Your Freelance Blueprint

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By: Michael Attaway of Providence Brass


I can remember being in college pursuing a music degree, and I was scared to death of entering the music field. Why?  I knew that orchestra jobs are competitive, and I had no idea how to support myself outside of a tradition job.  Do you relate?  The “real world” can be scary, but you can earn a good living as a freelance musician if you have a “blueprint” for that type of career.

There are 5 common sources of income for the average freelance musician:

1.  Private Teaching

2.  Church gigs

3.  Weddings

4.  Subbing with local professional ensembles

5.  Part-time jobs with ensembles


Private Teaching

Because I grew up with two parents that worked as teachers, I swore that I would NEVER become a teacher.  However, there are some major benefits to teaching privately:

1.  It is your most stable and predictable source of income.

2.  You get paid for the work that you do, so you can make as much or as little as you want.

3.  You are in control of your work schedule and can fit teaching around your various gigs.


How do you put together a sizable studio?

Contact local high school band programs or college music outreach departments, and see if they are hiring for your instrument.  Also, don’t forget about local music stores.  Many of them operate a music lesson program.


Church Gigs

Churches are awesome sources of jobs for musicians, because almost all of them include live music in their services.  These gigs are nice, because they can create a substantial increase in your salary around holidays (especially Christmas and Easter).  Also, many churches have a relaxed performance environment and can give young performers great performance experience.


How do you get these gigs?

The first place to start is talking to the music director at your current church (if you attend a church regularly).  Let him or her know that you are a professional musician and would be happy to play a free service for them to generate business.  Most churches would be happy to have a Sunday with free music.


Weddings (or other similar events)

These types of gigs are great, because they usually pay very well.  The only problem is that obtaining them can be unpredictable, because you are not in control of when people get married or hold events.  There are two sources that are useful in finding these gigs:

1.  The organist of the churches where you perform (another reason to develop church business).

2.  Local event or wedding planners (make sure you have a demo ready)


Subbing with Local Professional Ensembles

Acting as a sub in local ensembles can be a nice way to supplement your income.  Many times, these gigs pay very well, but this is the area of the “good old boys club.”  The way that you get hired for these gigs is simply by knowing the players in the group.  There are, however, a couple of tips for meeting these players:

1.  Take lessons from one of the members (you only have to take a few)

2.  Take the initiative and hire them for your gigs


Part-Time Jobs with Local Ensembles

These jobs are great, because they produce predictable income.  The only difficulty is the fact that the competition is fierce for these jobs.  There is really one way to get a job like this today, and that is from taking an open audition offered by the organization.


I’m sure there are other ways to create income that I am missing, but these five sources can help to create a stable and profitable freelance career.



Michael Attaway, a native of the Dallas area, started his trumpet studies at the age of eleven.  Since then, he has performed with some of the world’s finest musicians including Doc Severinson, members of The Juilliard School faculty, Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman, Jahja Ling, and many others. Michael currently mentors sixty trumpet students in the LD Bell and Trinity High School areas and regularly places students in the TMEA 5A High School All Region and All State ensembles.  He is a founding member of Providence Brass, a local professional brass quintet made up of some of the top musical talent in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  He is an active freelance musician and performs in venues across the metroplex.

You can follow his blog at

One Response to “Your Freelance Blueprint”

  1. I’m excited to be able to contribute to the site! If anyone has any additions or comments on the article, I’d love to hear your ideas.

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