Building a business around your passion is often portrayed as a difficult pipe dream. Yet how incredible does it sound to wake up and do what you love every single day — all while being paid handsomely for that work? I cannot imagine anyone saying “No” to that!
Fortunately, social media, e-commerce, and everything else about the connectivity of the internet has made this lifestyle much more attainable, erasing the need for labels and middlemen, and removing the authority of industry gatekeepers. Now, a music career can become a completely viable path when matched with a solid plan and consistent action towards your creative and business goals.
1. Know your offer.
First, you need to understand what you want to offer to your future clients. A great starting point is finding a middle ground between where you excel as an artist and what is marketable (i.e: what one can charge money for?).
Go out and ask your friends and family what they think makes you different as a musician. Ask what have been some of their favorite projects of yours or what hidden talents you may not be aware of; then ask these same people what skills you have that you could potentially charge for.
A great opening question could be “What topics do you usually come to me for when you need advice?” Write down 3-5 things that stand out and see which ones you could potentially create a business around. This can become your first offer and business idea to experiment around.
2. Share your work and create brand visibility.
Once you have decided on a business idea to roll with, the next step is to start creating content. We live in a content-rich and content-based age so sharing our work becomes essential to developing visibility. Fortunately short-form content is so popular these days that creating is now pretty sustainable.
Think about creating pieces around your business that you can share in about 15 – 30 seconds worth of video. Hint, people love content that is either funny, inspirational, or educational — and bonus points if it tells people more about your work process. It also pays to think analytically about who your audience is and where they typically consume content (i.e: platforms like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram).
Regularly sharing and posting your work — as well as content around your work — will deepen trust with your current audience and clients, and of course contribute to attracting and acquiring future clients.
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3. Build your infrastructure.
Next is building your system to provide your clients with the best possible experience. This means lining up exactly how your services work, how you will communicate and schedule with clients, how you will collect payment, and lastly your way of operating.
A great starting place is setting up both a website and a standard operating agreement. This level of professionalism will set you apart from the rest and will create an environment of safety and trust for your clients. Try to think of everything that could come up before you start offering your work (i.e: revision rates fees, do you take a deposit upfront, legal, royalties, etc.). Potential clients will ask you all of these questions and having it all locked in will have your clients love and respect working with you.
Everyone appreciates working with a solid and trustworthy professional. Keep the business operations neat, polished, and concise!
4. Develop a plan and execute.
Once you have your offer, some content and your infrastructure lined up, the next step is to build a plan as to how you will share your work and attract clients. Set a tangible goal to work towards — such as number of clients per month or a certain amount of income generated — and develop a system around that goal. Keep it light to start and easily achievable, respective to your current resources on time and income.
Then, most importantly, execute that plan of attack, giving yourself at least 4-6 months of consistency before you make any significant changes to your business plan. Building a music business is a slow burn and sometimes things won’t start moving until after a few weeks to several months, so I always encourage musicians to stick to their guns and only pivot if they see a glaring error in their process.
You can break this step down into three subcategories:
- Identifying your audience and where they consume content.
- Getting quality content in front of that audience.
- How you will accompany clients along your sales funnel (i.e: consultations, Zoom webinars, etc.).
One word of advice: DO NOT spend money on ads, especially if you are starting out. This leads perfectly into my final point.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “A Guide to Getting Music Production Clients.”
5. Collect feedback and adapt.
Revenue is the best feedback when it comes to the viability of a business. So is the number and consistency of your clientele. After you execute Step 4, look back and see if you’ve hit your goal.
Try to identify the action items that made the most significant difference in your work, as well as ones that may have been roadblocks. Look for the small things. Something as small as not including a “call to action” in a social post can lead to a ton of missed business. Identify what parts of your plan built your business, acted as a hindrance, and/or had a neutral effect (these can often be removed from your process).
From here you can then modify your current plan around this feedback, and that’s where adaptation comes in. During this process, it is vital to not take on any practices that could distort your findings. The big example here is money spent on advertising; ads are great to push an already incredible product but can be misrepresentative of your results if the business idea is weak. In other words, expect false positives.
How can you know if you have a strong idea if you are inorganically promoting it? Wait until you know your business idea is so good that it could thrive without an advertising campaign, then you can start spending money on marketing to scale up!
Also, on this point, make sure to not take anything personally. Results are not dependent upon your level of talent, but just on how well thought out and executed a plan is. There is always something we as musicians can offer that someone will throw money at us for.
There are, of course, many finer points to building a business in music, but most of them can still all be summarized into two things: action and learning. Like writing a song, building a business is an ongoing process. It will never stop and it will continue to evolve. I am still learning so much about this process but I’ve been able to create a healthily sustainable career out of doing what I love.
I personally cherish my creative lifestyle and can attribute it all to taking action, experimenting, and always looking at both the “failures” and “success” as learning lessons to be able to improve and refine my business. I wish for all creatives out there to live a life of abundance doing what they love.
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