Throughout my entire education, both undergraduate and graduate years, I had overwhelming anxiety about what would happen once I graduated and had to enter the real world.
“What am I going to do if I don’t win an orchestral job? Is this a realistic career path? Am I wasting my time? Should I be getting a major in something like marketing or nursing that I can actually make money with?”
These anxieties worsened once I graduated and there were no sustainable music jobs in sight. If you are reading this right now, I suspect you have asked yourself similar questions. Well, good news, my friends! I am here to open your eyes to a whole new world—you can create the life you want.
Yes, you read that right. Create the life you want! Now, you may be thinking, “Okay, great, Nicole, if I could just ‘create it’ clearly I would have done that by now.” But, you see, there is a lot more that goes into being a successful entrepreneur than just wanting it to happen really, really badly. More than sending out emails to band directors. More than posting flyers for lessons, making a website for yourself, and creating a business Instagram account.
I am going to let you in on a few of the secrets I have learned along the way to creating my dream life. These are the tricks that took me from working in the medical field and not practicing for weeks at a time to being a full-time, self-employed private music instructor/flute player/social media consultant/blogger. Yes, I wear a lot of hats, but that was exactly what I wanted to do! This was my dream. But now we’re going to talk about yours.
I want you to take a moment and just think about what you would be doing if you were living your dream life. Allow your imagination to run wild! Would you be a full-time flute teacher, running your own private music studio? Would you be touring in a successful chamber ensemble doing guest residencies at various colleges? Would you be an in-demand clinician on musician’s wellness, perhaps traveling around the globe?
I want you to write down any and all of the ideas you just had and put the list somewhere where you will see it daily. This, my friend, is your new goal. This is what you are working towards, and what you WILL create for yourself!
The first trick to creating your dream life is to allow yourself to commit to these dreams and turn them into your goals.
Dreams are something you fantasize about, but goals are tangible. You can take actions to reach goals. But most importantly, you have to truly believe that you can reach these goals. Because once you believe this, you are giving yourself permission to start working towards them. Sometimes these goals may terrify you—I know mine did! And that was precisely why it took me so long to achieve them. I would go back and forth, saying things like, “Well what if I’m not good enough for this?” and “What if I am not knowledgeable enough on this subject?” But this self-doubt will cause you to not reach out to so-and-so because you are afraid you may not be good enough. Or not title yourself as a ‘Wellness Expert for Musicians’ because you don’t know for sure if you are an expert. You are what you say you are, friends. Set your goals, commit to them, and own it. Once you do this you will find that the steps to reaching them seem to magically appear.
Tip number two is simple but necessary: shift your mindset to treat yourself as a business.
If you want to fast track your goals, this is how to do it. Read all the PR/Marketing books and articles you can. Watch YouTube videos from business moguls. Go down the Internet rabbit hole reading articles on entrepreneurship. Podcasts are your new best friend (shout out to The Blogging Millionaire and The Influencer Podcast)!
Next up on the list is good, old-fashioned networking.
This is something that you should be taking into consideration, honestly, as early as high school (and yes, I have absolutely gotten gigs/jobs from people I met even back then!) Go to as many events as possible and introduce yourself. Add every professional contact on Facebook. Be active and engaged and cheer on your colleagues!
One huge aspect of creating your own path is exactly that: creating. You’ll have to be a little vulnerable and reach out to people. Let them know what your specialties are and that you would love to help by speaking, or contributing to a newsletter, or being part of a festival, etc. Do your research on conventions and apply to present. Put yourself out there, create opportunities, and get your name out there, friends. Stop waiting, stop questioning, and just go for it!
And last but definitely not least, take the word “no” out of your vocabulary.
If you want to make something happen but get a “no,” just keep working your way down your list and eventually you will get that yes. At the end of the day, it’s all just a numbers game. The more chances you take, the better the odds. This is the big secret for most entrepreneurs, whether you are a blogger, a consultant, a writer, a designer, or a musician.
You create your own “luck.” Now get out there and start creating!
About Nicole Riccardo
Originally from Sarasota, Florida, Nicole Riccardo is a musician and educator currently living in Austin, Texas. She received her Master’s and Bachelor’s in Flute Performance from Florida State University, where she held a graduate teaching assistantship. Nicole has performed with the Sarasota Orchestra, the Cirque Du Voix Orchestra with Circus Sarasota, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, the Ocala Symphony, and has been a featured soloist with the Anna Maria Island Orchestra. Nicole has performed as part of both the Florida and National Flute Association conventions and was invited to tour with renowned singer Josh Groban.
As a chamber musician, Nicole previously founded and managed the Force Majeure Woodwind Quintet. While with Force Majeure, Nicole was awarded grants, commissioned new music, and put together a tour of the Southeastern United States performing and giving masterclasses at various Colleges and Universities including Mars Hill University and the University of Georgia. Force Majeure also received a recording offer from the prestigious NAXOS music label.
Currently, Nicole maintains a full flute studio, performs with various orchestras, is a social media consultant, and runs the blog and website www.NicoleRiccardo.com. She was recently invited to be a guest speaker on music entrepreneurship by the Florida State University College of Music and will be doing a guest residency there next month.
As an FSU grad myself, I’m proud to see this from a fellow FSU alum. Great advice here, thank you for the article. I will share it with some students!
Thank you so much for your kind words, I appreciate that more than you know!
I hope your students will find it helpful!