Being a freelance musician can often prove to be a challenging role with the many hats we are required to wear, such as teacher, administrator, business owner, performer and mentor. In my experience juggling these many tasks can become rather overwhelming at times as it does not rain with the seasonal nature of our work, it pours! One very small change I have made over the past 6 months which has made a world of difference to how I operate my business is to hire a Virtual Assistant through Upwork to take on my ‘muckwork’ in Derek Sivers’ words, ie. my administration. Through the use of smarter software combined with the super-skills of my wonderful team of assistants, my administration which previously took hours of my time is all taken care of for me. Seemingly simple tasks such as invoicing, scheduling, marketing and reminders which used to be very time-consuming are all managed for the price it takes me to teach approximately one extra student a week. Having traded an hours-worth of my weekly pay freed up at least an extra 5-10 hours a week worth of my time to someone who is ultimately more efficient and patient with getting this stuff done has allowed me to have a significantly clearer mind and time to take on more meaningful work, both teaching and performance work AND practice more! At the end of the day, to be the very best musicians we can be we need to be mindful and calm and well-practiced in our skills and this can often seem a burden when we are tired and frazzled from long days of teaching and admin, it’s no wonder creative practice can be left on the back burner and we can start to fizzle!
Being a sole business owner as well as a peripatetic teacher in multiple schools is quite a common advocate for the music teaching structure within Australia. One of the greatest challenge for those teaching instrumental music in a school is scheduling against a myriad of competing curricular commitments within the school day, albeit daily classes, excursions, tests, sports or other specialist subjects. In order to avoid missing critical content, students lessons are often scheduled in a rotating roster in attempts to prevent the student from missing the same class each week. When a student is unable to leave a class for their instrumental lesson due to unforeseen circumstances it can create a lot of work to make a swap with another student or multiple students at short notice. There is no software I know of at this stage which can provide the algorithms required to create such complex swaps in the schedule so this is yet another skill my Virtual Assistant can help with. Sometimes shifting one student in the schedule can create a series of at least 5 emails depending on the day, which would take me nearly the same amount of time to to teach this amount of students as it would to personally contact and wait for responses from each family as well as the school. This has lifted a huge weight off my mind which allows me to have the mental space to simply teach with complete focus. I have conversed with many friends and colleagues who are in a similar boat who find this aspect of instrumental teaching a real burden, especially with the more students they teach.
One aspect of outsourcing that has taken a lot of time to develop is training my staff with the appropriate skills and giving them the context of the industry that we work in so they are able to most effectively deliver the services we require to the highest possible standards. If anybody is interested in taking on a Virtual Assistant for these tasks using staff who have already acquired these skills, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Play Well Perth to arrange a consult as it will save you a lot of time and headache in getting started. It is a change I am grateful for as it has allowed me so much more freedom to work with other musicians, work on new projects, spend more time with my family and friends, make more income and improve my mental health and wellbeing at such a low cost.
What do you think… What kinds of things could you do with an extra 5-10 hours a week, more income and a clearer mind?
Let me know your thoughts below.