I’m a singer-songwriter-pianist touring about 100 shows a year. In my ‘former life’ though, I worked for a big marketing company. It was a good job, but when I listened to my heart, it wasn’t quite fulfilled. I was a trained musician and realized I really wanted to pursue music as a career but the switch seemed overwhelming.
I’d been performing some of my songs at open-mic nights as a hobbyist for a few years ‘dreaming’ of a full time music career when I was slapped in the face by a big dose of reality. I visited a great aunt in an old folks home and she had Alzheimer’s and I wondered, ‘what if that’s me in 60 years’? It was very real and was the kick-in-the-pants that caused me to talk to my boss the next day.
Instead of immediately quitting, he offered to keep me on 3 days a week. I found that the more time I put into music the more results I got. So after a year my morbid curiosity left me asking the only big question left to ask: ‘what if I put all my time into this?’ and I quit my job cold turkey. It was tough slugging at first, and I ate an awful lot of canned tuna and not very many t-bone steaks to make ends meet!
As I reflect on some of the lessons learned I can come up with a few that I’d like to share. Ultimately now I find myself putting in a lot of ‘time’ each week doing something I love but it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ at all. The possibility for boundless happiness exists.
Ask yourself: what makes you happy?
I knew what made me the happiest: Music. I chased that.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
I found other people who were already working at music, and some who were also trying to make the switch like me. Being around them as my community was crucial.
Initiate, don’t procrastinate
I really didn’t know what I was doing nor did I know what I was getting into. But the main thing was I didn’t wait to have it ‘all figured out’ before I started. I knew some things I’d try would be failures and others would be successes. I also knew that I’d likely learn more from the failures.
Build a plan but be ready for half of it to change
I drafted a business plan of sorts – something that captured everything I knew. It was my road map and I watched as half of it changed before I got through it. I’ve found that to be a constant as years have passed: Plans often change. You gain new knowledge all the time and to not use it would be crazy.
Partnerships and collaborations
Find partners and collaborators you get along with. Two heads are often better than one. I’ve seen this work in both touring and co-writing
You’ll run into 20 people who tell you ‘no you can’t do this’ for every one person who says ‘yes you can’. Perseverance is key.
Keep a ‘good stuff’ folder
Starting and maintaining any independent business is tough and you run into a heap of roadblocks so some days are really hard. One thing I do is maintain a folder of ‘good stuff’ that I can flip through as a reminder of some of my accomplishments. I highly recommend this!