By Nicole Ng
Being a freelance collaborative artist brings new adventures and excitement with every week. Sometimes, it can be hectic juggling my part-time jobs (piano and swim teaching) with university studies, time with family and friends, and most importantly, self-care. However, if you let yourself enjoy the ride, it is heaps of fun and definitely worthwhile.
So, here are seven pieces of advice on being a freelance collaborative artist!
1. Check your availability and schedule in your calendar before accepting collaborative work
Whenever an opportunity is presented to me, I always want to say, “Yes, yes, and yes!” While that is a great attitude to have, you should always check your schedule and availability in your calendar first. That’s the most important thing. You never know, you might double book yourself or have the possibility to over fill your workload. That’s the last thing you want to do. Trust me, I’ve been there! It gets messy and stressful, which brings me to my next point…
2. It’s okay to say no.
This ties in perfectly with my first tip. I consider self-care extremely important, and before accepting work, I always check with myself if this opportunity will be okay for me to handle during a busy period of my studies. Make sure you ask yourself if it’s going to over fill your plate (emotionally, physically and mentally), and remember to question the difficulty of the work itself.
3. Find your niche by saying yes when an opportunity has been presented to you, or to a discovery you have found.
Yes, I know. This is totally the opposite from my second point, but that was how I found my specialisation and passion. If I discover some work that interests me, or an opportunity falls in my lap and I’m available, I go for it. Rarely, collaborative work clashes with my part-time job or studies. If so, I always consider and have a good think about it when I believe it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are collaborative positions out there that are in high demand! For instance, working as an associate artist in an orchestra for a dance company, being a dance accompanist, orchestral pianist work, to name a few! You may be surprised on what’s out there when you ask around or search for opportunities.
4. Give it your all and do your best! But most of all, enjoy the ride!
Showing your deep love and passion for collaborating with others will spread like a happy, contagious disease. This can be as simple as having fun while making music with others. As my mum would say to me, “Be humble, and enjoy what you do. It’s a special moment to share with.” By you giving a 100% with fantastic customer service, being a reliable, organised worker, practicing your part well, and obtaining great performance results, there will be a possibility that you’ll get asked to work with them again.
5. Paid job? Try not to under sell yourself, especially when it’s a last-minute job. Trust your worth.
The best example that I would think of is when I’m accompanying a student for their music examination or audition – collaborative work within my own service/self-company. In retrospect, setting up my own associate artist fees wasn’t easy at first. I’m sure others can relate as well. To be honest, I started with $50 an hour for rehearsals and for accompanying on the day of their examination. Then, when I was feeling confident in my collaborative skills, experience and worth, I began to increase my fees. * At the moment, I’m sitting at around $75 an hour for rehearsals and for accompanying day on their examination. I also charge last-minute fees, which is $10 more than what I charge normally. ** However, if there’s a set fee they (a company or parish players) pay artists, then I’d have to roll with it.
*This also includes obtaining my Bachelor of Music degree (university qualifications, or other qualifications).
**I know some collaborative artists may or may not charge last-minute fees. But it’s personally up to you. I have last-minute fees mainly because I juggle with teaching, university studies and personal wellbeing and health.
6. Practice makes perfect, so try and keep practicing your artistry skills and knowledge!
I believe it’s always great to keep building and developing your collaborative experience and skills. What I usually do is, practice sight-reading, improvise and jam every now and then, help a colleague or friend out if they are doing a concerto or play a fun duet together. Be curious and explore different forms of chamber repertoire and solo repertoire. If there’s some music sheet lying around in a practice room, take it as an opportunity to discover something new. Become practiced at transposing from concert pitch to other keys for orchestral instruments. This is useful when working with younger students for their music examination. For instance, when expressing how they can develop their musical ideas, or correcting their intonation and pitch at a particular bar.
7. Advertise your work by using social media platforms, your own website, or simply talk about it with others (friends, colleagues, networking events, etc).
We’re now living at a point where we can easily share with others through social media platforms. It’s accessible and simple to use! There are various of ways you can connect with your intended prospective audience such as Instagram, Facebook Page, LinkedIn, and more.
Here’s how I show my work with others through social media and other platforms through with its intentions:
Instagram – Casual insight into my career, studies and life. It’s my all-time favourite social media platform to use!
Facebook Page – Formal and professional insight into my career and performances
LinkedIn – Formal insight of my career and forming connections with colleagues in a professional way.
Blog – Written outlook into my career, studies and life
Website – I’m currently working on it and planning to use it as a professional outlook into my career, studies, performances and life, connecting with my social media platforms in one.
There are other social media platforms such as TikTok, if you’d like to engage with younger audience with dank musician memes. TwoSet Violin are sure hitting the streaks now.
Another way you can engage with people about your work is by talking about it. It doesn’t have to be all fancy, but rather a casual, interesting outlook into what you do. Take it as short snapshot of your profession. For instance, I was having a small conversation with a lady at a gym I go to, and she was interested in my work and wanted to keep in touch.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/nicole.ng.pianist/
Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/nicolehng/
WordPress Page: https://adventuretimewiththemuso.wordpress.com