Recently, I was reminded of a very old Steve Martin comedy routine. He starts out in infomercial pitch guy mode: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to show you how to have a MILLION DOLLARS and NOT PAY ANY TAXES!! That’s right, you heard me!! I said I’m going to show you how to have a MILLION DOLLARS and NOT PAY ANY TAXES!! IT’S REALLY QUITE SIMPLE!!” He lowers his voice and speaks very quickly….. “First, get a million dollars. THEN……..” Of course, everyone cracks up. Not so easy, the first part.
Here’s the deal. My book and this blog have to do with various aspects of being a successful freelancer in music and audio. How to handle yourself in certain situations. How to market yourself. Dealing with the ups and downs. All that good stuff. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. It’s all good advice. But none of it is going to make a difference if you suck at your craft. In the book and blog, I am operating under the assumption that you have professional level skills and you don’t suck. The reason I do that is because life and the marketplace act as a filter and naturally remove those who suck from the playing field, no matter what else they do to prevent it. Now of course, that doesn’t happen 100% of the time, just almost 100%. There is always a small percentage of talent-free people who become successful because they are related to the right person, are incredibly attractive, have the charisma of Jack Nicholson, or are able to buy their way into a position. By and large, however, the talentless hordes will eventually be removed from contention. In my book and blog, I’m communicating to the talented bunch who remain, because unless they get their shit together, most of THEM will also be filtered out for a variety of reasons which I write about in WTTJ.
Now, the thing about people who suck is that most of them never figure that out. That’s why life is so full of crappy music. Badly written, recorded, performed, and mixed music. Do you think any of those involved put that stuff out there because they thought it sucked? Most of them think they are awesome. And that’s the rub. In order to be successful, you need two things above all else: you have to know in your heart that you have what it takes, and you actually have to have what it takes. Those are two very different things, and many more people have the first than the second.
So, if at all possible, try to develop what I think is the single most important quality a creative freelancer can have: the ability to evaluate one’s own work critically, accurately, and dispassionately. On the one hand, if you automatically think everything you do is great, you’ll inevitably allow all kinds of crap to pass from your hands into the marketplace where it will be judged for the garbage that it is, and your reputation will suffer. So clearly, you need to be able to edit your own work and have some sense of where “the bar” is, and what you are striving for. On the other hand, if you have no confidence in yourself or your work and think everything you do is crap, that’s no good either. As a developing professional, you will be doing a lot of work that you may not want to be out there in competition, but at some point you need to decide whether or not you are in the game, and if you are, then you have to have some self confidence and put yourself and your work out there and just feel okay about it. It’s not easy, but if it was, everyone would be successful.