Giving up the day job, yeah!(?)

One of my followers asked me recently if I have any wisdom to pass along about giving up full-time work as a ‘wage slave’ so they would have more time to pursue their passion. A rosy future writing music for a living is the dream, huh?

Simplify your life.
We live in a climate of instant gratification and lustful consumerism. We have too much stuff. We need to downsize, organize, clear out, sort. Find simple (and cheap) ways to entertain, to play. Get rid of the junk, tidy the closets, set-up your office/studio. A great resource for this is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. Also look at where you live, how much you are paying in rent/mortgage, and assess whether you could live more simply and cheaply elsewhere.

Get serious about your finances.
-pay off your debts: One of the biggest mistakes I made in my journey from full-time to part-time to fully self-employed was… I didn’t pay off my debts first. Don’t even think of resigning your job until you’ve paid off (and cut up) all your credit cards, paid back any family members, sorted out that bank loan, etc. If you have more than one credit card, save the one with the lowest interest rate, only use it for travel or business expenses, and pay it off monthly.

-set up and maintain a monthly budget: you need to set yourself up to win. That means getting control of your spending, paying off debts, and saving for business trips, music conferences, new instruments, repairs, vacations, etc. As a self-employed person you are not going to be getting a bi-weekly paycheque. If you don’t know how to manage your cash flow effectively, you’re going to run into trouble, fast.

-don’t forget insurance. You’ll need home insurance, business insurance (if folks are coming to your studio), can you access some sort of health insurance. You might also think of life insurance and/or crisis insurance. Who will pay your bills if you get ill and can’t work for any length of time? You get no sick pay or holiday pay as a self-employed person.

-save. Include savings as part of your budget, not just for yearly expenses like vacation or attending a music conference, but, they say, we all need to have a minimum of 3 months wages in the bank to support us should something go wrong. Put this in a separate account that you don’t touch.

-think about what you need to support your business. Business cards? Computer? Recording equipment? External back-up? Get yourself set-up with the basics before you lose the paycheque. Remember to keep it simple, though.

Plan your transition.
Unless you have another sources of income that can sustain you, my best suggestion is to move slowly from full-time to half-time to part-time to occasional contract work. I went from 40 hours to 20 hours, then dropped to about 12 hours a week, over the course of 6 years. The part-time jobs paid my rent while I grew my studio.

Get educated.
You’ll be running a business. It’s not a corporation, but you will need to keep your books, file your taxes, market yourself effectively. Write yourself up a business plan with goals, read the books, attend the classes – whatever you need to do to get yourself ready to manage your studio.

Flex your marketing gene.
Sign up for the newsletters put out by folks like Ariel Hyatt & Bob Baker. Figure out who you are, what your niche market is, how you are going to attract clients.

Grow your network.
This is part of marketing, I suppose, but for me it’s more about community, about having a ‘tribe’. I enjoy meeting and connecting with other creative people on the same path. We share intel, we commiserate about things that don’t go well, and celebrate each other’s successes.

Get real.
Don’t assume that not working a ‘day job’ is going to be easy. You are going to have to be chief cook and bottlewasher. You are going to have to organize your own schedule, manage your own time, plan your financial life around intermittent income, buy the groceries, cook the food, clean the place, get the business cards, answer the emails. You will be head composer and CEO of housekeeping and general dogsbody. You will have days with little do followed by til-three-in-the-morning franticness.

You will go from working 40 hours a week with a steady paycheque for someone else, to working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for an income that ebbs & flows, and for the most disorganized, irritating but talented boss you’ve ever had: you.


Lance said...

Reading that, I guess I could go either way. I could be depressed because I've done all that and am stuck at the "work part-time" stage. Lousy economy, and my current job is full-time or nothing. Or I suppose I could be happy - I've done all that and am well on my way. All I need to do is figure out this part-time thing... Thanks for the answer. :-)

Sharon Goldman said...

As a longtime freelance writer as well as singer-songwriter and blogger (, I can tell you that the world away from the "day job" a very worthwhile effort. Keeping your expenses down (so panic doesn't set in so quickly) and setting specific deadlines for yourself is key. Also, shower and get dressed, first thing in the a.m. -- I've always found that the days I worked in my jammies were the least productive. :)

Derek said...

I loved what you had to say about embracing reality, so to speak. I spent a considerable amount of my formative years convinced that if my writing was good enough, I could just fling my songs out there and trust that the right people would hear them.

It's about being intentional, about being purposeful about your art.