For the past few weeks, I’ve been frantically trying to finish the first volume of Gig-Ready Jazz Bassist, do as much research as I can on freelancing/jazz/practicing, and still keep up with my current gigs/practices/teaching. In spite of the mostly radio-silence on both sites, I’ve been thinking a lot about the goal and format of each one. Specifically, I’ve had to ask myself, “What do I mean by versatile practice?” In a nutshell – practices are versatile when they function as both forms of personal development and the basis of a successful and fulfilling freelance career.
Backing up a bit, I define practice as “consistent, structured learning.” By learning, I mean “the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes leading to some sort of concrete change and/or improvement.” (My personal apologies this highly-academic-sounding paragraph…)
There are a lot of things that make practice(s) versatile, such as being transferable (getting good in one thing helps you get better in others) and self-directed (you’re the one calling the shots). However, I’m specifically focused on practice as a way to bridge the frequent gap between personally-rewarding activities and a successful freelance career.
The way I see it, there are two basic ways to monetize practice:
- Offer a product or service that requires extensive practice and for which many people don’t have the time/inclination for said practice (ex. playing a wedding or party for non-musicians, selling a handmade item to a non-crafting enthusiast, etc.)
- Offer a product or service based on your extensive practice that helps current or would-be practitioners optimize and streamline their own practice (ex. teaching a yoga class to interested, but busy people; offering a workshop or clinic to help musicians acquire a specific practice skill, etc.)
Based on my experiences, I would argue that the second way is increasingly in-demand. There will always be some need for the first, but it’s unwise to rely on that alone. We’re becoming a society where the ability to practice is a valuable commodity – it means we can be focused, patient, and disciplined. It also means we’re developing abilities that can never be replaced by a machine. But it also means that there’s a lot more competition from other practitioners.
I’m still trying to figure out how to translate these ideas into a core message for this blog, but here are a few random thoughts:
- To be a successful freelancer, you need to have one primary practice that is highly distinct (mine is jazz bass) and a portfolio of auxiliary practices which, in combination, are highly distinct (mine include hot yoga, cross-stitch, and making comics)
- Once you do this, you need to find potential clients/customers who’s auxiliary interest is your primary one and offer instructional products/services
- If you’re going to offer these products/services, then one of your auxiliary practices needs to be instructional design – and I happen to know a very good instructional designer (This is a roundabout way of saying that I’m trying to rope my mom into designing instructional design guides for freelancers/practitioners/instructors)