I am in the process of finalizing my tax returns. I need a break so it feels right to write about it. The old joke “the job’s not done- until the paperwork is finished”- is sadly appropriate here. Without getting into the ramifications of a simpler tax code during an election year, paperwork is a necessary evil in 2016. Leaving a paper trail is critical when working as an independent contractor.
The first thing I suggest is recording your daily activities. I had two guitar students show up at the same time for a guitar lesson in the late-80’s which propelled me into using a Franklin Day Planner. I did that for two decades and then moved to a Palm and now, record my activities into my iMac using iCal. I have files on my desktop to record conversations with potential gig clients as well as potential guitar students. This is helpful if a client has to discuss a gig quote with someone else. Having notes on prior phone conversations is helpful when booking that choice gig. People love artists that pay attention to details and this often translates into more money.
Next, use a performance contract! This is so valuable that it shouldn’t be an option. It doesn’t have to be long or involved. I have attached a copy of a contract I have used for many years. Be sure to get a deposit for private party gigs as well as the client’s name, mailing address, phone and e mail address. For club dates, a simple handshake may be all that’s necessary. However, be sure the club owner or restaurant manager understands the price agreed upon and has the agreed upon money in petty cash at the end of the night. Make sure if they leave that someone else is prepared and authorized to pay you.
Record your expenses and keep scrupulous records! Keep track of your driving mileage, ask for and keep receipts for guitar strings, gig meals, gas to and from the gig and hundreds more items. Keep the receipts for 7 years and then shred them. No one likes the idea of an IRS audit, so stack the deck in your favor. I write on the receipts the following information: date, price, method of payment and item description. This is necessary since ink from a receipt fades over time.
Once the gig is over, scan and save your old gig contracts. I indicate what the balance paid is and whether or not I was paid in cash or by check. I often am paid tips and/or overtime, so this is helpful for example, if I book a gig for $400 and end up being paid $500 or more. I use Open Office and have standard forms for my contracts. This way, when a former client wants to hire me again, I can find the old contract and pull up the client’s address, phone, etc.
I have a file on my desktop for recurring events. I have standardized responses for online booking inquiries, follow up with performance details, method of payment, etc. and can respond quickly to potential clients. Speed really is of the essence. In fact, of the many awards my One Man band has received on Gigmasters, the one I am proudest of is the Rapid Responder award. I heard Brian Tracy say years ago “fast tempo is essential to success” and that’s been true in my experience.
Finally, make a point to say “Thank you” once the event is over. Mail a card or send a client an e mail, thanking them for hiring you. The old saying “people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care” is apropos here. Being nice never goes out of style. It usually pays better, too.
Keep organized records and watch how it improves your bottom line.