How Your Day Job Affects Your Dedication To Audio
So you want to quit your day job…
I have no doubt in my mind that a lot of my regular readers may already have the necessary skills to consider a full-time career in audio engineering.
Unfortunately, for the many of you that have full-time jobs, the decision to leave the safety and comfort of your day job and pursue a career in audio engineering can be too much of a leap to comprehend.
In this article, I want to explore taking that leap together. Just you and me, heart to heart.
I'm going to talk about quitting your day job to run your studio full-time; the risks you run by doing this, and finally, the dangers of having a day job that you don't necessarily hate.
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Your Day Job Absolutely Affects Your Dedication To Audio
I've been talking to a lot of my email subscribers recently, and in a conversation with one of those subscribers, we start talking about some of the things that were holding him back from pushing his studio forward.
Eventually, we reach a point in the conversation where he tells me about an internal belief that's holding him back.
His ‘internal belief’ is something that I encounter regularly when I’m talking to people about quitting their day jobs to pursue doing the thing they love full time; not just in the studio world, but in sectors all over the world.
From the friends I regularly see on a day-to-day basis to the random interactions I have while travelling and the conversations I have with strangers at conferences; there’s an issue so widely shared by the people I meet that I think it’s time to address it.
Here’s the email:
“My internal belief that holds me back is that I will have a hard time earning enough money with audio to be able to quit my job. I won't bore you with the details of my life, but I'll just say that I have a good salary and I can't quit and say “fuck it.” I want to add that I like my job–so it's a position that isn't uncomfortable–which may affect my dedication to audio, even though I don't think it does.”
Now, I hate to say it, but your job absolutely affects your dedication to audio. You wanna know why?
It's because the job is “not uncomfortable” for you.
Notice that he didn’t say “I LOVE JOB, IT’S SO DAMN AMAZING.” Instead, he essentially says “my job doesn’t suck too bad.”
Sometimes you can become so comfortable “getting by” in a job that doesn’t necessarily thrill you, you can forget about what you love doing most; what you should be doing. What you’ve spent so many years working hard to develop your skills in; something that actually matters to you.
I’ve got a phrase for this: golden handcuffs.
Aspiring Audio Engineers Are Being Shackled by Golden Handcuffs
Golden handcuffs are basically when you make a “comfortable” living doing something that you're not really excited about. Sure, you might enjoy it at times, but you can’t help shake the feeling that something doesn’t sit right.
There is no fulfillment or deeper meaning to your work. There is no deep “why” in the shit you spend most of your day doing.
Still, you stay in that job. The days become weeks, weeks become the months, months the become years… And, as those the years go on, you find yourself feeling more comfortable, more secure, and less fulfilled.
Golden handcuffs are shackling people across the globe and holding them back them from living out their dreams. This is a death sentence to making any sort of career change.
Is Your Day Job Causing Complacency In Your Life?
The dangers of having a good job–that you don't necessarily hate–is that the steady income you’re earning leads to complacency in your life. And, even if the pay isn't necessarily good, you'd rather collect a regular paycheck than take a leap of faith on your own.
Often, this is just a lack of confidence in what you're doing and a lack of confidence in yourself. But it all comes down to complacency; complacency will suck away your motivation to succeed and keep you from doing something you're passionate about.
It allows you to constantly make excuses about why you “can’t afford take the risk”.
Ask Yourself: Are You Ever Truly ‘Secure’ In Your Day Job?
I have an alternative viewpoint for those of you who truly believe your day job is a sure thing.
You might think, “Hey, my job is more reliable, it's a steady paycheck, I can depend on it every single month,” but, that's not necessarily true. You're putting your faith into a job that pays your bills.
This is one check from one source. You could lose that source of income basically overnight for a whole number of different reasons; especially in today’s economic climate.
It could be your company's downsizing, you get fired for being an idiot, your company goes out of business, your position becomes completely expendable or you get replaced by a machine, an app, or any other innovation that you have zero control over; and there are a lot of examples of this recently.
Compare that to a self-employed studio owner.
Now, I know it can be a HUGE slog to get started, but once you've established your studio, you have multiple sources of income.
Every single band that comes to you is a source of income. Any producers that work with you are separate sources of income. Any partnership or referral income streams that you have in place; those are all separate streams of income and you are never going to lose every single source of income overnight–unless you do something hilariously incomprehensible.
So, with all these multiple sources of income in place, if it ever reaches a situation where you just aren't making enough money, you're going to see the writing on the wall and you're going to have plenty of time to jump ship before it comes down to taking out loans or going into bankruptcy or whatever.
Dealing With The Bullshit Of Self-Employment
Now, I do have a few caveats with this. This isn’t going to be all fun and games. Self-employment definitely has its negatives.
First off, you have a fluctuating income. I’ve had instances where I've had 1000% difference from month to month. That means one month I earn 10 times less than I earn the next month.
The thing you can do to counter that is to have a buffer in place. I typically have six to twelve months of emergency funds in place, so when I have lean months or a string of bad months, I’m still going to be okay.
Also, let’s get real for a second… Yes, you are your own boss, but there is going to be bullshit you have to deal with.
There's going to be tax bullshit. There will be bullshit from dealing with over-demanding clients who aren't paying you enough, and there’s a hell of a lot of bullshit with red tape and other administrative boredom that you're going to have to deal with.
Fortunately, there are ways around this. You can outsource.
If there’s something that I don’t want to do, or can’t do, I try to hire someone. Some examples would be taxes, editing, bookkeeping, session prep, or administrative tasks. These are all things I pass off to other people so I can focus on growing my business.
Unfortunately for you; you're going to have to do most of the monotonous bullshit yourself at first.
If you're not prepared to do that, then it may not be time for you to make the jump to self-employment.
I spent years doing it, and it honestly sucked at times, but if you work hard enough and push yourself you’ll one day find yourself earning the money to delegate these tasks to someone else.
Do You Have The Right Mindset To Become Self-Employed?
There’s another issue when making the shift to full time…
Creating an established studio with a reliable reputation takes a lot of work. It is a lot of work.
It's taken me years and plenty of fifteen-hour days and hundred hour weeks to do this. It can take a lot of time in the beginning.
If you're the type of person that just likes to be told what to do every single day, this is not the business for you. No one is going to be over your shoulder, barking orders at you.
You have to be able to take initiative and take responsibility for your own business.
If you want to make this leap to full time, you're going to have to step out of your comfort zone. Yes it's hard, it's scary, and there's a lot of unknowns, but ultimately, it will help you grow as a human being.
Starting my studio was the single best business decision–and maybe not just business decision–but the best overall decision that I've made in my life so far.
I’ve managed to create a life where every day at work is a day I enjoy from start to finish. There’s no lingering sense of hopelessness or futility in what I do.
It's been a lot of work. Inevitably, there have been a lot of ups and downs, and even a brief period of depression–which I'll consider a video about at some stage because I understand a lot of people struggle with that–but in the end, it has honestly led to the happiest, most fulfilling chapter of my life.
Find The Keys To Your Golden Handcuffs
So, back to the point of this article; you're never going to push yourself if you just let your boss keep those golden handcuffs on you.
I know it's a challenge and sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, but if you can make it work, it’s highly rewarding.
You’re probably wondering what it truly takes to shift from your comfortable and probably unrewarding day job. Where are the keys to your golden handcuffs that are shackling you from unleashing your creative energy?
Well, the first thing to do is just make a decision. Do you want this or not?
The answer here does not have to necessarily be a “yes.” You may decide that you really don't want to make the leap of faith and become self-employed, because I understand that entrepreneurialism is certainly not for everyone.
You do, however, need to look at your current career path and decide if this is what you want. Do you really want this – potentially for the rest of your life? Or is this just what your friends and family expect of you? Maybe you’ve simply ‘fallen into it’ and now you can’t get out.
What’s The Worst Case Scenario For Each Decision?
The next thing to consider is the worst case scenario for each decision. Whether you decide to stay in your day job, or quit that day job and move into an alternative career.
Keeping Your Day Job
Well, what’s the worst case for staying at your day job? Let's look at this like this:
Is it soul sucking? Is it hacking away at your HP one by one? Do you find yourself constantly hitting the liquor store every weekend to restock your supply of “elixirs?”
If this is the case, how long can you keep this up?
Are you just doing it for the money? And I know, money seems great, right? It’s a lot of motivation for most people, but sometimes a well-paid job just leads to an increased cost of living due to all the creature comforts you get used to.
THIS is what makes golden handcuffs so dangerous.
You start getting used to: “oh, I have a nice car now.” And, “oh, I have a nice house now.” And, “oh, my 401k is fully funded.” And then, 30 years later, you wake up with your well-funded 401k, a bunch of stuff you never really gave a shit about in the first place, some retirement savings, and a whole lot of regrets about what you didn't do with your life.
Here’s the next thing to look at:
Is there even long-term potential in the job you have right now? Do you see yourself becoming expendable or obsolete in the next ten years? Could you be fired? Could you be let go?
Just look at all the industries that have been completely disrupted over the past decade. Assess the uncertainty of the economy in relation to your current position, and maybe that will give you an idea if your job will still be around ten years from now.
Leaving Your Day Job
Now, let's look at the other worst case scenario. What if you leave your day job and jump into the pro-audio world full time (or whatever it is you're trying to pursue)?
It could take longer than you expect to make a full-time living in audio; if ever. You may not even have what it takes right now. And I know it sounds harsh, but some people just lack the self-awareness to understand that they're good at some things and they're not that good at others.
Dare, But Don’t Be Delusional
If you need an example of this, just go back and look at all of those American Idol auditions that were horrible. All those people lacked the self-awareness to understand that they are not good singers.
There are going be a lot of cases where some of you guys are not as good as you think you are at what you do, be it within the audio-engineering, producing, or home studio world.
There's a caveat with this though, and that is that just because you don't have what it takes right now, doesn't mean that you can't improve and do it later.
So don't let that discourage you if you're not ready to take the leap yet. It just means you wouldn't succeed right now if you tried. And that’s okay.
What About Your Family?
Another thing to look at on this side of things is you may have a family that depends on you.
So if you quit your day job, how long is your runway? How much money do you have in the bank and how long could that last if you have zero income?
Are you just willing to take the risk with your family, your future, and your stress based off of that runway? Do you have enough to cover ALL expenses while you take a stab at this?
If you think you're ready to take the plunge into a full-time career in audio, it may be time to test yourself…
Let me finish this off by saying the obvious: You would be ill-advised to make a huge leap without having some amount of savings to support you while you’re working hard to establish yourself; especially if others are reliant on you.
I hope this article has been enlightening for you in some way. Hopefully, it's forced you take a look at yourself to see if you're ready to start making the shift from part-time to full-time, or to help you realise you have to do a lot personally in order to develop yourself before you can make that leap.
So, that's it for now!
Remember: it sucks to suck, so always keep learning.
Brian D. Hood