Selfishness is generally perceived as a terrible way to operate within society. To do what we do as singers, there are certain sacrifices that come with the territory as performers.
My top three reasons for being selfish as a singer are:
•Positive Mental Health.
Personally, when I am dealing with my stress and prioritizing my needs, I am less likely to go off on people. I’m able to make better decisions and avoid taking my stress out on those closest to me. Choosing to care of myself leaves me with extra time to prioritize what things are of importance and what is keeping me from being truly happy. When I do plan to go out with friends, I make them my priority and focus my attention on them rather than feeling like I need to get home or be elsewhere. By being upfront with people, I don’t ever feel guilty.
When I finally learned not to feel guilty about saying NO, I was able to focus on what I needed to be happy. I was able to make choices that allowed me to do the things I wanted to do. I was able to turn down things that either didn’t pay enough to be worth my time or didn’t put me in a financially sweet spot. Listen, I donate my time to charities near and dear to my heart but individual struggles of my colleagues are not my problem.
I’ve prioritized my career before weddings, funerals and birthday parties of friends and family if I just couldn’t make it work. It’s really impossible to be in the different places place at the same time. if someone figures out how to do it, I’ll sell your concept to about 10K+ opera divas who’d love to find out!
If I said yes to every singer who tells me, “I am a poor singer,” I would be shooting with a kit lens, unable to pay my bills and in a foul mood. Instead, I’ve still managed to price myself lower than the other photographers in my field, because I already know how financially difficult it is to be a singer. I figured out that my most difficult clients usually take me 20 hours from start to finish to complete and my easy clients are about 12 hours of work. I averaged that out and set an hourly price and accounted for taxes, equipment maintenance, unforeseen expenses and upgrades as my business grows. Like singing, photography is not a cheap profession. Most of my lenses cost about $1,500-2,000. I also offer my services at a discounted rate for students around the country when their programs or schools bring me in to shoot 8+ people in a day. I often bring in an additional photographer so we can shoot at the same time and I can fix hair, makeup and wardrobe without wasting time.
As a singer, I also say, “This is not worth my time,” when a voice lesson on average costs in NYC $200 and about $100 for a coaching. I calculated how many hours I’ll need to practice on my own, how much time I’ll spend working with professionals and the duration of the gig. I then think about UNCLE SAM who will be knocking at my door every April! I’ve only accepted contracts below my fee if it was something that I really wanted to sing, someone I wanted to collaborate with or with my cultural partner Sing For Hope, because I truly believe in their mission. Singing for anyone else for free would just pollute and cheapen my brand as an artist. Believe me, turning down a performance for my favorite fashion house last year was ROUGH! It just didn’t make sense to fly across the country at my own expense, put myself up in a hotel and feed myself for a measly $100 (but be taxed on the full amount). I tried to make a trade for clothing but even that wasn’t going to make it worth the time.
Recently, my business partner, Sara Duchovnay, insisted that I set boundaries, whether it is telling someone that I cannot do something for them or even just turning off my phone at a certain time. There is no reason to be up at 2AM putting out fires when it can wait until business hours. Sometimes as artists, we just need to rest and that is OK! As a hustler, it is the hard for me to accept that there are 24 hours in a day and I cannot possibly be productive for all of them! When you decide to be selfish and make yourself a priority, you will never feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Now, I am less cranky and have a better outlook than when I was averaging 4 hours of sleep, just because I felt obligated to attend an opera production that I’d seen six times and didn’t get home until after midnight with hours of musical study, photo retouching and responding to messages. Sometimes you just need to make time to watch your favorite guilty pleasures like Dance Moms, Little Women of LA and LIFETIME movies!