Wow. What a Labor Day weekend! We saw a sand sculpture contest, we had wine by the bay, we sang songs around a beach fire pit, we played beach volleyball in preparation for a tourney, we ate delicious sushi.

I hope you have had an awesome holiday as well!

I’m so grateful for (1) this blog where I can tell the world what’s running through my head and (2) the opportunity of life on earth where I get to practice doing what I love to do and hence, being who I love to be. So. Grateful.

I called my first client this morning, and they said “You’re working on a holiday?” I said “Oh my goodness – I LOVE doing music therapy with you guys. Of COURSE I am!” Granted I probably wouldn’t see clients on Christmas or July 4, but Labor Day? What the heck. Why not? It’s part of the reason I’m on earth… to do this music therapy thing.

First, some news: If you haven’t joined in on the fun over at Music Therapy Ed yet, Dude! You’re totally missing out! Enter your name and email on that site to get all the updates as they come. New CMTE courses are released on a regular basis =)

We’re building quite an impressive Library of CMTE Courses over there. Plus by entering your name and email, you’ll receive all sorts of great promotion specials, and shout-outs to our amazing music therapy colleagues.

Now, on to more excitement . . . The contents of the box in the image to the left are a secret portion of the GRAND PRIZE for the Music Therapy Ed Scavenger Hunt at the AMTA conference.

Here’s your hint :: REMO is a sponsor of the scavenger hunt. That’s right. We’ve got the biggest drum head manufacturer on our side!

Because Music Therapy Ed is so gung-ho about learning online, we’re actually running a virtual scavenger hunt in addition to the in-person conference scavenger hunt. Even if you can’t make it to conference, you can still participate in the scavenger hunt! By the way, you do not need to be a music therapist to participate in courses, promotions, or scavenger hunts over at Music Therapy Ed. We’re an all-inclusive type of group.

Start revving up your thinking cap engines to prepare for this scavenger hunt. It will be so so so much fun. Details to follow soon.

Now for a question from a reader ::

Just a question for you – I am a newly certified MT-BC and have been job hunting in my (poor market area of) greater Phoenix, but I suspect the main way to really work here is to start my own practice and get contract work. One of my main concerns about this is all the running around from one place to another, heading to multiple places per day to do sessions (especially several group sessions in one day). It sounds exhausting. How do you deal with that and pace yourself?

Also, do you have any tips on what is “full-time” for a music therapist? Is there any norm, like 20-25 sessions per week? I guess it’s partly based on how much work we can handle without overloading, against how much income we need to be making per month to stay afloat financially. Any of your experienced input on these questions would be appreciated, when you have a moment. Thanks so much! Best wishes ~Alexis Gorin

Oh Alexis. This is the Million Dollar Question for all music therapists! I have some help for you, and I think you’ll dig these suggestions. First let’s tackle the multiple-places-per-day dilemma. You can ::

1. Schedule contracts in the same locale for certain days. For instance, my Wednesdays are spent in Escondido, 30-40 miles northeast of my home. I spend the entire day up there. I either find a wi-fi spot for a lunch break, or I call up a friend who lives/works up there for lunch.

2. Schedule 2-hour sessions at the same location. If you offer a slightly reduced rate for 2 hours in a row, that can help with your travel time and gas mileage.

3. Just say no. If you make yourself available only at certain times, you actually increase your perceived value and demand. It sounds crazy, but stand up for what you WILL and WON’T do. Be very clear about your decision. You are the #1 asset to your blooming company. If you say “I only spend Tuesdays and Thursdays in [that particular area],” then clients will crave your services and respect your time more.

4. Use my “How much am I really getting paid?” spreadsheet. I designed this spreadsheet a few years ago to help me figure out whether driving insane amounts of miles is really worth it for my bottomline. All you need to do with the spreadsheet is fill in travel time, service time, roundtrip distance, total pay. Then the spreadsheet will tell you how much you are *really* making per hour, assuming your car goes 20mi/gal, your gas is $4/gal, and your tax is approx 15%. You can change all those variables within the spreadsheet.

Remember, if you’re not making a profit, then you are NOT running a business. You are running a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with either. But it is not possible to run a business that does not make a profit. Period. This is very important.

As for figuring out what “full-time” is, I suggest creating a projected budget. I have mad mad crazy-detailed budgets for all of my endeavors. A basic skill you need to acquire as a small business owner is spreadsheet-manipulation! Start from your VISION, and work backwards. You need to start maybe a year, 2, or 3 into the future, then work backwards to figure out how you can make it there. Be realistic. Be true.

In my opinion, you should be able to serve no more than 20 hours per week as a self-employed music therapist to make a profit. But just in case, write your projected budget for even fewer hours, and see what rate you’ll need to set in order to make a profit. Take into account your taxes, overhead, gas, instrument maintenance and inventory, time to plan, time to document… just to name a few.

I’ve gotten skilled enough at projected budgets to know that we are going to break even at Music Therapy Ed in two weeks. Considering that I’ve invested thousands of dollars of my own personal income into the site, I am thoroughly excited. Woo hoo!

For the readers :: Alexis needs support from YOU, too. If you have some suggestions for Alexis as she braves the first couple of years of self-employment, please share your wisdom and tips in a comment below!

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