• Phil McDonald

Carving a career whilst working full time

For many of us, the dream is to pursue a career in music, to give up the day job and to spend our days writing, recording and playing gigs whilst making a living. This is an achievable goal, (listen to podcast episode 5 where I talked about this) but It can be difficult to do whilst you're still working during the day. So how do you move from one to the other?


In the first instance, it's very important to record your goals or the stages you're going to pass through in order to get to the position of a full-time musician. Not many of us would be in the position to chuck in the day job just like that and call yourself a professional musician. Instead, it's important to work out where the income is going to come from. What sort of gigs are you currently playing? Are you being paid well? Or at all? Do you have a product out there to sell? Or do you have the means to record an album to sell? If you can put something in place to map out a plan to get you started on the right path then all the better. The one thing you don't want to do is jump in blind and hope for the best.


If you're looking to play more gigs and ones that pay more you're probably going to have to play further away from home unless you're already in a big city with a lively music scene. If you are going to have to travel then you need to think about the trade off between the money from the gig and the travel time, type of venue etc and whether it's worth doing. I was once offered a gig 150 miles away from home on a weeknight for a fee less than £100. Needless to say, I didn't take it. It would have meant about 3 hours of sleep before going to work in the morning.


This leads to the obvious point that you need to consider your wellbeing whilst making this journey. There's no point burning yourself out working a 40 hour week during the day whilst trying to play gigs every night of the week. Your performance is obviously going to suffer, you won't enjoy it and will quickly become disillusioned with the whole thing. It will also harm your reputation as a musician which is counter to what you're trying to achieve. So although this sounds quite negative it doesn't have to be.


Clearly the key to making a success of this is balance and moderation. You need to look at which gigs are must-dos, and which ones aren't, or can wait. If it's possible to have some flexible hours in your day job, then all the better. In an ideal scenario, you could reduce your working hours whilst you build your musical career. Look at other possible income streams such as session work or playing some covers gigs to bring in money to ease the burden.


If you're going to make the leap to full-time singer-songwriter you need to plan it carefully. Taking a blind leap of faith will most likely lead to failure. By taking a balanced approach and easing out of a day job and into the world of full-time musician, you can carve out a happy, healthy and successful career. Remember, proper planning prevents poor performance.


Are you trying to make the leap to full-time musician? What problems have you encountered?




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