There is lots of talk about my favorite side project — ManagerSal.  I’m going to keep this page current with the latest thoughts and info about it.  So first, what is it?  Here is the official description from the web site:

“ManagerSal is your online ‘Administrative Assistant’ — your virtual office manager keeping track of your important business information and streamlining your paperwork. It is the result of over a decade of trial and error and incorporates the best practices of some of today’s most successful variety entertainers.”

The idea behind ManagerSal is to mentally separate the persona who handles the logistics of running your business from the persona who handles playing cards or an audience.  Or, if you are smart enough to actually have another person manage your paperwork, ManagerSal is the tool they should be using.  ManagerSal is a database designed for (and by) freelance entertainers to help us “handle” the business-side of what we do.

All freelances have the same issues.  We all keep track of different flavors of clients, some are individuals, some are businesses, some are schools, and some are agents/planners.  We all work in a variety of places, from someone’s living room to a restaurant to a fancy country club.  And while we all have our basic services and rates, they change on a per-gig basis.  And of course we have to keep it all on our calendar.  And remember who owes us money.  And send out contracts and/or invoices.  And follow up when they are not signed.  If we book out other people we have to deal with that morass.

Digging in a bit deeper gets even more complicated.  Each skill that you offer is unique, and is often hard to sell.  Each customer has different questions and you have to keep track of what you said to who, and when.  It can be painful waiting for customers to confirm gigs and send in deposits, which is why lots of folks skip deposits and contracts.  Doing your taxes is also hard, especially when you spend money faster than make it.

I never set out to be a freelancer.  I don’t think anyone does.  Growing up, wanted to be an astronaut or a dinosaur doctor.  At no point did I proclaim, “Mom, I don’t want job stability.  I just want to bounce around from gig to gig and hope I stay healthy”.  I kinda fell into being an entertainer because doing anything else left me unfulfilled.  I’m just not the kind of person who thrives working for some big company doing the same thing over and over and over . . . . which has two important consequences:

  1. It makes me a good entertainer/artist
  2. It makes me a lousy business manager

I like to say that the term “self-employed” is a myth. There are actually lots of people working in your business: an entertainer, a bookkeeper, a marketer, a writer, an inventory manager, a receptionist, etc. The tragedy is that they are all played by you. That would be fine if you had the time and expertise to be good at everything, but I’m guessing you don’t. You are probably really good at a couple of things, mediocre at a few more, and lousy at the rest.  To excel at what you do requires some focus.  For example, when you are practicing a new skill you can’t be thinking about whether or not to renew your yellow pages ad (cancel it).  When you are on the phone with a client you can’t also be writing checks and editing pictures.  I would bet that you spend more time on the things that you are good at and try to ignore the things you are bad at.  I would also bet that you spend more time working on your skills or your show than writing sales scripts and balancing your finances.  Am I right?

There is real pain in ignoring or failing at parts of your business.  What are the long-term consequences of ignoring these parts:  Paying taxes.  Paying subcontractors.  Returning phone calls.  Updating your promo material.  Getting a new costume/suit.  Sucking in those areas will put you out of business.

The good news is that there are lots of people out there that are really good at the things that you hate doing.  There are people who can look at the mess that is being a self-employed-ADD-freelance-artist and figure out how to do it faster, better, and easier.  More importantly, they can teach it to others.  They can turn an unorganized operation into a turnkey system.  You just have to hire one.  In an ideal world, every scattered freelancer would have their own organized business manager.  Sadly, that’s never going to happen.  All of the really good people have really good jobs already.

Hence, was born to be your virtual office manager.  Sal is the one that keeps your records straight and teaches you good business behavior.  Sal remembers who you worked for last year at this time, and who owes you money right now.  Sal remembers your awesome sales pitch, and lets you know when someone signs a contract.  Sal keeps a photo release handy for you.  Sal will give your list of customers so you can send them holiday cards.  Sal keeps me sane, and can keep you sane too.

Learning how to use ManagerSal (or any system) is a huge step in running a successful business.  Seriously, take the time do it.