Musicians are in a very fortunate position. They’re able to create art without the limitations of a company hanging over their heads and breathing down their necks. This flexibility, however, comes at the cost of running your own business. Being a musician is a business, and so is a freelancer, as most musicians are.
2023 is right around the corner! 2022 went so quick, and so much was accomplished this year but that doesn’t mean the momentum should slow down in 2023. Why not keep that momentum going far into 2023?
There’s a lot that goes into running a freelancer business, so that’s why we’ve compiled this list for all of our freelancing musicians and creatives out there.
In this article we’ll discuss 15 tasks and habits musicians should start or finish before 2023.
Let’s get started.
1. Organize your expenses and income for tax season
As a freelance musician, you should be keeping detailed inventory on every expense and stream of income you have for taxes. The first step is to gather all the necessary information–like receipts and invoices–that you need before you start filling out any forms or creating new documents. You will want to find out how much money you made from playing shows, selling CDs, and other sources of income as well as what expenses you had during the year.
We know invoices are a pain in the butt, but if you’ve completed work this year but haven’t been paid for it, follow up. Try and get that invoice paid so you can include in 2022’s taxes so you can get started on a clean slate in 2023.
There are a lot of tax preparation companies out there, as well as online options like TurboTax. If you have any tax-specific questions, contact a local CPA.
The IRS offers a variety of tools for tax preparation, too. You can visit the IRS website to take advantage of these tools. If you have any questions about your taxes, you can also call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
2. Finalize any contracts or paperwork
Do you have any contracts or paperwork that you need to sign? Are any of them contracts for work? If so, you may want to review them and get them signed before the new year.
Dealing with contracts and paperwork now will allow you more time in the new year to get started on work and hit the ground runnin’.
If anything needs to be reviewed by your attorney, be sure to send it to them for review.
If you know you’ve received paperwork throughout the year that needs your attention, get to it now. Take the time to go through your email and find them so you’re not wasting time in the new year doing this. Sign up and get started with us here.
3. Cue up songs for distribution
How many songs did you finish but not release this year? Are there any you would like to release in the coming year? Get them cued up for distribution. The songs aren’t and won’t do any good just sitting on your external hard drive. Get them out into the world because you may be surprised at how people react to them.
What songs are you planning to release next year? Are they cued up for distribution? Can they be? If so, get them cued up and enter them into your metadata spreadsheet. That way you’ll have your ISRCs, UPCs, ISWCs, etc, all ready to go. And then you’ll be able to focus on the marketing of each track, EP, or album instead of worrying about distribution.
Jamvana is a music services company that offers music distribution. We are a Spotify-preferred distributor and have direct deals with more than 100 other digital service providers around the world. We also offer a number of other state-of-the-art tools to get your music career off the ground.
4. Get clear on what success looks like for you
Success is not always about making the most money. For some, it is about being able to perform for an audience. For others, success means the ability to make a living off of their music. The key to defining success is figuring out what you want and how you can get there.
For example, if you want to start a band and make money off of it, you should consider how much money that band can potentially make. You can also define success in terms of what the members of your band would like to do.
You may also want to focus on another pillar of your music business, such as touring, sync licensing, or creating more social media content. Each of these will require a number of hours in planning, development, and resources.
Define what success looks like for you and create goals that help you achieve success.
5. Make a list of all the goals for 2023
It is important to set goals for yourself. This will help you achieve your goals and also help you stay motivated.
It is also important to make a list of professional goals, not just personal ones. In order to have a successful career, one must be able to set and achieve professional goals that are in line with their career aspirations.
The best way to keep track of the progress on your goal is by making a list, either in a paper journal or electronically. One should write down what they hope to accomplish by the end of the year and then break it down into monthly increments with specific tasks that need to be completed each month in order for them to reach their goal.
6. Write down every project you have on your plate
Managing multiple projects can be difficult for musicians. However, it is important to take the time to plan and organize your projects so that you can avoid any pitfalls during the new year. This is where project management comes in handy.
Project management software is often used by musicians to help them manage their work and assignments. It helps them stay on track and meet deadlines efficiently. It also helps them prioritize their tasks better and allocate time more efficiently.
Some of the best project management tools are Slack, Asana, and Trello. There are many more, so you should do your research to find the best tools and workflow for you and your team.
7. Upgrade your equipment
With the changing times, it is important to maintain and/or upgrade your equipment. It is necessary to keep up with the latest technology and trends as well as make sure you’re providing the highest quality sound possible for your music as well as your clients.
The new musical instruments, software, and hardware available on the market are better than ever before so the brand of hardware that you purchase is personal preference.
The following are some of the benefits of upgrading your equipment:
- Musicians can now create music with high quality sound
- Musicians can now produce music with sounds that have never been heard before
- With upgraded gear, musicians can experiment more and be more creative in their process
With Christmas just around the corner, new audio gear is always a good gift for a fellow musician.
8. Start or continue to learn music production
Musicians should always work to remain educated and current on all happenings in the music business. Reading publications like Billboard, Rolling Stone, and Variety are good starts for keeping up with the latest music business news.
If you’re looking to learn new music production skills, there are a plethora of creators out there that publish easy-to-follow, affordable courses to learn new skills such as mixing, mastering, songwriting, and production.
You can also check out platforms like MasterClass, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare for music-related courses.
Constantly refining your skills is vital if you want to remain fresh and resilient in such a cut-throat business.
9. Learn a new instrument
Learning an instrument can be a rewarding experience. It is also a great way to learn more about the world and how it works. Learning a new instrument will help inspire new musical ideas, too.
The most rewarding instruments to learn are the ones that require more effort and time but offer a greater payoff in the end.
Some of the most rewarding and in-demand instruments are:
- Bass Guitar
10. Practice time management skills and find a balance between work and leisure time
A lot of musicians are stressed out because they don’t manage their time well. They always feel like they don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done, and that causes unnecessary stress.
It’s important to learn how to manage your time wisely so that you can be more productive at work and have more free time for yourself.
Here are a few tips to help with time management:
- Eat breakfast: Seriously. Don’t skip the most important meal of the day. There’s nothing worse than trying to create and your stomach hurts because you haven’t eaten.
- Time block: This is a bit of a life hack if you ask me. Open up your calendar and put in 25-minute blocks of time that you’re going to work. Research has shown that not many people do this, but it can significantly boost productivity. In the few hours that you block off for, say, music, set a timer. 25-minutes of hard, no-distraction work, then take a 5-minute break. Rinse and repeat. Do this for 2-3 hours, then take a longer break.
- No heavy personal planning: I’ve noticed that when I start trying to plan out what I’m doing for the weekend or getting excited about a future trip, for example, I get yanked out of my creative workflow and find it difficult to get back on track. Save the personal planning for non-work hours—and time block it so it gets done when it’s supposed to and doesn’t bleed into your work.
- Write down goals for the day: Daily goals can be really helpful for when you have a long to-do list of small things to get done. Sit down, knock ‘em all out, and do it again the next day. There is nothing more satisfying than putting a big line or check mark next to something you’ve accomplished!
11. Learn to use social media platforms to promote yourself as a musician
In this day and age, social media is a vital marketing tool for any musician. It can be used to promote your music and shows. It’s also a great way to build your fan base and community.
There are many strategies that you can use as a musician on social media platforms to help promote yourself. You should start by identifying where your audience is most likely to be found on social media, then create an account on those platforms and start engaging with them.
For example, if you have a large following on Instagram but not so much on TikTok, focus more of your time there. You should also think about what kind of content you want to share – do you want it to be personal or professional? What kind of tone do you want it to have?
The best rule you can follow is to be your true, authentic self online.
12. Take care of your mental health by practicing effective self-care strategies
Self-care is a crucial part of being a musician. Musicians are often faced with a lot of stress and anxiety, which can lead to mental health problems.
The music industry has, to some degree, realized the importance of self-care. More and more musicians are being more open about their mental and physical health, reducing the stigma of taking time to care for yourself.
Remember, it’s okay to not be okay.
Some self-care tips for musicians that will help them take care of their mental health and wellness:
- Eat healthy food and drink lots of water
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep well
- Spend time with friends and family
- Get enough sunshine
- Take breaks and as much time off as you need… seriously.
13. Find and follow a routine for self-development
Self-development is an important part of creativity and musicians should take the time to develop themselves in order to be able to create new music.
Developing a routine for self-development can help the musician find more time for creative work.
Some routines are:
- Take care of your mind and body with healthy food, sleep, and exercise
- Spend time with people who inspire you
- Find a creative project that excites you (e.g.: writing a song)
- Find a hobby that’s not music-related so you don’t get exhausted from constantly thinking about music
14. Find what’s holding you back from being more productive or creative
It is important for musicians to take time for self-reflection and find out what’s holding them back from being more productive or creative. It could be anything from a negative mindset to lack of inspiration, or something deeper.
Self-reflection is one of the most important things that a musician can do in order to improve their skills. The first step is to identify what’s holding you back and then take steps towards overcoming it.
For example, if the violinist wants to become a top level violin player, they might need to take lessons from a private teacher. They may have tried learning violin on their own but struggled to do so because of the lack of structure and inability to ask questions. Getting frustrated and struggling to learn something that’s supposed to be fun may be what’s adding stress to your creative process. Taking violin lessons from a private instructor may help alleviate this.
15. Build a network of people who will support you on this journey
It is important to surround yourself with people who will support you on this journey. This can be your family and friends, but also other musicians who have had success and understand what you’re going through better than anybody else. It is also important to go to industry networking events where you can meet people in the industry and find out what they are doing. This will help keep your inspiration and motivation up.
The end of the year is always a stressful time for musicians and creatives, especially for those that freelance their work. Chasing invoices and following up on money is difficult, but when that snowballs into something bigger at a time that is not as convenient it becomes overwhelming. So, cue up those songs for distribution, follow up on any unpaid invoices, and start building good new habits and routines.
Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below!