For anyone just starting a career as a live sound engineer, I offer my congratulations and a warm welcome to the club. You may discover initially that jobs are hard to come by, but when you do land some work, I’m sure you’ll feel very fortunate to have been given an opportunity to earn some money and add another client to your resume.
If, however, you’ve been at this for a few years and your phone is starting to ring more than in the past, with multiple offers to mix shows, events or even a lengthy tour, you may find that it’s all getting a bit much to juggle. You may also be experiencing that nagging feeling that you haven’t been there nearly enough for your significant other, friends or family.
Choosing to work as a freelance engineer has many perks, and one of them is having some control over your schedule, as well as who you choose to work with. If the offers are coming in rapid succession, it provides the opportunity to select client “A” to work with over client “B” (who didn’t treat you very well and didn’t pay you what you deserve either).
But what happens when you’re fortunate enough to have the “problem” of receiving too many offers in a period of time from people you really want to work with?
You may be looking forward to wrapping up a 4-month tour and taking a vacation or getting some time at home, only to find that an offer comes in for a tour that begins the day after you fly home and goes for another few months. Or you may be tempted to squeeze one more corporate event in between two long and predictably tough shows with almost no time off all month.
It’s about this time that you feel the home front pulling at you. Unexpected bills arrive at the same time that the family needs to see more of you. You realize you’ve been working way too much, and to make matters worse, you’re stressed out when home.
Many companies try to encourage their employees to find a healthy work/life balance and I would suggest we do the same. It’s easy to say “yes” to every show offered, especially if you have a vacancy on your calendar and could use the extra income, but it’s not always the best choice.
Paying attention to other things (besides money) that make you happy (family, friends, relaxation and exercise) and making sure you’re carving out enough time to enjoy these things will keep you going a lot longer, with a clearer mind and a recharged body.
Keep in mind that the equation is different for everyone. It’s an individual decision as to what’s the right balance for our own lives.
It’s also important to consider the quality of your work with each client, both new and repeat. If you’re cramming the calendar full of shows but are unable to give all clients the time and attention they deserve, you may soon notice that your phone is ringing less frequently. The primary reason you’re getting hired and re-hired at a high rate is because you’re giving it 100-percent effort each time… so it’s worth taking a breath between multiple events to ensure you keep up that energy level and attention to detail.
So think twice before saying “yes” to every show offered. Sometimes a grateful “maybe next time” is the right choice in that particular moment.