Good Ideas and skills

… are not enough.

More thoughts on making a living as a self employed musician and guitar teacher.

Wanted: Genius Agent/Publicist. I can offer you free guitar lessons.

We live in a highly competitive culture. I don’t think most people appreciate just how true this is. Most people are happy to have a steady job doing something they don’t hate. Once there, they do their jobs as well as they can and hope they will gat a raise or a promotion. So everyone is somewhat aware that there is competition going on since they know that their job performance is being compared to others’ and that they competed with others to get their job to begin with.

But for those who are self employed, those who’se livelihood depends primarily upon their own inner drive and motivation, competition exists on another scale. If your survival depends on your ideas and your abilities as an independent entity, you are competing against/with everyone else who does what you do, and you’re competing against the system. The system I refer to is that which rewards ‘economies of scale’ and does little or nothing to benefit solo acts.

If you work for a large company you benefit from those economies of scale. Insurance benefits, paid vacation time, severance packages etc, are some of the benefits of scale. Self employment means you personally bear all the costs and all the risks. This creates something of a dog-eat-dog situation among the self employed within a given field. Of course there’s an element of camaraderie among us, but we all know that a job or client for you means a job or client I failed to get.

Not a zero sum game you say? There are always more jobs out there … more than enough work for everybody. Really?

The internet is glutted with startups trying to sell their easy new way to do the thing you are struggling to earn a living at. Want guitar lessons? Go online and there are countless apps that “make it easy to learn guitar without a teacher” there are lots of free video tutorials showing you how to play those songs you’ll never be able to figure out on your own. Now, there’s nothing “wrong” with someone sharing knowledge for free on the internet, but if your income is based on actual personal interaction you — and everyone who does what you do — are competing with the whole internet.

It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if you can’t get people in the door, and you can’t make a living if you’re forced to give away your intellectual property just to reach your customers.

So what do you do? How do you get the attention of potential customers without giving away your product? How do you convince anyone that what you have to offer cannot be found for free on line or in an app?

Can thinking out loud help?

I’m writing this because I’m desperate to save my livelihood. I want someone to see what I’m doing and realize that I offer a unique and valuable way to understand and play the guitar. I figure if I share what’s on my mind, it just might pique the interest of someone who might want a guitar lesson. Crazy right? Well, that’s how desperate I am at this point. That’s my spiel.

A few years ago I inherited enough money to develop a guitar app for the iPhone. Just as the app was ready to release the iPad was introduced and the app was already almost obsolete. It cost around $10,000 to develop and ultimately recouped about $1,000 before it died since I didn’t have the resources to update it. It was a great app but it just didn’t catch on and I learned a harsh lesson.

I took a chance and I blew it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not failing. I’m just not succeeding enough. Not because I don’t work at it, but because what I do doesn’t exactly fit the mold. I have my own methods. Those methods work. The hundreds of students I’ve had have benefitted from those methods. But I still have to work harder to get people interested in what I do …

Maybe I really need a publicist or something.

Anybody know anyone who’ll work in spec?

I can offer them free guitar lessons in exchange for solid publicity.