A Freelancer’s Survival Guide: Three Ways to Jump Start Your Career

Dana Lynne Varga will be publishing a monthly series for Freelance Artists. If you have questions for Dana, email support@csmusic.net and we’ll have her answer or write about those.

Entry #1 – Three Ways to Jump Start Your Career

#1 Create a versatile repertoire

Many singers (especially those fresh out of grad school) are hung up on the five-aria package. You will perform many kinds of music as a professional singer.

Rethink what a “package” means. How about:

  1.    Five to seven arias
  2.   Two to three contrasting oratorio pieces
  3.   Two or three art songs
  4.   Two or three musical theatre pieces?

I call this collection “The Book”, and its purpose is to prepare you for any type of opportunity that may come along. Ensure you have a variety of languages, styles, tempi, time periods and characters.

All pieces should be well-prepared; coached, polished, and dramatically fleshed-out. Whether it be an opera or operetta audition, church solo, wedding gig, house party, MT audition or a recording session, you are now ready to go and won’t have to pull out a dusty old repertoire or scramble to learn something new.

#2 Make quality recordings of this repertoire

In the 2019 classical field, your recording is your first audition – your “round one.” Too many singers throw together recordings last minute with little attention to detail. Select five to seven pieces from “The Book” to record, probably three arias, one oratorio, one art song and one MT piece, depending upon your needs.

Follow these 9 steps:

  1.       Plan far in advance
  2.      Schedule two separate sessions if time and finances allow.
  3.      Hire an excellent accompanist and rehearse in advance.
  4.      Avoid small studios and classrooms.
  5.      Use the space of a larger recital hall or church space where possible
  6.      Ensure you are using quality equipment.
  7.      Get video recordings for everything other than oratorio which could be audio only.
  8.     Do a test run before you start recording so everything is as it should be.
  9.      Take good care of your body and voice in advance of the sessions.

Bottom line: take recordings seriously.

#3 Update and promote your website

Once you have a well-prepared repertoire and quality recordings, you are empowered to promote yourself assertively. If you don’t already have a website, start today. Seriously, update your website in an afternoon. Setting up a website is easier than ever with template-based services such as Squarespace and Weebly. It is no longer necessary to pay a webmaster to create and update your site for you.

Follow these 9 steps:

  1.    Choose your best recordings to feature on your website
  2.   Make it clear from the homepage where folks can access them.
  3.   Keep the website clean, organized and simple.
  4.   You don’t need hundreds of production photos although you can create a gallery if you like. A few high-quality photos of you will do the trick. If you can’t afford professional headshots, ask a friend to take some nice shots with a new iPhone in portrait mode!
  5.   The other website essentials are:
  6.     Calendar tab
  7.     Contact tab
  8.     Your resume
  9.     Your short biography

Now…get to it!

Once it is done…share, share, share! Point people to your site using social media, emails, business cards, and word of mouth.

Off you go!

Dana Lynne Varga

Dana Lynne Varga is an accomplished soprano, voice teacher, arts entrepreneur, and career coach. She is the founder and artistic director of MetroWest Opera, which is celebrating its 10th season. Varga is on the voice faculty of the New England Conservatory Prep School, and has served on the voice and opera faculty at UMASS Amherst as well as the BU Tanglewood’s Young Artist Vocal Program for exceptional high school singers. Varga also won first place in the Professional Division of the Classical Singer Vocal Competition in 2016.