Once you’ve decided to not be a stereotypical musician, the next step is to move toward financial stability and freedom. To do this, you need to start your own business as a musician. And to do this, you need to first get a business license.
While this seems like an obvious choice, I know of many musicians who work “under the table.” Moral judgments aside, this isn’t a smart move. It may lead to short-term profit, but it keeps you from developing as a businessperson – which, like it or not, is a crucial part of being a musician. If you get smart about deductions, you don’t have to pay that much in taxes anyways.
What’s more, if you aren’t paying taxes, you probably aren’t keeping track of your finances – which is a recipe for disaster. Just as the person who never steps on the scale can convince themselves that they aren’t gaining any weight, the musician who never does bookkeeping can convince themselves that they aren’t sinking further and further into financial trouble.
I can only speak for Washington State, but for me, the process was easy. I Googled “Washington Business License,” selected “Sole Proprietor” status in my own name (which I recommend for most musicians – you can always change it), and paid the fee (I think it was around $20). I don’t even need to renew my license annually – it’s that simple.
Getting my business license was a major turning point for me. I went from listing my employment status as “Student” (code for “Depressingly Under-Employed”) to “Self-Employed.” I still had a lot of work ahead of me (I’ll get to that in later posts), but I finally felt on-track to achieving my professional goals.
See here for a full list of “Life-Ready Musician” posts.