Hello friends and welcome to my blog! I am so excited to have you here and hope that through these posts we can help each other to build a community of support, resources, and creative ideas to thrive out there in this crazy world.
This week as students have their final lessons of the year (or decade as they like to remind me ☺), while running around to various rehearsals/gigs and trying to squeeze in last minute holiday shopping, parties, family time, etc. it is especially challenging to remember to set myself up for success in the coming year. We are all too familiar with the concept of establishing New Year’s Resolutions, but I am talking about truly setting yourself, and your business, up for success.
To help you get through these last couple weeks of the year, here are the 5 things I do as a freelance musician at the end of each year to guarantee a positive and successful jump start to the new year!
1. Organize my Tax Binder
It is SO easy to put off gathering these documents until tax season at which point you realize how much additional work you’ve created for yourself! Before you take time off, take the time to make sure your 2019 tax documents are in order and if you don’t already have a system in place, do yourself a favor and start a tax binder for your business in 2020 – it is a game changer!
Worried you don’t know where to start or what you should include? Well you’re in luck! Check back in January for a full breakdown of how I manage my tax binder and all tax essentials in one place including free downloads of the exact forms I use and how to put it altogether in a way that will make your tax life easier than ever!
2. Edit my Studio Policy
As a private music instructor if you do not already have a Studio Policy in place this is an absolute must and the start of a new year is the perfect time to introduce one or make changes to an existing policy. When writing your policy remember that you are running a business and offering a valuable service to your students!
A Studio Policy is a great place to breakdown how you accept payment for lessons (monthly, weekly, tuition-based) and discuss other topics such as your cancellation policies, holiday/vacation times where your studio will be closed, what is expected of your students on a week-to-week basis, and what the students can expect from you as their teacher.
Having a Studio Policy is essential to maintaining a transparent relationship with the student/parents and to aid in any issues or concerns that may arise throughout the year.
3. Schedule Emails/Students
Was anyone else beyond excited when Gmail made it possible to schedule your emails in advance?! I cannot tell you how much time this has saved me this year and if you’re not already using this feature you should get on it ASAP! Prior to this feature I would draft several emails (such as lesson invoices, rehearsal reminders, etc) but I’d still have to go in to click send on the desired date/time – if 2019 has given me anything it is the ability to mass schedule emails!!
In past years I’ve found myself, like most of us, excited for what the new year will hold but not necessarily excited to jump back into the hectic grind of scheduling, emailing, and the ins and outs of running a business on my first day back after a break. Instead, I love to start the first day back with plenty of time to reestablish my practice routine (because after holiday gigs, let’s be real, I’ve probably taken a few days off from regular practice) and discover my goals for my playing, practicing, and teaching.
To help achieve the start that I want for myself each year I find it invaluable to make sure any emails I know I need to send during the first few days back are ready to go in advance. This includes any scheduling changes for the Spring Semester and sending out a Happy New Year email to all of my students with their January invoices reminding them of when lessons will resume and my updated Studio Policy.
4. Set Student Goals/Practice Plans
For each student’s last lesson of the year we make a list of three things the student improved upon that year and set three big goals for their playing/practicing in the next year. Students love doing this because it reminds them of how much they have improved and inspires them to continue working towards new goals.
This is often the time of year that many of my students receive their District Honor Band materials, applications are due for concerto competitions, and chair auditions for their school band are on the horizon so we take this time to plot out the upcoming events and create a game plan for how to crush their practice for successful outcomes! This leaves the student feeling excited to get to work and allows you as the teacher not to worry while you are on vacation about whether or not your students know what and how to practice for those events that quickly come in the new year!
5. Schedule Vacation Time
When writing my studio policy, I always schedule a full two weeks of vacation at the end of the year taking time off from teaching, gigs, and work in general to reflect on the past year and recharge for the year to come. So often as freelancers we feel the need to constantly overload our schedules to the point of burnout thus ultimately forgetting why we love what we do.
As the year comes to a close, I encourage you to take that time off for yourself and to enjoy this season with your family and friends. Don’t forget, this musical journey is a constant work in progress so rather than dwelling on where you’d like to be, try to take some time to enjoy the success along the way and celebrate the victories no matter how big or small.
Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in the next decade!