How To Take The First Step Towards Professional Success In 2016

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Friday marks the end of 2015, and after what I can promise will feel like an all too short holiday weekend the vast majority of music professionals will be shaking off their Christmas break laziness in order to return to the endless grind that is entertainment promotion. If you’re a blog owner, or someone still doing everything in your power to make ends meet on a week to week basis, you are probably already working. For those individuals, and I include myself in that grouping, Christmas is a one or two day break at most. We can only survive if we have a steady flow of income, and most low to mid-level industry jobs do not come with two weeks paid vacation. Heck, I don’t receive paid vacation at all. If I take a day off I am also sacrificing a day’s pay, and I can only afford to do that a handful of times in any given year.

Let’s say you don’t get paid. Maybe you run a blog, or perhaps you intern for a label, but whatever the case you know this time of year to be a hard time to feel as if you’re still connected to the music business. When you see your peers posting updates from a beach or tweeting to proclaim they have no idea how to use all their free time you fight the urge to tweet something sardonic in response. It’s not that you hate those professionals, but you might envy them in some small way. As an up and comer, every break is more like a pause on your hustle towards the position you hope to attain. As writers, we can fight the lack of news and announcements that comes with every holiday break by crafting original content, but without anyone in a position of power to see/read/share the material you create there is a near-constant fear of having any hard work you do contribute going unnoticed.

I wish so very badly I could write to you with a creative way to expose yourself and your skill set within the industry during these slow times, but after a decade in this business I have found the best path to success is one that begins with a plan. I know that is not an innovative idea by any means, but having a plan has been proven to work time and time again in developing talent, both on stage and in professional circles. Plans make it possible to set realistic goals, as well as the steps needed to achieve them, and they help keep you on track while you’re trying to do anything or everything you can to establish yourself. I didn’t realize how much simpler my professional life could be with a calendar until I was over 25 years old. When I did, I immediately committed myself to using calendars in everything, from writing, to running a label, to simply staying in shape. Having a plan makes it possible to do more without inundating yourself with work, and as we head into the new year my hope for you is that you too learn to appreciate the possibilities the open up with a good plan is made.

With the time you have left before this year slips away I want to urge you to sit down and think real hard about everything you hope to accomplish in 2016. Once you have a few goals in mind, write them down, and follow those notes with a reasonable timeline for completion. Some tasks will take weeks, while others may take months Be honest with your abilities and build from there. Afterwards, take a hard look at each month in the coming year and begin plotting what you will accomplish on a week to week basis. If you’re running a blog, this means developing a content calendar. If you’re running a business, this means setting marketing and/or sales goals. Whatever the case, lay out as much of your future as you can think to piece together. If you don’t reach every goal or complete every task, that’s perfectly fine. What matters most is that you make a plan, stick to the plan, and wake every day knowing what must be completed to move closer to the position in life you desire.

I believe in you if you believe in me. Together, nothing can stop us.


James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.