Financial and Practical Organisation
If you receive one-off payments for your work as a composer, such as commissions, you are technically self-employed and many aspects of your working life will be comparable to those of self-employed workers in other industries. What is going to make you stand out as a composer is your artistic work but, to carve a long-term career out of composing, you need to be equally adept at the administrative and organisational side of working life.
As a self-employed worker, it is easy to get into a muddle financially, blurring private and professional expenses. To help you differentiate between the two, do get a system in place for collecting receipts and keeping them safe, regularly make notes of cash expenses, and set up a separate bank account and debit card for your income and expenditure as a composer. Being aware of how much you earn and spend as a composer will help you plan your finances short and long-term. Additionally, having all financial information up-to-date and in one place will help you enormously with the self-assessment tax return you will have to submit once a year.
One big challenge for professional composers is the balance between administrative/promotional work and creative work. Having systems in place will help you deal more efficiently with practical matters and allow you to spend more time composing. A dedicated workspace, not just for composing but also for administrative tasks, means you have everything you need in one place. A database for collecting and storing contacts and a file for archiving press cuttings and programmes are also essential items in the home office.
Lastly, as composing is your business, it might be useful to apply some standard business techniques like writing a mission statement and drawing up a 3 year, 5 year, or even 10 year plan. This will help you be clear about what you want to achieve, how and when by, as well as set specific aims and revisit those aims at regular intervals.