Brenda Rudzinski knows there’s more than one path to pursue her dreams — and she has more than one Thumbtack profile to help her get there. The former medical buyer left her career in business in her mid-30s to pursue her passion for singing and found herself in New York at 41 with a new degree in music, an apartment to pay for and no work. She built Brenda’s Bartending to pay her bills and hustled so hard she’s now a top bartender in New York City.
Her stellar presence as a bartender also supports her singing career as Brenda Rudzinski, Vocalist / Songwriter / Educator. Here’s how Brenda is using Thumbtack to transition full-time to her creative career.
How did your Thumbtack story start?
I joined November 2015 when I was still a head bartender at a restaurant. Five months later, Brenda’s Bartending was strong enough to support me and I left the restaurant and went completely freelance. Six months after that, I started Brenda Rudzinski, Vocalist / Songwriter / Educator. Right now 85 percent of my bartending business is sourced from Thumbtack and 25 percent of my music work is from Thumbtack.
I started bartending to make singing possible. I had a “real job” and a business degree, working as a buyer in a medical company. But in my mid-30s I started carrying my guitar with me to work and realized I was not happy, I wanted to sing. I went to Paris and attended school for music theory. I returned to get my dual degree in vocal performance and songwriting from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Six years after quitting my corporate job and fresh out of music school, I moved to NYC as a 41 year old with an apartment to rent but no job. So I got right into the service industry and through that discovered Thumbtack.
How did you build a winning profile?
I’ve tweaked my profile several times. Through bartending I’ve been in 200 different homes, venues, and offices. I’ve really started to understand how people work and how to service people. It’s learning what people relate to visually, whether it’s drinks or me singing. And understanding how to present my singing as a product, just like I do my drinks through the photos I choose. It’s also in the wording. It’s making people want to relate to me as a professional. A winning profile is relatable. With my profile I show people how I will present myself professionally and how I will behave in their homes. Business people, moms, anyone — it’s being able to connect to them all.
How do you request reviews?
As a bartender, I have 93 top reviews and have completed over 160 jobs. Especially in the beginning of my bartending business, I was really on top of it. Now I am vigilant with reviews about my singing, but I never nag anyone. If I ask and they don’t answer, I let it go. But if they ask about reviewing I say, “I would really appreciate that, reviews go a long way in getting me additional work.” Or, “Thank you, if you do that it will help me get more work.” Singing is really close to my heart, so I want to know if they like the way I sound.
How did you grow your businesses?
I’ve been a business woman from day one. What I know to be true is it’s never me first. It’s always how I can help them. Whether I’m singing for somebody or I’m serving them drinks, I make it all about the customer.
I always talk on the phone when closing the deal or after they’ve hired me. Especially with singing, talking on the phone personalizes the experience for the customer. I want to make sure that they’re extremely satisfied and that starts with knowing what they want and how I can help them.
What’s your approach for following up?
I am persistent in writing customers through the Thumbtack messenger. I’m pretty proactive. I always try to close the deal on either profile. And I always say, “Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have.” I want them to know I’m available and that I can be flexible on price.
What percentage of work does Thumbtack provide each of your businesses?
Right now my singing business is sourced 25 percent through Thumbtack. Bartending is about 85 percent. I want to transition this year so that I get more singing clients. I want to earn my living by singing.
Any tips for fellow freelance workers? How have you been so successful?
Show up! I was hired to sing at a 15 year wedding anniversary. The man was surprising his wife. with a fancy hotel suite in the Hilton, a private dinner, me and a cello player doing a private performance, and a videographer was recording the evening. Then blizzard Jonas hit. We got 27.5 inches of snow in New York. Everything was shut down, even the subways shut down at one point. But me and the cello player got there through the blizzard to arrive to the customer. He was so overjoyed we came and did the performance. The videographer showed, too, so he was just beyond thrilled. We showed up, covered in snow, with our dresses packed up. We changed and wiped the snow out of our hair, had a great performance, then put our snow gear back on and went home. That’s the key for us freelancers, we have got to show up, no matter what! And the best part was how happy the client was that the special night he planned came together in spite of this record-breaking blizzard.
With music — as with any type of profession — be someone people want to work with. They don’t always want the best player, they want someone who will be professional, show up on time, and work well with others. And if you’re also the best player, all the better.
So what’s next for your music career?
I just performed at my first Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival. My goal is to write an album, get a fall jazz festival — potentially overseas — and start touring. Just like I did with jumping from that head bartender job at the restaurant to going full-time with my Thumbtack bartending, I want to jump from full-time bartending and only part-time music to full-time music and slowly phase out the bartending. There’s one more jump for me to make. It’s a pretty methodical thing I’m doing, making a goal and making it happen. To sing is what I love to do.