A Light-Hearted Etiquette Guide for the Novice Freelancer

by Kelly Langenberg

A few weeks ago I was pretty darn frustrated at myself for showing up at a sound check in downtown Chicago three hours early.  I read the schedule wrong and had suddenly found myself with three child-less, computer-less hours to sit at the coffee shop across the street from the hall and just think.  Being it had been a while since I’d make such a rookie mistake, I humbly compiled a humorous but accurate list of tips (which may or may not also be a list of personal fouls over the last 15 years) to aid young freelancers in their new journey.  There could be so many more tips than this, but napkins are only so big…


Reply to emails requesting your services/availability within 24 hours.


Know the dress code, then dress conservatively. If you have to question your choice, it’s not the right one.


Patrons paid money to hear you- Guys: Press your shirts.  Gals: Wear formal fabrics.


Figure out where you will park in advance of the gig.  I recently discovered the SpotHero app and it has been really helpful for this.


If you are carpooling, give at least $10 more to the driver than you think you should.


If you are carpooling, do not make your ride wait for you.


If you are carpooling, do not eat smelly food in the car while you are on your way to your gig.


Don’t take up half a table in the dressing room with your case. Zip it up and set it on it’s spine to make room for others.


At the gig, introduce yourself to unfamiliar faces.


Don’t ask colleagues about their gigs.  Maybe they’ve been a little low on calls lately or maybe they are shy to brag, either way, it makes both of you feel bad, so don’t ask.


Don’t ask colleagues who played a gig that you weren’t on, because, again, neither of you will feel better afterward.


Don’t ask colleagues when they were called to play a gig (information you can use to find out if you were called first).


Don’t fuss over your chair or stand.   You can deal with it for one day.


Warm up quietly.


Ask questions of your principal player, not the conductor.


Take your own snacks. Don’t expect that a meal will be provided.


Don’t complain about which chair you have been assigned or which part you are playing.


Don’t write stupid things in your music.


Do not leave your instrument in a walkway during break.


Thank your colleagues after your performance.  Everyone put a lot of work into making the gig successful.

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