I started off doing music as a hobby. One day I woke up with an urge and by the end of that day I was clunking around on a brand new guitar. That was the best $300 I ever spent. At the time, I was working a full-time job, but every single evening I would come home and practice new chords I had learned. Fast forward ten years later, my full-time job now, is my music and the job I used to do is a thing of the past! (Read on for my full story.)
Everyone’s story is different. When determining when to quit your day job, yours will be different too. The truth is, there is no easy formula on how to do it. This is one of those things that shouldn’t be rushed into. It will naturally happen. It may only take 2 years for some. For others like me, it may be longer.
There are lots of factors that play into the decision to quit your day job to pursue your independent artist career. The two main factors to put some real thought into are Financial Stability and Mental/Emotional Preparedness.
If you think you are ready to take the plunge, these are some questions you should ask yourself:
- Will earnings from your average monthly gig calendar cover your monthly expenses?
- Do you have a financial plan? What will you do if you don’t make enough money to cover your monthly expenses? Will you draw from a savings? Will you take on a side job? What jobs would you take on? Would they interfere with your main music obligations?
- What is your plan for insurance, business licenses, taxes, etc.
- How do you plan to maintain a consistent cash flow during slow months?
- How will you mentally cope with the transition from your current work environment to working for yourself? Are you ready to work alone?
- How will you keep yourself accountable when it comes to working and practicing everyday on your own?
- Is this something you would do whether you earned a living from it or not?
- Are you ready to work musician hours? (Booking/Promotions/Administration work during the day and live performances at night and on weekends)
- Are you mentally prepared to receive criticisms from friends and family? How will you respond to family and friend judgments about your life choices?
So here’s my story. I did music as a hobby off and on for about 5 years. When I decided to pursue it as a career, it took me another 5 years before I could justify quitting my day job. My very first “gig” was a show I organized in the clubhouse at my apartment community. I invited all my neighbors and friends. I was mortified and excited at the same time. I did a 30-minute set. Toward the end of the show everyone that came signed up to my mailing list. That was a symbol for me that I can get people to buy into what I wasselling. I thought that if they wanted to join my mailing list, then I was good enough to be a professional! I’m not saying that thinking was right, but that’s what convinced me. So, I finally decided to pursue music full-time. Life happened. I got married, and moved. I had to rebuild and establish a new fan-base in my new town. I attended open-mics, networked, booked local shows and got more stage-experience. This process took almost 2 years. By this time, I was not working a job, but my husband’s work supported the both of us. My music was starting to pay for itself. I used my earnings to pay for production, travel, equipment, and promotions. I published a professional website, got some really good promo photos, got some video footage, and shopped around for booking agents. I signed on with one and started touring. My husband joined me and we formed a duo. We were traveling so much that it interfered with his job. That’s when we took a hard look at the possibility of going full-time.
In order to make things work, we made some major changes such as selling our 4-bedroom house and downsizing to a small one-bedroom apartment. We also negotiated a bartering type situation that allows us to rent at a discount. We put more effort into booking quality shows and took on other freelancing side jobs. We keep bills low and do what we can to generate revenue in a way that allows us the freedom and flexibility to make and share music.
Quitting our day jobs was the best and most freeing decision we made. Anyone can do it, but it takes a good plan, execution and maybe even some sacrifices along the way. Before taking that step, make sure you are financially prepared and mentally ready. Once you have arrived at the corner of financial stability and mental preparation, that’s when you quit your day job!