Today’s preview chapter from "Music Management for the Rest of Us" is aboutputting together your office. While a handful of beginning music managers are able to juggle their day jobs with the needs of their artists, you’ll eventually need to set up your own space with all the tools and equipment you’ll need to take care of business.
Plenty of other books will guide you through the design of a perfect home office space, so I won’t go into great detail. Here are some essential items that any self-respecting manager must have in the room with them:
A door. Not only is a separate room with a door required to take advantage of certain tax exemptions, it’s important for you to have a dedicated work space for your business. Operating off of the dining room table won’t cut it for very long. Giving yourself the space for your success to occur is a major step forward on your path. It’s also essential for you to have a quiet space where you can make phone calls, undisturbed by children, pets, housemates, spouses, or anything else that might interrupt you elsewhere in your home.
A dedicated phone line, a good phone, plus a backup. When I wrote the very first edition of this book, I doled out a lot of advice about how to select a very good landline. Today, mostly everyone in the music business pretty much lives on their wireless phones. Yet, a wireless phone is probably one of the most fragile pieces of office equipment you’ll use. One spilled drink or one tumble out of a car, and you’ve got a very expensive paperweight. Even worse, lose access to your phone, and you’ll be out of business for hours or days.
Instead of just relying on a single wireless phone, here’s the strategy I prefer. Start with a third-party phone service, like those offered by Google Voice, Toktumi, or Grasshopper. All three of those services allow you to set up a permanent phone number that you can use to automatically forward your calls to any phone you like. If your business grows over time, you can route your published number to a landline in your office, while enabling wireless phones for multiple staff members at extensions. If you change wireless phone providers or if you move, you won’t have to worry about porting your number or changing your area code. Best of all, many of these services give you the power to screen and filter calls, blocking folks you don’t want to hear from.
Always keep a second wireless phone on standby. Whether it’s a pay-as-you-go phone or a feature phone on a cheap "family line" plan, you’ll need it at some point in your career. You will drop your phone and break it, at least once in your life. You will end up getting something spilled on your phone, especially at one of your client’s gigs. And when that happens, it will usually happen late enough at night that you won’t be able to get a replacement on the same line until the morning. That standby phone could save you and your client plenty of money and hassle over the long run.
A good phone headset. As a manager, most of your time will be spent talking on the telephone. Investing in a good, comfortable headset frees your hands to take notes, allows you to project your voice, and improves your physical health. I’ve been a fan of both Jawbone and Plantronics over the years, but I’ve abandoned the practice of wearing a headset when you’re not actively on a call. Building your credibility as a music business professional has more to do with how you show up in person. If you look like you’re about to bounce onto a conference call at any second, you’ll lose the respect of the people right in front of you.
A good computer. The great news about launching a business right now is that computer prices are lower than they have ever been, and the software you need to run your company is available both freely and cheaply. Buy a computer that fits your budget and your tastes. Unless you also intend to perform lots of multimedia production, a pre-owned (and gently used) computer should work just as well for your purposes as the newest, fastest machine. Thanks to competition among software developers, you can use free or cheap software to handle all of your daily tasks. I keep a list of my favorite tools updated on the resources website you’ll see when you register your copy of this book.2
An always-on Internet connection. Don’t steal your neighbors’ wireless Internet. You’re going to deal with lots of sensitive information, and you can’t risk exposing your clients’ details on networks you don’t control. In most cities, if you don’t already have broadband through a cable or DSL provider, you can get relatively inexpensive wireless access using a portable router.
A multifunction printer/fax/scanner. Despite promises of the paperless office, we’re farther away from "green" business than ever before. Therefore, you should be ready to accommodate your clients’ needs by having a fax machine and scanner in your office. You can usually find a quality, refurbished model at your local big-box store for under $100.
A good chair. You’ll spend many hours on the phone and on the computer. Invest in a good chair that doesn’t squeak, that supports your back, and makes you feel comfortable. You can find many good chairs at office supply stores for under $100, and you can even scout the local Salvation Army for gently-used finds. I found my current favorite chair on sale at Amazon.com for half the price it was listed at my local office supply store.
Filing cabinets. You will generate and collect lots of paper: contracts, receipts, memos, etc. Even though I love to scan as much of these as possible, you’ll still end up with plenty of paper that you’re legally required to hold on to. I highly recommend the "Taming The Paper Tiger" filing solution pioneered by Barbara Hemphill, which allows you to toss items into hanging folders as you receive them. This allows you to keep your desk uncluttered without constantly re-alphabetizing your files. Although serious file cabinets still cost quite a bit, you can get scaled-down cabinets from big box stores for about $30, and the Salvation Army is usually full of quality cabinets for $10 or less.
In the next preview, I’ll tell you the single thing I wish I’d known when I first started working with musicians. It’s a piece of advise that can save your business, not to mention your personal relationships. And it’s probably the most common mistake that rookie managers make. If you’d rather not wait until then, you can download the entire PDF of “Music Management for the Rest of Us” by pressing any of these buttons:
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