So, you’ve decided that hiring a musician coach wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
But what sort of qualities and qualifications should you look for in a musician coach?
If you know the following, it’s going to make the decision a lot easier.
So, ask yourself these questions when considering a musician coach:
Do They Ask Good Questions?
It may seem innocuous, but this is the most critical question you can ask.
A coach knows how to get out of their own way, listen attentively, and ask questions that change the way you see the world around you.
They will ask the questions you’re not asking, and by doing so, make you aware of blind spots, new perspectives, possibilities, opportunities, next steps, and more.
If your coach is doing all the talking, there’s something wrong. If they’re not asking questions, there’s something wrong. If they’re merely telling you what to do next, they still have much to learn.
A seasoned coach has had to generate results in situations where it was difficult if not impossible to do so. And they got there by asking powerful questions.
At the foundation of coaching is the ability to ask good questions.
Do They Have a Coach of Their Own?
The best coaches always have coaches of their own.
And if they don’t have a coach right this minute, they’re at least on a steady path of personal growth – reading articles and books, listening to podcasts, watching videos, taking courses, and generally investing in themselves and their knowledge.
If a coach doesn’t show any interest in self-development, they’re not going to make for a good coach.
Look for signs that they’re committed to being lifelong learners.
Do They Have a Website?
While creator economy apps like Koji are near omnipotent in their capabilities, the potential downside is that anyone can set up a free account, buy followers, and claim to be an expert on a topic.
A true coach might have a link in bio, but they wouldn’t balk at investing in the creation of their own regularly updated website. In fact, they would prioritize it.
Whether it’s domain names, web hosting, logo design, videos, blog posts, or otherwise, they’re not afraid to set forth the financial resources and time necessary to develop their brand.
A coach that’s invested in their online presence treats their job with a degree of seriousness others simply do not.
Do They Have a Book?
A book isn’t necessarily a requirement, but it does say something about a coach, namely that they’ve gone to the trouble of documenting their best tips and advice in written form.
Writing a book is a commitment. It’s at least 10 times the length of any term paper you’ve written in college.
A coach with a book better understands the dedication, discipline, and commitment required to make an album, because writing a book is just as extensive if not more so.
The other reason a book is valuable is because you can learn about the coach’s methodologies before even hiring them. At 20 bucks a pop, you really have nothing to lose.
Plus, if you take the time to read, you’ll be more committed to the process and get more out of the coaching. You’ll make for a better client, and that improves the coach-mentee relationship!
Do They Have Systems?
Sure, there are times when a coach needs to throw away the scripts, ditch the templates, abandon their methodologies, and get in the dirt with their clients.
We’re all human, after all!
But if a coach doesn’t at least have a battery of questions they use to better understand your circumstances and guide your next steps, are they honestly any better than an unpracticed bassist that “wings it” at a gig?
Coaches should have systems – be it video conferencing software (Zoom, Google Meet, or otherwise), PDF document templates, notes on their clients (along with a filing system), or otherwise.
You don’t want to be shooting from the hip as a client, and a coach shouldn’t be either! If they’re coaching you, they should be in the right environment with the right resources and processes to serve you to the best of their abilities.
Do They Have Demonstrated Results?
I need to say something that’s a little paradoxical here, but it is important.
A coach doesn’t necessarily have everything you want in life.
After all, they specialize in coaching, not in being a successful artist (that’s your job!).
They may have demonstrated results in their own career. It never hurts.
But what we’re talking about here is demonstrated results in the careers of others.
A coach needs to be able to help her clients first and foremost. If she can’t do that, it doesn’t matter what results she has in another area!
A coach always leaves his clients in a better position than where they started. Look for evidence of that.
Do They Have Quotes / Testimonials from Past Clients?
Quotes, testimonials, and reviews are always worth checking, and this goes hand in hand with demonstrated results.
There’s one major thing you should be aware of concerning social proof, though:
First is that even if a coach doesn’t have many reviews, it’s not necessarily a bad sign.
Ask yourself how many times you’ve left reviews on Amazon, Google, iTunes, or otherwise.
Unless it was a mind-blowingly amazing or mind numbingly horrendous experience, you probably aren’t compelled to leave a lot of reviews in the first place.
The point is – people don’t just hand out reviews like they’re candy, and even superb coaches don’t always have drawers full of references.
The other thing that’s good to be aware of is that reviews can and have been manufactured.
It sucks that I even need to bring it up, but some “coaches” out there claim to have taught fictional superheroes according to their website. Sorry, just no.
Obviously, the reviews you find on a coach’s website are going to be talking up the coach. No competent coach is going to use negative reviews on their site.
But complete fabrications are worth looking out for.
There are other questions you can ask to determine whether a coach is right for you, but the above should serve as an excellent starting point.
If they have a 15-minute free consultation or something of that nature, you could take advantage of that…
Or you could email or call them for more info as needed.
But don’t overthink it and let yourself get off the hook without deciding, that is, unless you want to go back to the rut, you’re trying to crawl your way out of.
At this point, you’re probably starting to realize that musician coaching is a real thing, and it could be quite valuable for you.
But are you ready for coaching?
Is it right for you?
Is now a good time to get a coach?
Here’s a self-assessment that will help you determine whether you need a musician coach.
Are You Willing to Invest in Yourself?
If your answer is:
No, I’m not willing to spend a dime to build a fan base and make a living from my passion.
Then I can’t help you, and neither can any other coach.
If it’s unimaginable for you to spend $37 on an eBook, $97 on a course, $127 on personalized coaching, I’m sorry, I can’t help you, and most other coaches would be warped in the noggin to help you too.
Understand – these are minimum prices, not maximum!
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true – we don’t place much value on things we don’t pay for.
If you don’t act on the information offered here, you will go back to old habits, returning to the same rut you tried to claw your way out of.
Here’s something to think about…
You don’t pay a mechanic for working on your car, do you? You pay them for knowing what to do, regardless of how much time and effort it ultimately takes them.
It’s the same with a coach. You don’t pay them for how much time or effort it takes to do the job – you pay them for their experience and ability to guide you (especially since breakthroughs can happen fast!).
Have You Worked on Your Craft & Live Show?
If “no,” you might not need a coach yet.
First, you’ve got to make the leap from amateur to professional and that means making a commitment to improve and work on your craft from one show, one release, one interview, to the next.
If that’s not what you’re doing, you haven’t made the commitment yet, and that’s okay.
But you don’t need a coach if you’re not building towards something.
Cliché as it might be, my coaches often repeated this phrase to me:
You can’t steer a parked car.
What does that mean?
It means if you’re not doing anything in your music career, I can’t tell you where to go or what to do next – it would all be speculation.
But if, for example, you have a live show you’ve been developing for a while and you want me to audit and review it, I’m your man.
Do You Have Career Goals (Even if They Are Foggy)?
If you do, you will benefit from coaching.
The truth is many artists only think they have goals.
But because they haven’t taken certain actions to put their goals into existence, they don’t know what they’re working towards, let alone how close they are to achieving their goals.
Fogginess around goal setting is very normal because what I teach, they don’t generally teach in school. So, it’s not your fault that you don’t know.
Bottom line – if you aren’t working towards something, or don’t have at least partially defined goals yet, forego the coaching and instead come up with three things you would like to accomplish in your music career, so we have something to discuss.
Do it now. This post will still be here when you come back.
Could You Benefit from an Outside Perspective?
For most artists, the answer will be “yes.”
If you can’t see it for yourself, all good, here are some things to consider:
How often do you record yourself to listen and evaluate your performance?
How often do you film yourself performing on stage to watch, listen, and evaluate your performance?
Do you track the number of people attending your performance (as well as how many people were there when you started, and how many were left when you were done)?
Is auditing your web presence a common practice of yours, and do you take note of how you’re coming across to fans and prospective fans, what’s missing, or what could be improved upon?
How well do you track your income and expenses, and could you make projections based on the numbers you see?
This is but the tip of the iceberg…
There’s just so much you don’t see when you’re working in the business instead of on the business.
And yes, I do mean to use the term “business” here because if you take your music career seriously, that’s exactly what it is.
As I established last time, there is a growing awareness of opportunity in the creator economy. As with anything else, it takes a while for innovation adoption lifecycle curve to play out, but it’s fair to say we’re only in the early adopters phase now.
Just because we’re in the early part of the curve doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a collapse, but if everything continues exactly at has been going, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe there will be any kind of implosion.
Many people assume the issue to be one of multiplication – in other words, one day the number of creators will be so great, and the competition so immense, that the sheer impracticality of entitled people sitting at home “doing nothing” instead of working a “real job” is unsustainable.
Not at all. There will always be a demand for public figures. We’re enamored with celebrity, and even those who have the guts to admit that celebrities are just as human, are still often beholden to names with a household stature, regardless of talent, skill, experience, or any other rational factor. Celebrity status, by definition, is irrational.
The greatest threat to the creator economy isn’t that there will one day be too many creators and not enough people to consume their content. The greatest threat is the government, red tape, monopolies, and other factors that many write off as “tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theories.”
“Entitled People Sitting at Home Doing Nothing”
I will get to the greatest threats in a moment. And if you want to skip over this section, I understand. But if you’ll indulge me for just a moment, there’s no fair comparison for a creator’s daily schedule to that of the average worker.
Sure, there might be a few lazy and entitled creators out there. But aren’t there people like that at your workplace too?
Almost categorically, I have not found creators to be lazy.
Firstly, creators don’t work for a guaranteed paycheck. They work for advertising revenue shares, affiliate income, and sponsorships (though there are other income sources as we talked about last time). The slightest of changes in platform-based algorithms can mean more views one week, fewer the next. There are no guarantees. Income is always a moving target and planning for these changes is incredibly challenging.
To make advertising income on YouTube, a creator needs to grow their channel to 1,000 subscribers. Similarly, a new Medium writer would need to grow their following to 100 followers to be able to join the partner program and start earning on their articles.
That’s just to begin earning. There is no real money in YouTube until one can reliably generate hundreds of thousands if not millions of views per video. Similarly, there isn’t much money in Medium until one can reliably generate thousands if not tens of thousands of views per article.
Secondly, a creator’s workday is generally “all day.” There is no cutoff. When they’re not creating videos or writing their next newsletter, they’re busy editing their content. When they’re not editing their content, they’re looking for inspiration. When they’re not generating ideas, they’re working on their next piece of content. It’s a hamster wheel, even if it’s fundamentally an enjoyable one.
I don’t know how my life looks from the outside looking in, but most days I write “reams of essays” to the tune of 5,000 words or more. Even billionaire comedian Jerry Seinfeld considered writing 500 words per day (that’s five hundred, not five thousand) sheer torture. That should tell you something.
And if not writing, I’m working on client websites, my latest podcast episode (which can easily consume 10 hours of my workweek), community endeavors (The Indie YYC), stacks of social media posts, and other marketing activity. And no, it isn’t all fun and games. Most of it isn’t. Imagine that. I’ve scraped and clawed for everything I have, and some would say that empire doesn’t even amount to much.
Most people aren’t willing to tolerate this level of risk. Unpredictable income? 12-hour workdays? Yeesh!
And that’s one of the reasons it will never get to a point where there’s no one working a day job.
If you want to get anywhere with anything – Patreon, NFTs, Substack, or anything else creator economy oriented you can name – one must approach it like a business. Ask entrepreneurs and they will tell you – entrepreneurship takes everything you’ve got, and then some.
Many assume government is a fluid thing, adapting based on economic conditions, disasters, pandemics, the wellbeing of citizens, and so on. Not so.
Just for fun, research Agenda 21, which is a publicly released 20-year-old United Nations plan. For most, the details of Agenda 21 will fall under the category of “unimaginable,” and “that will never happen,” but people said the same thing about vaccine passports in 2020.
Government is much closer to a ridged set of railway tracks than a sequence of turns to be negotiated on a highway. There is a plan. And it is being followed. And it is usually mapped out well in advance.
And what do we know about the government? For the most part, exactly what they want us to know. This information is typically relayed through the mass media.
One of the things they frequently talk about is preventing terrorists and the illicit from taking advantage of cryptocurrency (typically without citing any real-world scenarios that have actually played out). It’s mostly government agencies publishing these types of works, by the way. Do your own research.
Web3, NFTs, blockchain-powered social networks, and cryptocurrency are fast taking center stage in the creator economy as we speak. How does that bode for the creator of the future, if the government intends to seize what is fundamentally decentralized and transparent?
Or how about the idea that the internet of the future will be ruled by few? Conversations around removing the address bar in your browser have been going on for years. What if the internet was Facebook? Or Amazon? Or Apple? Or some combination thereof? You might think it absurd, but Microsoft isn’t the only monopoly to ever exist.
Also consider the unfolding conversation around disinformation, which has become more pervasive in the last two years. We’re already using so-called “fact checkers” to validate the accuracy of information (unsuccessfully, in my opinion). How much do you think “they” really want to keep the internet around, when the only truth is their narrative driven truth, and if you so much as question it you’re labeled a danger to yourself and the world?
With Facebook groups being deleted, YouTube accounts being shadow banned, individual tweets being censored or monitored, the internet is far from neutral already. Should push come to shove, “they” shouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug on this infrastructure.
If all this is a little too mercurial for you, let’s hit a little closer to home. About three years ago, the controversy around YouTube’s adoption of COPPA threw many creators right under the bus for something that fundamentally wasn’t their fault.
COPPA is important, YouTube basically started enforcing it retroactively, putting many creator categories, like visual artists, between a rock and a hard place. It might be out of sight out of mind now, but at the time it was a heated issue.
Will the creator economy implode? At the end of the day, anything could happen. But there’s no reason to think it will come to an end because there are too many people pursuing the path of the creator. If there is a collapse, it will likely be because of external factors.
I write three product guides per week, each 2,000 to 4,000 words.
This forms the foundation of my monthly income, and it also takes up more time than just about anything else I do project wise.
1,000 words generally takes me an hour, so simple math says the articles should take me about nine hours per week.
But I’m also responsible for creating graphics, finding YouTube videos, editing, formatting, embedding the media, and creating social media posts for each guide. It’s fair to say this takes at least an additional 90 minutes each. That means the three guides take an average of 13.5 hours per week liberally speaking. 15 hours is probably closer to the mark.
I Thought I Was Optimized to the Hilt Already
I’ve maintained a similar schedule for a long time. In fact, with all my other projects, 5,000-word days are often the norm.
So, I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and look at this problem from different angles. There are many known and predictable factors with something like a product guide (more on this in a moment), and it’s gotten to the point where it’s less of a creative challenge and more a matter of just putting the hours in.
I’d looked at all the angles, spent time outlining, created templates, batch processed, and experimented with other tricks and hacks. So, despite the desire to get this work done more efficiently in my weekly schedule, I was already optimized to the hilt.
Or so I thought.
Here’s What I Realized Today…
An article is made up of different parts. It seems kind of obvious, but how often do you think about it?
A product guide is essentially made up of:
List of individual products (usually five to 15)
Shopping tips / FAQ
The parts that tend to move rather quickly are the introduction, shopping tips and FAQs section, and conclusion. In other words, everything other than the list of products, which is the most research and labor intensive, time-consuming part.
So, the Weird Mental Hack I Discovered Was This:
I started telling myself that I was just writing product descriptions. And if I dedicated myself to that task, for all three guides, without worrying about the other parts, I would have 80% of the work done. The remaining 20% of the articles would basically take care of themselves.
So, that’s what I did today. I focused on writing product descriptions, which basically amounts to summarizing what the developer says about them and inserting some personal thoughts into the equation.
Today, in the time that it usually takes me to barely write one full guide (in other words, about 3,000 words), I was able to write nearly 5,000 words. As result, one guide is nearly 80% complete. Another is about 70% complete. The third is started.
Because, as I said, 80% is not about the word count, but rather a matter of whether the product list has been developed in full. The other 20% takes less time and is much easier to write – so, this part is better left to later, when my creative energies are waning, as opposed to when they’re at their height.
Here’s Your Takeaway:
If you live in a create on demand world like I do, then doing your work more efficiently is the difference between finishing your weekly to-do list and not. It’s the difference between earning an extra $200 to $500 per week and not. It’s the difference between falling behind on your tasks and having a head start on next week.
The takeaway, then, is to identify the different parts of an article and to understand which sections take the greatest effort. These are the parts that you want to tackle first. And, if you can look at them through a new lens, it could boost your productivity too.
In my case, instead of looking at each product guide as a self-contained article, I identified the commonalities and began work on the most challenging parts before worrying about the rest. My lens was transformed from “a list of individual products” to “product descriptions.” That changed the way I thought about the guides.
Basically, the top-down approach to writing articles might not be the most efficient method. We know that we’ll need an introduction of some kind. We know that we’ll need a conclusion too. But starting at A and ending at Z might stifle your creativity instead of unleashing it.
And it’s the same thing with any other type of project you might be working on. Anything you do for a long time, even things you enjoy, can become familiar, and as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. You may be at the point where you’re working on the same things you’ve worked on for years, and you might think there’s no room left for optimization.
If you can reframe how you think about it, though, you might be able to squeeze enough efficiency out of your new approach for it to be worthwhile.
The creator economy is a buzzword to describe an entire movement of modern independent content creators, community builders, and curators.
Not surprisingly, interest in the creator economy has been exploding in the last two years, as more and more people have been forced to accept and adopt a remote working lifestyle or work from home arrangements.
What is a Creator?
To understand what the creator economy is, first, we need to understand what a creator is.
The idea of a “creator” is still relatively new. Some of its early proponents include Fizzle and ConvertKit.
Just 15 years ago, the idea of making an income from one’s online content was still quite novel.
Today, not only is it more widely accepted that you could become a YouTuber, launch a newsletter on Substack, set up locked content on Patreon, and more, but there is also a growing awareness of opportunity in general.
In 2016, I started working entirely from home and was looked upon as unique at the time. Some thought I had made it (ha), and others kept asking if I was making any money (double ha).
Either way, a type of creator most can probably identify with are YouTubers – whether gamers, models, ASMR artists, or otherwise.
Markiplier is one of the most popular YouTube gamers out there.
But as old platforms continue to evolve, and new platforms keep proliferating, the diversity of opportunity has only grown over time.
Writers can earn an income on sites like Medium and Quora. Podcasters can publish on Anchor and monetize through Patreon and Gumroad. Live streamers can earn donations on Twitch. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the growth of Web3, blockchain-based platforms are also booming.
There are more categories of creators, and more platforms they can utilize than ever in the past to establish themselves as personalities the public wants to interact with.
Isn’t “Creator” Just Another Term for “Entrepreneur?”
In a manner of speaking, yes.
The term, “entrepreneur,” though, is a little polarizing, especially as it has become associated with a broad base of personalities – rah-rah motivational speakers, prolific live streamers, and even snake oil salesmen.
The terms “solopreneur” or “independent entrepreneur” do seem to have a nice ring to them, and they better represent what many individuals really are. But they haven’t stuck.
The main differentiation, though, is that creators often become associated with the platforms they utilize rather than create (like YouTube, Twitch, or Medium) and rely heavily on them to promote and monetize their work.
Writer Tom Kuegler often opens his emails by saying, “hey, it’s Tom from Medium.”
An entrepreneur, by definition, is someone who organizes and operates a business or multiple businesses. They take on the financial risk in the short term, and in the long term, set up teams and sell their businesses.
Meanwhile, a creator may outsource aspects of their work (such as video editing), but they are usually the personalities driving the entire operation. Without them, there would be no content.
But ultimately, it is a relatively fluid thing. Creators can and do become entrepreneurs. Similarly, entrepreneurs often engage in the same types of activities creators do.
The public likes to interact with personalities rather than faceless brands. It’s only natural that many modern entrepreneurs would seek to establish themselves as personalities and opt to start their own web shows.
So, the Creator Economy is…?
The creator economy is everything just described, plus the financial aspect of it (which I’ve either described in part or hinted at already).
Much of this is platform driven. Some monetization opportunities are only available on certain platforms, though some creators leverage multiple platforms simultaneously.
Web3 platforms will often reward creators with cryptocurrency and give them multiple ways to earn on their content.
The much-hyped domain of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is also a strong focus in the creator economy.
Leveraging Multiple Platforms?
Just last week, I was on a video call with a filmmaker / OnlyFans model who likes to hang out on the decentralized social blockchain, also known as DeSo for short.
I had several “aha” moments during that conversation, but one of the things I took away is that there are an increasing number of unconventional lifers – people who are the living image of the slash / conundrum.
Your passion might be making music. But to fund your music career, you also dabble in affiliate marketing and write articles for Medium.
(This sort of describes me… though I have plenty of other revenue streams, passions, and titles…)
Puddylike’s Emily Wapnick refers to people like this as multipotentialites. I used the term creative alchemistin a podcast episode from May 2017 (nothing to do with the book of the same name, which came out later).
Combining your various skills, experiences, and passions is the very essence of creative alchemy.
Either way, we’re seeing an influx of work-from-home independent creators who cobble together a living from different sources. And as this landed for me, I couldn’t help but think this might be the future of music too (as a longtime musician coach).
The last couple of years have been tough for musicians who relied on gig income to support their passions. And they’re not the only creatives who’ve been impacted by the pandemic.
The future is unpredictable. But so long as there is an internet with a thriving creator economy, there will always be opportunities for those who want to live their passion.
The future of independent music, therefore, could be the creator economy. The future belongs to the polymath.
Final Thoughts, Creator Economy
The creator economy is a new and exciting frontier, and the rise has only just begun.