Do I need to quit my day job to pursue a career in music?

October 25, 2019

Is slugging through your 9-to-6 job getting in the way of your next album release or tour plans? Have you had enough of putting your dreams on hold and doing what you “should” do rather than what you want to do? If so, read on.

 

I’d experienced this conflict for a while as giving up a predictable full-time job to forge an unpredictable career in music is very difficult, at best. Making music takes time and it’s a costly pursuit, and making money from it is hard, requiring a tremendous amount of graft. In the words of my music teacher from school "don't quit the day job!".

 

Sure, it can be done, but the security of having a job is important, particularly if you have to pay rent or have other financial commitments. 

 

The happy medium option is to keep the day job, but work fewer hours.

 

As of July, I started working four days per week and Naz, three. As a firm proposer of the 4-day week for all, I can confirm it hasn't affected my productivity at work and it’s been fruitful for our music.

 

So, here are the pros, cons and practicals of working part-time to pursue music:

 

 

 

 

THE PROS

 

1. You can dedicate a set time to focus solely on music. 

 

Weekends are a time to fit in hobbies, socialise, relax and catch up on life-admin and chores. But having an extra day or two to yourself allows you the time to dedicate purely to your art without neglecting other responsibilities and social commitments.

 

2. More flexibility to accept gigs

 

Gigs are often on weekdays so working part-time time will give you a bit more flexibility in booking gigs without always worrying about early starts the next day. 

 

3. More time for the admin that comes with being a musician.

 

When time is restricted, slacking on admin and marketing is inevitable. But, it’s important to keep on top of this, especially as you build your following and more bookings come in. Working part-time means that like with writing and practising, you can allocate a set time to work on admin without it taking over your weekends.

 

4. Better work life balance = happier you

 

This is not specific to music. Generally, having a good work-life balance can have a huge positive impact on your well-being. I’m far more relaxed and happier than ever since working 4 days a week.

 

 

THE CONS

 

 

1. Potentially less income - will it work for you?

 

I understand that if you aren’t making a decent regular income from your passion, it may not be possible to work part-time. We are lucky to both be living at home and have managed to save money which gives us a “safety net”. If you have rent, bills and financial commitments, you’ll need to work out whether it’s viable to take a drop in salary. Make a list of all your incomings and outgoings to assess whether working 3-4 days a week is a viable option. There are many online tools to help you with this.

 

2. More work on other days of the week 

 

Working fewer days might mean you have to work a lot harder on other days of the week. For some, this may cause a lot of added stress. It was a worry we both had, but luckily our employers have been understanding and our daily workload hasn’t been difficult to adjust to. In fact, we have actually felt more productive and motivated at work. However, if you have a very difficult boss or a demanding job, this transition might not be as smooth as it was for us.

 

3. It may not be possible

 

A big barrier for me was whether I’d actually be allowed to work part-time. The only people working part-time in my current job were parents or people a lot more senior. This caused a bit of anxiety, but turned out to be an easy ask and my boss was understanding.

 

4. Pressure to create

 

One thing I have felt is that whereas before I would spend 30 or so minutes a day working on band stuff, now I pressure myself to get lots done on my day off work. When I get writers’ block or am not so productive, I give myself a bit of a hard time. That’s just something to bear in mind and get used to!

 

 

The Practicals - asking your boss 

 

 

1. Can you still achieve the same as when full-time?


You may need to assure your boss you believe you can achieve the same amount as before.

 

2. What's the pay and terms?


If it’s a yes from your boss, ensure you find out what your pay, holiday allowance and what the agreement is.

 

3. Frame it as a trial


If you are worried about asking, or your boss is unsure, start it as a three month trial which can be assessed in future. 

 

4. Will it affect your team/ co-workers?

 

This is important to bear in mind and worth speaking to your colleagues about before asking to assess whether it would work or if tasks need shifting around.

 

 

How to do the asking bit


 

1. Choose the right time


I wouldn’t advise asking if you’ve had a bad month/ week at work. Ask when you are on a high as this is more likely to get a positive response.

 

2. Frame it positively

 

Frame it as you still like your role and company but you’d just like a bit more time working on what makes you happy. Who can argue with that? 

 

4. Does anyone else work part-time at your company?

 

Does anyone else in your company work part-time? What is their situation? It might be worth chatting to them to find out how they negotiated part-time hours and how they manage it.

 

5. What's the worst that could happen?


Unless you have a very cruel boss, the worst that can happen is that they say no. Then you have another decision to make, whether you’ll accept this or move into a role which will allow you more flexibility. Realistically, if your boss wants to keep you, they’ll value your passion and be happy to agree to more flexibility.

 

Overall, I'd recommend anyone trying to carve out their music career that going part-time is a great option which allows flexibility, more time for music as well as a financial safety blanket. However, there are the practicalities and financials to consider first, so ensure it’s a realistic option for you before diving in. Good luck!

 

If you’ve started working part-time to pursue your passion(s) on the side, please comment below! 

 

 

 

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© 2019 by Naz & Ella
London, UK