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How do I quit my job to make music?

June 26, 2019 7 min read

How do I quit my job to make music?


(Wo) Man…

Have I pondered this question a long time before actually taking my leap of faith!

I think it always starts pretty much the same for each one of us. You pick up an instrument or open a computer software and the next thing you know, several hours have passed, and you wonder what just happened.

It's like you are sucked into a separate musical dimension where time, space, and boredom do not exist. It feels pretty damn sweet, right? The next day, you wake up, go to school or work, and on the bus, you wonder how wonderful life would be if you could make music all the time.

Pain seeps in. You now realize you're just a lemming waiting in line to cash a retirement pension which by the time it arrives, you'll be too old and tired to enjoy anyways. You feel cheated. You feel like making all the right choices led you down the wrong path.

I know the feeling.

Hell… It pains me to even think about it to this day. How difficult was it to accept the harsh reality that my passion for music was just that: a passion. Not a viable career choice. Not a fulfilling way to achieve my full potential. Not a lucrative business endeavor.

Well, in this article, I will reveal all my secrets. Everything you need to know to start building your "quit the rat race" plan. Better yet, we are going to learn together how to do it in a way that will make your momma proud. We are going to do it safely and responsibly.

Let's get to it!


Gary Vee said to be self-aware.

I admire Gary Vaynerchuk. Everything from his insane levels of energy to his techno foresight is mind-blowing. I remember an interview he gave where he told the younger generation that the most crucial thing in this world was to be self-aware.

Know what you are good at. What is it that makes you unique as a musician, composer, remixer, or producer? What do YOU bring to the table (notice how we are not talking about getting something from people but giving TO people)?

To illustrate my point, allow me to recount a conversation I had earlier today with a girl at the coffee shop.

Girl: what do you do for a living?
Me: I compose music.
Girl: That's so cool. What instrument do you play?
Me: I play piano, guitar, and bass, but I'm terrible at all of them ;)
Girl: How do you make it work, then?
Me: I play the computer like no other.

You see, I always knew learning an instrument wasn't for me. Practicing scales for hours on end just killed my vibe. On the other hand, debugging DAWs and computers was always just effortless and quite fun.

So I ask you: what are you good at?
What is it, music-related, that requires minimal effort on your part?

Build a list of 3 to 5 elements.

Then move on to the next section of this post.

Multiple streams of income

All businesses need multiple services and product lines. Yours will be no different. Once you have your list in hand (granted you've done the previous self-awareness survey correctly), search for ways to monetize those talents online.

Yes, you can also sell your talents in the real world, but I want you to use the power of the internet to get a more significant reach, faster. And because I'm such a charitable soul, I'll give you a few examples right here.

  • Become a session player on sites like Airgigs
  • Teach your instrument (in person or over Skype)
  • Sell information products (music theory hacks, mixing secrets, etc.)
  • Earn money from streaming services (Apple Music, Spotify, etc.)
  • Earn money from royalty payments (when your music plays on the radio and TV)
  • Sell beats on music marketplaces or your website
  • Sell drum kits, loops and presets on sample marketplaces or your website
  • Build a theme page on Instagram and get sponsor and shoutout money
  • Build a gear review channel on Youtube and get sponsor money

The list goes on and on. Your skills can be complementary to the music. Are you great with photography and video editing? It's an excellent tool to get your foot in the door and network.

If you think you will do just one thing, you are sadly mistaken.

Start building now

A question I get frequently is a variation of the following: can I start making a decent income in a few months?

I always answer with a question first: how good is your product?

Like any business, music is ultra competitive. If you want to make money quick, you need to be ready to bump elbows with the big boys. You need to prepare for prime time.

If your product (music) and services are not yet world-class, no worries, you can still get there. It's just going to take longer.

When I quit my day job, I had been taking music production seriously for at least ten years. Before that, I had been making beats as a hobby for ten more. That means I honed my skills for a decade, and learn how to sell for ten more BEFORE actually trying to make it a career.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

You need to start treating your music career as a business now.

Not tomorrow.

Right now.

Let's move on to my next topic: orchestrating a transition.

It will not happen overnight.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you will seamlessly go from working a dead-end job to paying everything from your music income overnight.

The reality is that the switch will happen very gradually over several months, if not years. You will need to perceive and use your current job as a tool to achieve your ultimate goal. Think about it: your job allows you to buy equipment, domain names, marketing, everything. All you need is time to build the business on the side!

Another trap is the "all or nothing" mentality. Sure, we all want only to make music all day. But what if your side business allowed you to take your significant other or family on a trip each year using the side income music generated? Wouldn't that be something?

Start building now. Scale every year.

Once your part-time side income becomes more important, it's time to move on to the next phase: budgeting.

Minimalism is key

Ask yourself this: what's more important? Vacations, fancy clothes, luxurious cars, or time and freedom to do what you love most?

How about a real life's purpose?

Realistically, your lifestyle will take a nosedive in the first years.

When I took my leap of faith, I wasn't making enough money to pay for all my expenses, so I did three things (that should make my mother proud to this day).

  • Make financial projections (15 hours/week = $X so 50 hours/week = $X)
  • Create my current budget
  • Find ways to make your lifestyle more minimalistic (scale my budget down)

Again, it took me ten years of building a side business that allowed the equation at point 1 to work. It only worked on paper once conditions from points 2 and 3 were met.

Simply put, my lifestyle was based on a six-figure income, and I made it work on a $45,000 yearly salary.

How did I do it?

Quite simple.

First, I calculated our monthly expenses to the cent. I used Mint.com to automate my spending reports and pinpointed all areas deemed luxuries.

I cut all those luxuries before quitting my day job. Restaurants, bars, vacations. Everything had to go. And it did.

Then, I called every billing company and streamlined or cut services. I sold a bunch of stuff, including my pristine 1973 Fender Rhodes. Whatever works, right? We dumped carloads of things to the Salvation Army and moved to a different place.

Once I had decluttered my life completely, I was ready to hand in my resignation.

It was finally time to close my eyes and jump.


Taking Breaks

It's easy to rest once you've been through the decluttering phase. It's so stressful you feel like you deserve a break at the end of it all.

You don't deserve a break.

Let me rephrase this: if you feel like you deserve breaks, you probably do not love the grind enough.

Taking breaks is a trap.

The grind is the fun part.

It took me five years to understand this negative pattern. I would put insane amounts of effort for a few weeks, get exhausted, and re-think my whole strategy.

That's when I realize I suffered from tunnel vision.

I needed to build a broader vision for my career.

Make short, medium, and long-term plans

Let's revisit our multiple streams of income.

Next, let's order them by level effort to accomplish and potential revenue. It could go something like this:

1. Advertise one service line (playing classes, mixing & mastering services, composing and arranging services, etc.)
2. Build stock music catalog (50 songs)
3. Create a free digital product (free beats, free ebook, free sound pack)
4. Create your brand, social media channels, and website
5. Create an email list
6. Create paid digital products (drum kits, synth presets, courses, etc.)
7. Market the hell out of your business (content strategy and delivery)

Notice how the stock music catalog does not come first.

Do you know why Apple is one of the most successful businesses in the world? Cashflow. All companies need cash flow. Yours is no different. If you stall your potential income to compose fifty incredible songs, you are subconsciously saying: "I will keep my day job until I can finish fifty songs".

That's not conducive to more cash in the bank. You need to distance yourself from this sort of creative idealism. Use these three steps:

1. What can I do to get paid today (services)?
2. What will take months to get paid (passive marketplace income)?
3. What will take years to get paid (personal website passive income)?

Never set anything in stone

The beauty of the lifestyle business model I advocate is its flexibility. Let's list out the main pillars one more time:

1. Active (services) + Passive income (products)
2. Multiple streams of income
3. Multi-layered time approach to your grand vision

If a service or product line dies because the market has moved on, your cash flow won't be in peril given that you have developed complementary service lines.

The goal is to build a modular income blueprint and revisit it every month. Always re-assert the effectiveness of a service or product line based on its profitability and readiness to go to market.

Once you have a solid foundation, build your passive income line further. Once you have marketed some passive income lines successfully, develop your passive income strategy further.

Always go back to cash flow levels to analyze how much time you can spend developing passive income sources.

I'm not courageous.

When I tell people what I do for a living, the first thing they say is: "Wow JT, you're so courageous!". I usually respond that yes, it takes "some" level of courage to do what I do. But I also make sure to tell them that leaping is not all that frightening once you have built a solid income foundation and strategy.

Like I said earlier: start now.

Stay the course, while always refining your business model.

Stay patient.

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