No matter where you are in your career– whether you are just starting out in your music career or you are busily engaged in work that you enjoy or you would like to change things up and are wondering about next steps—the new year is a great time to take stock of where you are and where you would like to be. I am not big on New Year’s resolutions since it’s too easy to set yourself up for failure by reaching for unrealistic goals. Instead, I encourage people to reflect on the important areas of their lives and assess where they are and what they would like to accomplish over the course of the year.
Career satisfaction can seem like an overwhelming and complicated subject, but the trick is to break down your career into different areas. There are a number of areas to consider when assessing your career, ranging from the practical like your finances to the more subtle like your values and your need for balance.
Here are 8 areas that contribute to your overall career satisfaction:
- Finances: Creating financial sustainability and a plan for getting there
- Values and Passions: Aligning your career with your top principles and engaging in the things that you love.
- Purpose and Mission: Feeling fulfilled and full of purpose and having an impact on an audience that matters to you
- Time Management: Having balance and a clear sense of priorities.
- Skills and Talents: Using your favorite and top strengths.
- Health & Wellness: Enjoying physical, mental and emotional health and well-being
- Relationships: Having quality people in your professional sphere
- Professional Development: Learning and improving your professional skills
I love visuals so here is a helpful way to view these 8 areas:
Let’s take a closer look at how the Wheel can help you with your assessment and your career satisfaction.
Define Each Segment
First, define what each area means to you make sure that the definition is one that resonates for you.
Time management is an issue for most professional musicians I know. And understandably so since a musician’s career involves juggling multiple performance and teaching engagements, independent projects, business development, administrative tasks, networking… The list can seem overwhelming!
In order to assess your satisfaction, what does time management mean to you?
- Feeling productive and on top of your game?
- Feeling satisfied that you are attending to the important tasks in your life?
- Feeling in charge and not overwhelmed?
Write your definition so that you are clear on what time management means to you.
Substitute and/or Add Segments
Next, look at the 8 areas and make sure that they are important to you!
Perhaps there are other aspects of your career that you would like to focus on like leadership, mentoring, travel or personal development. Feel free to substitute a new area or add it onto the wheel.
Rate Your Segments
Once you have your 8 areas, review each one and decide how important that area is to your career satisfaction. It helps to rate these areas on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 meaning “not important” and 10 meaning “vitally important.”
Now, rate how satisfied you are with each of these areas, using the same rating scale of 1 to 10.
This is where the exercise becomes interesting.
Notice the gaps. If you see a gap of 3 or more points between how important an area is and how satisfied you are, this is a signal that you could improve on this area. Then, you can set a goal on what you would like to achieve in that area.
Suppose you are at the stage where you are feeling good about the direction of your music career but you are feeling increasingly stressed and overwhelmed by all of the various moving parts of your music career. You zero in on time management as your major obstacle.
You define time management as follows:
- Being in balance and feeling on top of your time and activities
You rate this area as a “10” in terms of importance because:
- you have many interests;
- you have a strong sense of responsibility and want to honor your commitments;
- you take pride in doing a great job; and
- you know that it is important to prioritize and focus on the most important things in your life;
In terms of your level of satisfaction, you rate time management as a “5” because:
- you are spread too thinly among your various professional commitments;
- you are not sure how to prioritize among your many activities;
- you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed;
- you are concerned that you won’t be able to honor your commitments and do a great job; and
- you worry that your reputation will suffer if you don’t do something soon.
Good for you for being so honest!
That 5-point gap tells you that it’s time to do something to improve your sense of well-being.
Set a Goal
Now that you have highlighted your time management challenges, what would you like to achieve in this area? The next phase of the assessment involves setting a goal of what you would like to improve in the next 6 months (be sure to include a time period in order to motivate yourself to achieve that goal!).
Go back to your list of challenges. If you were able to improve ONE thing, which one would help you the most? Start with that area to get the biggest bang for your buck.
You decide to start with the first one:
I am spread too thinly among my various professional activities.
As you think about your situation, you realize that you have to take on a lot of students and gigs because you do not charge enough money! That means you are scrambling around to fit in students in between all your rehearsals and performances. Phew! That’s exhausting. No wonder your feel stressed!
The reality is that you have not raised your rates for most of your students since you began teaching and most of your students are paying you a rate well below what you deserve. In addition, you take on a lot of gigs that don’t pay very well. If you could make more money from each of these revenue streams, you could take on fewer students and fewer gigs, thus freeing up your time. This would reduce your stress level and help you to feel more on top of your commitments and obligations.
Therefore, you decide to set a goal of increasing your professional fees:
In the next 6 months, I will raise my teaching rates and only accept performance opportunities that pay a respectable professional fee.
Nice! What’s next?
Make A Plan and Take Action
Now it is time to take action and implement that goal. What’s the first step?
Start with your teaching.
What do other comparably-situated musicians charge for private lessons?
Given your excellent professional reputation as a freelancer and the success of your private studio, the market rate is $125/hour.
Where are you?
Make a list of all your students and write down how much you are charging each one. You may have different rates depending on when the students began to work with you. You have a few students who began studying with you 4 years ago at $65/hour. You have a few students at $75 and $85. More recently, you have been charging $100/hour.
A good first step is to implement a $15/hour increase. It may feel scary but if you think about it, doesn’t your dentist raise her rates every year? Why shouldn’t you?
Write an email announcing your rate increase and give your students a few weeks’ advance notice of the increase. You can also mention it in your next lesson. Most people will accept the increase. And if they don’t, you have now freed yourself up to take on new students at your higher rate.
Be sure to increase your rates every year until all of your students are paying your going rate. And raise that rate to $125 for your new students!
For performance opportunities, be clear on what you think you are worth. You may be surprised when you quote a higher fee and the presenter agrees. That’s part of the evolution of a musician. And stick with your resolve. You are worth it!
Occasionally, you might have opportunity that does not pay well but could open some new doors AND bring you artistic satisfaction. Before accepting that opportunity, think very clearly what impact this will have on your time and your need for balance. That’s another good reason to go through an assessment so that you know what your challenges are.
Note: For more suggestions on how to manage your time, take a look at Time Management for Music Entrepreneurs.
Doesn’t it feel good to do an honest assessment and make a plan?
Take a look at your other top-rated areas and notice the gaps. Limit yourself to 3 areas that you would like to improve and then set your goals and make your action plan. And each week, be sure to take one action that will move you ahead.
Do this exercise periodically both to assess your progress as well as check in with yourself on what areas matter to you.
And enjoy making progress on your career satisfaction!