12. Workaholic, Much? / by Allie Farris

     Sitting in my car while C has another work call. I tuned two pianos today, but am super annoyed and stressed that I haven’t worked out in four days, and now won’t get to today, also. I even cheated and had a protein shake between tunings, just to make sure I would go on a run. But at 7pm, an hour later than I planned to be done with my last tuning, it started raining outside, C texted to say his call had been pushed back, and Sharon asked if I could come over and watch something (anything) starring Benedict Cumberbatch. We haven’t seen each other in the last 6 weeks as I’ve been tuning, writing, and overall freaking out; and she’s been almost single handedly moving an entire doctor’s office to a new location, dealing with an intense bout of the stomach flu (all better now), and overall freaking out over in her corner as well. I figured this being my only 8 year friendship left, I should definitely go see her. In the meantime, however, I have been leaving small care packages on her doorstep every few weeks. Candle for illness, and cookies for stress.

     It’s hard to say where things are going next. I’m needing a brand new regimen for daily food, exercise, and writing, now that so many things have changed in such a short time. But I am writing again..it’s good, too. I keep having flashes of vivid, rainbow-colored daydreams where I’m in a ball gown accepting Song of the Year. “What will you do now?” They ask, shoving a tv microphone in my face.

“I’m flying to see my fiancé” I reply, with a big smile.

Did you see those toned arms? She must be in the gym every day! They remind me of Michelle Obama’s...

Such is the world inside my head.

     The tunings have started to slow in frequency as I've stopped advertising regularly and contacting past clients, so that just my monthly studio gigs remain. I've recently lost one weekly student to a school play, and soon another will be gone for the summer. So, truly, it's now or never. I'm starting to feel the claws of self-sabotage digging in deep, with each passing day, like a living monster I must outsmart in order to get ahead. What's my alternative? Give up? Lose my apartment? Worse yet--I'd lose forever the opportunity to make a living writing music.
     I can't recall if I was ever as hard of a worker as I am now. I believe I was, but C taught me the enormous benefits of working smarter, for shorter periods of time. Before, I would only dream of the possibility of making $1000 a month, if somehow I could find just ten tunings. I'd scrape by between tours, bringing home just enough to pay rent and buy a few drinks at a few bars for the week I was back in town. Everything went into the upkeep of my car, and not much else. Eating sporadically was a necessity, and those few bottles of wine I would be gifted on a tour in the last 6 months before I stopped, would be nectar from the gods. The Bulleit bourbon I kept on my shelf just before meeting C was a triumph I relived daily. I had an herb garden and ate salads out of it for lunch to make up the difference.

     But now, Tartufo has closed, my lessons are puttering along, and my tunings are waning. And it's time for a new job to take its first shaky steps. When I began my tuning business, I would sit in bed and make lists of every church, school, and organization that may have a piano in Nashville and the surrounding areas. I would then contact at least 20 locations, and on average get at least one response back. As I kept doing this, day in and day out, I started cold calling. For two hours a morning, I would painstakingly dial numbers and hone in my elevator pitch. As the months dragged on, and I grew more depressed at the sight of my computer, I ironically increased my stamina for emailing and cold call-related rejection. 20 places turned into 50, and I would spend up to 4-5 hours a day logging places in to my list, calling and/or emailing, and crossing them off. The more it went on, the more I realized that I would never run out of places to contact. 
     After about eight months of steady growth, I had a breakthrough: Facebook Groups. By joining different Nashville-based organizations, I posted direct links to my tuning business with a group-specific pitch (and no shame, at this point), and was met with about twice the response rate. And because it was Facebook, word traveled MUCH faster. After finding various groups and neighborhood apps on which to advertise for free, I hit my peak of 40 pianos a month, a flabbergasting achievement for someone who thought of herself as "not much of a businesswoman". Turns out, success comes from a willingness to lay your ego flat on the pavement and not care when someone steps on you, but grow stronger with every stomp you receive. 

     So this is what I take with me in the coming, terrifying months ahead. As I take the limited knowledge I posses of small businesses, I look for ways I could break through in this new one. I guess it's time for my ego to spend a little more time on the sidewalk.