It took Julia and I some time to reach the point where our two businesses were sustainable enough to grow our teams and not worry about whether we will still exist in a month.
After all, we started iCadenza fresh out of college at a time when we had literally no experience, contacts, or any other foundation to ground our work in.
Often we felt it was luck. We were in the right place at the right time. One new contact led to another. We asked for opportunities and made proposals (some of which came through!).
But, now that we have nearly 10 years experience, we can more clearly see the factors and decisions that enabled us to stay in business, even when things got rocky. (It wasn’t all luck!)
These are the same behaviors that will help you thrive as an entrepreneurial musician.
Habit #1: Continue to Develop Your Skills
Being an entrepreneur is a constant journey of learning. Fortunately, Julia and I were education junkies. We both loved learning new things, and we were okay with being beginners.
From the beginning of iCadenza, we found ourselves in countless situations where we were figuring it out for the first time, whether it was filming and editing a video, interviewing, building a website, enrolling clients, public speaking, and more.
You can gain education in numerous ways, both formal and informal. Julia and I learned a lot from the internet and books — and over the past few years the online space has become an even important resource for entrepreneurial musicians.
We also did countless informational interviews, which are frequently encouraged by career counselors. You meet someone who has a job you’re curious about, ask them about their career, and start to determine if it sounds like a good path for you.
The countless video interviews we conducted in the early days of iCadenza served both as content for our audience and as a way for us to development our knowledge of the industry. We attended numerous workshops and even went to grad school (I’m not suggesting that part is necessary). But our desire to keep learning proved to be essential.
Habit #2: Network, Network, Network
Even in the early days of iCadenza, when we had no idea where our business was going and what our product would be, we made it our mission to meet everyone we could.
Many of those relationships have proven meaningful and fruitful in the long run, and we are so grateful to have colleagues we’ve known for years.
You can’t exist in the music industry in isolation. And networking, even when you don’t know what you’re “selling,” is valuable. In fact, making relationships for the sake of it, without expecting anything in return, is the best strategy.
Habit #3: Get Coached
Julia and I were fortunate to work with coaches early on in our careers. We were stuck, frustrated, and had no idea what we were doing. Spinning our wheels would be an understatement.
As recent college grads, we had no idea how to relate to ourselves as we experienced the painful uncertainty in our business and in our lives. We didn’t know how to work with each other or others.
Coaching with Carolyn and Michelle changed the future of our business. We gained incredible self-awareness by beginning to understand how our mindset and mental patterns could either help or get in our way.
We also got the tools we needed to better understand ourselves and relate to others.
Plus, we discovered a business model that we didn’t know about. With their encouragement, we began our own coaching practice through iCadenza, one that focused on helping musicians. This became and still is the core of our business.
If you’re feeling stuck like we were, a coach can serve as an amplifier, as someone who can help you achieve what you were going to do anyway — but faster, better, and on a slightly less bumpy runway.
Additionally, it’s a concrete way you can invest in yourself and your goals. We all use money to signal what we value. By investing in yourself through coaching, you’ll have a fire under your butt to take risks, make big asks, and make your business work.
The common theme to each of these habits — and one of the biggest things we learned from work with our coaches is this: If you’re feeling stuck, paralyzed, or overwhelmed, taking action is the antidote.
It doesn’t have to be big! Take a small action. Ask for help. Send the email. Request a referral.
The most important thing is to start doing and stop over-thinking and reacting.