Answer the following questions before moving on:
- How many hours did you work last week?
- What much money did you earn? How much of it have you received?
- How many hours did you spend on administrative tasks (email, etc.) that don’t directly produce revenue?
- Which gigs/jobs produce the best hourly rate?
- How do your billable hours and earnings compare to the same month last year?
If you can’t answer any of them, don’t worry. You are not alone. This level of knowledge about your music business is the exception. But I hope to make the case that these questions and their answers are crucial to improving your business (BTW, freelance musician is definitely a business).
Far from being nerds-only number crunching, metrics allow you to answer some serious questions like:
- Are you making more money this year?
- Which types of jobs are decreasing in frequency. Which are increasing?
- How many hours do you really work? (Hopefully your answer isn’t “all the time”. Maybe you could take a vacation?)
The overuse of metrics can lead down some dead ends. It’s best to pick a very small number and see what the data tells you. Start simple. Begin by writing down how much you earned at the end of the week. Do it every week. You don’t need software for this. Even a sticky note will do. Just start keeping track.
Then add the things that are meaningful. I track practice sessions by logging them in Evernote. Many of my other jobs require submitting a time sheet, so tracking the hours is easy. Again, keep it to one or two metrics.
Once you’ve gathered some data comes the analysis. Go back to the questions at the top. If you had all this information how would it change what you do? I stopped playing some trumpet gigs when I realized how low the hourly computed wage was. You don’t have to ruled by the metrics, but you can use them to guide how you’ll spend your time. Some tasks just aren’t worth it. They take too much time for too little return. But it’s hard to know if you don’t look at the data.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s better than your other option: Looking at your checking account once in a while and crossing your fingers…