Do you find yourself wishing you were performing more? Perhaps you just graduated and you are looking to get your start in a new city. Or maybe you recently quit your teaching job to focus more on performing. These points should be possible for you regardless of your instrument, point in your career, or location.
This one seems obvious but I’m putting it first because it is the most important. Much of the freelance work I’ve gotten is from subbing for friends and other connections. This is great because these people you probably already know: people you recently performed with, colleagues from school, other freelancers in your area. Contact them and meet for lunch or coffee, or a drink. Maybe put together a reading session and play some duets or brass quintets. This is especially great because you are in close contact with these people, playing and hanging out. So they hear how you play and how you are to interact with – and thus may feel comfortable recommending you to sub for them or for a gig that they can’t do. Similarly, you can ask them how they got their start or if they have any recommendations for other playing opportunities.
2. Other colleagues that don’t play your instrument
This one seems a little less obvious but bear with me. You might think or wonder if or why a bassoon player would ever recommend you to play trombone with an orchestra but the simple answer is you never know. This person could be the contractor or happened to be in the same room as the contractor when they asked if they knew any trombone players and your name came up. Maybe this non brass player is putting together a chamber music concert and might want your group to play. The more people that know you as a person and as a musician is in your best interest to be working as much as possible.
3. Teachers or other freelancers who you admire
Take a lesson or treat someone to drinks or a meal. Pick their brain about freelancing: explain what you want to be doing or the problems you are facing and inquire as to how to do better. Playing for someone who you respect can be a great way to get better (obviously!) but also to learn what may be needed to change your freelance situation. Maybe you aren’t ready to do the kinds of gigs that you want to be doing… and finding that out in a lesson is a lot better than finding out on the gig 😉 I’ve gotten a couple gigs from teachers and they can be amazing opportunities so you never know! This category of people is great because most likely, they have been in your position wanting to work more, understand how you feel, and may be willing to help you.
4. Local groups and Organizations like Churches and/or Community Theaters etc
Want to play more orchestra gigs? Have you reached out and introduced yourself to all of the community groups in your area or local colleges that may hire ringers? What about going to a concert and meeting with people involved before or after? There are many ways to go in this direction but I think the best way in my opinion is personally – as in – in person with your physical presence rather than sending many cold emails. Of course cold emails are great and necessary and everyone does them – but if you can, sometimes showing up to meet someone in person or support a group’s performance can be even more valuable and memorable for the group potentially hiring you and for you – to see if it is even a group you want to be involved with anyways. For things where an email or showing up might not be appropriate, consider asking a friend involved in one of these organizations to mention you in an introduction email or ask if you could drop their name to start the conversation. Sometimes groups or organizations will respond more favorably to a colleague of a musician they work with rather than a random musician they haven’t heard of who seemingly has no connections to the group.