ;)

    Question: Is there anything else you'd like to know about the day to day life of a freelance musician? Leave a comment below. Or, if you're a freelance guitarist yourself, add your 2 cents to the comments. I'm sure we'd all love to hear your take!


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