Here is a great article from the Passionate DJ Podcast, that we just had to share.
“How can I develop my DJ career while maintaining a demanding day job?” This is a familiar scenario to most people who work in music, or other creative endeavours. You have to pay your bills, but you want to express yourself creatively. But you can’t develop yourself as an artist (and turn it into a lucrative pursuit) without investing the time, and working on your craft.
Here’s some advice for the majority of DJs: those who spend their mornings and afternoons doing something else.
Block Out Your Time (And Stick To It)
It’s an unfortunate truth that creative pursuits, like music-related hobbies or potential careers, are the first things to be put by the wayside when you don’t feel like there is enough time in the day.
Not only do many DJs have day jobs, but they also have spouses/significant others, children, schooling, pets, other hobbies, chores, gym memberships… the list goes on. Ever have that feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day?
Of course you have.
The best way to handle this problem is to create a fairly rigid schedule. This is the single most helpful thing I’ve done to increase my own productivity, in all my pursuits.
You don’t necessarily have to get super specific, down to 15-minute increments. Get as specific as you need to in order to get things done. Start vague (i.e. – “Sunday afternoons: music discovery and track prep. Sunday evenings: date night”). If that isn’t quite getting the day job, break it down a step until it starts working for you. Maybe your real answer is something like “Sunday evenings after 5PM: date night.”
Don’t only schedule your DJ-related activities. This isn’t just to prevent forgetting things, like a to-do list… this is a lifestyle change.
Create a weekly calendar. Block out your absolute must-do, no-choice items first (like your day job). Then, see when your available “slots” are. Then, schedule time for your creative pursuits… and force yourself to stick to it. Try it for a week or two, then see what needs adjusting and pivot accordingly.
You may find that you “only” have two hours a week to work on music production. But here’s the kicker… that’s two more hours than the zero you’re finding time for now. It’s more time than you think.
When You’re At Work… Work.
The hustle has to be put on “pause” when someone else is paying you for your time.
This is not just an ethical concern, but a productivity concern as well. If you can’t shut off your crate-digging, self-promoting, gig-planning Super DJ persona, it becomes really difficult to get things done at work.
It’s really easy to go from unproductive to unemployed. And, if you were ready to get out of that job, you wouldn’t be reading this article!
Keep on delivering results if you want to get paid. That goes for DJing, too.
Cross The Streams
One appealing option for many people in this situation is to actually get a job in a related field.
This serves two purposes. Firstly, it can open two-way doors. For example, working as a stage hand or sound engineer for large-scale events gains you technical knowledge, and access to a whole new network of music industry people. That can’t ever be a bad thing for a DJ.
Second, it also serves to keep your head in the right place. It’s easier to get excited about your job when it’s in a field related to what you like doing anyway.
Finding a career path that is helpful to your musical career is pretty much a win-win situation.
A lead guitarist can give guitar lessons. A music producer can offer mastering services. A vocalist can direct a church choir. What can you do, armed with your knowledge as a DJ?
Prioritise Time Flexibility
It may be helpful to aim for a job which allows you to have a more elastic schedule, over one that pays a little bit better, if you have the luxury of doing so.
Realising that the job market is not always exactly stellar, many people have to fit their lifestyle around whatever job they are able to get. This is the unfortunate reality of having responsibilities.
However, one thing most people also do is to stop looking for jobs once they have one. I know… I had the same job for 13 years.
Luckily, mine was fairly time-flexible… though it also required me to be somewhat “on call”. I was a systems administrator, and if a network switch went down, the power went out, or some other disaster struck…. well, let’s just say that I spent more than one 3am session in the server room.
I would never tell you to find another job if you’re completely happy where you’re at, and you are on a successful career path. That being said, you never know what’s out there if you never look.
Finding a job where you’re allowed some leeway in your schedule does wonders for people who moonlight as DJs or musicians. A reasonable vacation schedule, for example, is very helpful if you’re at the point where you can tour or play the occasional out-of-town gig.
Sometimes, it isn’t even a question of flexibility so much as it is just a schedule that better fits your lifestyle. If you have a DJ residency that goes until 3 AM, and you have to be at work at 6 AM, something’s gotta give. It’s going to be up to you to choose which.
Start Your Own Business (or Freelance)
Maybe you’ve decided that the day job just isn’t for you, but you aren’t able to support yourself financially on your DJ gigs alone.
Going into business for yourself can be the most effective way to gain the time flexibility you desire.
Re-read that carefully: Going into business for yourself can be the most effective way to gain the time flexibility you desire.
Why do I point out those two words? Well, I highlight “can” because nothing is guaranteed. Not every business, freelance, or contracting arrangement is created equal.
“Flexibility” I highlight to make sure you don’t get the wrong idea. Gaining flexibility of time is not the same thing as gaining time!
This is often a high-risk, high reward kind of choice. This option is not for everyone.
If your sole purpose for starting a business is, “I want to DJ more”, you should probably throw away the idea right now. Starting a business isn’t too tough, but starting one that can consistently pay the bills is a journey all on its own.
You have to be prepared for a whole new lifestyle. And DJing will probably have to take a back seat for an undetermined amount of time.
All those disclaimers aside, I still feel it’s worth mentioning. In fact, this is the route that I’ve chosen, and what is working for me at the moment.
My wife and I have started a mildly successful online retail business, which serves to pay the bills and allow me to work when it fits in my schedule. This has given me the ability to have better say over what gigs I take, how well I promote myself, and to work on building up this website.
However, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial drive, and I was at a good place in my life to give it a try. This is something I would have done anyway. DJing is a good secondary or tertiary reason to start a business, but probably not a good only-reason.
That is, of course, unless you want to start an actual DJ business!
If you can scrape together the capital for a decent sound rig, have an excellent sense of professionalism, and think you have the business chops… putting together a mobile DJ business (for weddings, corporate events, etc.) can be a pretty lucrative option. It can also help you make steady money faster than you would building your career in the club/performance circuit.
Reduce Instead of Quitting
This is something else that Trip and I address in the episode. There is a bit of middle-ground between staying in a demanding time-vampire of a job, and jumping head-first into business ownership.
Perhaps taking a reduction in hours (i.e. – switching to part time from full time) is the option for you. Going from 40-50 hours in a work week to 20-30 is pretty significant.
It’s also a pretty significant reduction in pay… especially when you consider the fact that you will often lose other benefits by doing this (such as health insurance).
Still, it’s an option that exists for some people and is worth mentioning. This is a great choice for those DJs who are already making some amount of consistent money by DJing, more than the hobbyist.
The unfortunate reality is that most people don’t ever end up dedicating as much of their time and energy to their passions as they wish they could, due to various circumstances and responsibilities.
If you shoot straight for the stars, and you’re not in a realistic place to do that yet, you will simply be overwhelmed and disappointed when you aren’t a superstar one year from now.
Baby steps – that’s the key. It may not be realistic for you to quit your job and start touring 3 months from now, but it’s a little more within reach to try to score a local residency or to find that extra 2 hours in the week to produce singles.
And please believe me when I say that baby steps add up!
Being realistic doesn’t mean disregarding your passion. If you’re like me, you’ve got something musical inside of you that needs to get out in order to maintain your sanity.
Take a proactive approach, and making small adjustments here and there, is a very productive method for getting more serious about your craft.
Source: Passionate DJ