I’m sat in a cafe in Edinburgh with my laptop doing some work. I had a great week of playing shows and finally have two days off, it’s been a little hectic. That’s kinda the goal though, to have a hectic, busy, and fun life making money doing what I love!
At this point in time I play anywhere between 5 and 10 gigs a week. I make all of my current money playing shows which is super cool but was not always the case. When I first started my music career I played shows, taught guitar lessons, did studio session work, and did some music booking as well. I had to diversify myself initially and as I went I narrowed it down the the things I prefer doing, which at the moment is gigging.
I used to work for an insurance company, which I thought was great at first. I quickly learned it ISN’T for me. Spoiler alert** I only lasted there for two months. I spent the entirety of my time there lining up enough work as a musician to quit that job. I have been making a living solely from music ever since. Because of this experience I know how make this transition and I want to offer up any words of wisdom to help others seeking to make a similar career change.
Firstly, it’s important to know that no two situations are exactly the same. This is a guideline. I really do want to give you a solid idea of what “being ready” to quit your job looks like.
Consider your Finances:
The first thing to consider is your finances. Do you have a bit of savings put aside? It never hurts to have a bit of money to fall back on in case things don’t go as smooth as you hope in the beginning. I realize how hard it is to save money and that most people don’t have a bunch of extra cash sitting around. As you still have your current job you can start saving now for this, whatever you can afford helps! Consistency is key here. You need to do an audit of your current expenses. Add up everything from your rent, to cell phone bill, car payments, coffee budget, EVERYTHING that makes up your monthly budget. You need a complete understanding of just how much money you will need to make with music per month to stay afloat. With that number in mind you can create an “Exit Schedule”.
Create an “Exit Schedule”:
Creating an “Exit Schedule” (for exiting your current career) is where things start to feel a bit more real. Drafting a rough timeline for when you hope to begin your life as a full-time musician helps to give your goals more context. Consider how long it will take you to save up your “safety net” (It’s good to have enough savings to carry you for a month or two at least, in a perfect world). You also need to give yourself time to network and begin booking actual paid work. This schedule is meant to be very open ended as you can only make this transition when you’re truly ready so don’t get bogged down with dates. Just try to set yourself goals as you save money.
I.E. By this time next month I want to have 1 gig a weekend and 5 music students. In two months I want to have 2 gigs a weekend and 10 students. In the 3rd month I aim to have 3-4 gigs a week.
Keep the goals realistic and attainable while also challenging yourself to stay within your timeline. Go to open Mics (you can find them by googling your town’s name followed by “Open Mics”. Play and meet the musicians, find out where in town is hiring musicians. You can visit my past “How to Find Paying Gigs” and my “How to find work as a Music Teacher” Blogs to learn more.
Become a Weekend-Warrior
If you can find yourself 3-4 gigs and 5-10 students per weekend (I’ll include Thursday in the weekend as it is a popular night to have live music) then you should be able to start thinking about giving your two weeks notice to quit your current job. Become a weekend warrior, meaning conquer the weekend first. By conquering your weekend you can put yourself in a position to make as much or close to as much money as you were making with your job. This, combined with your savings, should be enough for you to cover your expenses (which is why you need to have a handle on your expenses in the first place). Once you are no longer working at your current job you will have your weekdays free to focus on finding more work and your evenings free to teach more students and play more gigs.
You can speak to venues where you perform and offer your services as a booking agent where you send in musicians in your music network to perform and take a commission as payment for doing the legwork and setting everything up. 5-15% is usually a fair commission rate. You can also let your music colleagues know you are available to play or sing on their recordings and that your skills are for hire. Perhaps you are skilled at recording and producing? If so you can monetize that too.
Start as a weekend warrior and scale up your efforts once you make the transition. Be as diverse as you need, there are no limits and you are the one in charge.
Make the Transition
This is the best part. All of your prep and efforts come together and you quit your job and are now a full-time musician. I really hope that by this time you have been completely honest and realistic with yourself. It isn’t easy and it does take work but if you want it bad enough it is a very exciting path which is more a labour of love than a chore. Save some money, know your expenses, give yourself a rough timeline of goals, start conquering your weekends (diversifying where needed), and quit your job ONLY when you have taken steps to ensure your success.
Becoming a music entrepreneur is all about positioning. I’ve met many people trying to make a full-time living that have had to resort to finding other means of making income (such as working in a cafe or somewhere in retail). There’s nothing wrong with that and it is better than falling behind on your bills. The point is with good positioning (considering your finances and preparing adequately) you will give yourself the best chance possible at finding success!
Feel free to browse the other articles on my page that contain more information about being a music entrepreneur. Remember, your music network is so important as you will meet amazing friends and find work opportunities within it. You don’t need to wait to start going to open mics, or to go watch live music and get to know the players in your city!
Good luck! (But with good positioning, luck won’t be too strong of a factor).
You’ve got this! Have fun guys!
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