As an indie musician with multiple careers in music to juggle, there have been many times when I’ve caught myself in the "Predictable Paycheck Predicament," or PPP. It’s the one where I’m jealous of my roommate as she leaves the apartment at her regular time to go to her regular job to get her regular paycheck.
But then I go back to sleep. And when I wake up, I might go for a run, get some groceries, reply to emails, work on a song, set up a pitch meeting or two, grab coffee with a friend in town, book venues for my summer tour, have a glass of wine, watch the latest episode of NCIS online, record in my home studio, and research publishing companies for my indie artist eCourse. Or something like that.
PPP is really just another grass-is-greener complex, and once I get myself present to my starving artist reality, it becomes a thing of the past. I pretend my roommate is there and I sing, "My job is better than yours!" because there are so many reasons why the life of a musician rocks.
1. Freedom. We musicians get to create our own days. I have freedom to go to the gym or write a song or book a tour. I don’t have anyone breathing down my neck and I can take off at any time, eat any time, and work when I am inspired to work. By the way, I believe inspiration isn’t always something that happens to you. Sometimes you have to create it, which usually just means sitting your butt down in a chair and writing.
Don’t get me wrong, my calendar is not blank and I still have obligations and requirements to bring home the bacon, but these are usually on my terms and are situations I have chosen, like finishing a song for a CollegeHumor.com video, getting on a sponsorship conference call, or arriving at a gig on time. But these obligations are what I spend my days working on achieving. And the key is I can use my day for what I truly want in my life. This freedom is wonderful and I never take it for granted.
2. Responsibility. I know people shy away from taking on responsibility – it’s a scary, grown-up thing. But really, creating your own day, generating your own sources of income, and being the master of your own schedule is a massive lesson in responsibility. Out of necessity, being a freelance musician has taught me to be responsible, and I’m now able to handle anything with ease.
3. Passion. We are doing what we LOVE! You will never, ever hear me say, "I wish I was ____" (fill in the blank with a verb). I’m usually already doing it. I know so many folks who are in their 9-5 job because they haven’t found their passion, or are doing what they have to do to support themselves and a family. While taking the leap to being a full-time musician is daunting, difficult, and perhaps delusional, knowing what you are passionate about is a blessing!
4. Beating the crowds. I get to run errands when supermarkets, dry cleaning, hair salons, post offices, and retail stores are least crowded. Oh, and can you say, "off-peak gym hours?"
5. Infinite possibilities for income. As a music creator, we can make money in so many ways. It’s exciting, if you think about it. Live show ticket and merch sales; royalties from TV and film placements; recording demos for other artists in my home studio; co-writing and producing with other artists; creating music for websites; scoring indie films; playing house concerts, ski resorts, colleges and a whole bunch of other shows – is just the start of the list. (Note: I have a list of 19 "other gig options" in my eCourse – check it out below.)
I also have the freedom (see #1) to take on other sources of income like teaching piano lessons, personal training, bar tending, and writing and selling an eCourse. Anytime I need a "break," I can still create income by turning to many other options, like guiding a kayak trip or working with the network marketing company Referdia, where I help sign up customers and businesses, making money any time they buy or sell something.
In the end, although my money comes in less consistently than my roommate’s check, my possibilities for income are interestingly varied and almost without limit.
6. Weekday deals. Did you know ski lift-tickets are so much cheaper on weekdays? Well, they are.
7. Having a glass of wine in the middle of the day. Just because.
8. I am NEVER bored. If you didn’t get that from #5, it’s true. Not being bored, however, does require a certain amount of discipline and responsibility (see #2). I wouldn’t make money if I just got up and wrote songs all day long. I need to wear many hats to make an income, and that is what keeps me from being bored. From booking tours to writing music to pitching my composer skills to getting out on the road, my life as a musician is something I create. I take breaks, for sure. Heck, I’m Netflix’s #1 streaming customer. But seriously, each of my days is never the same as the one before it, by design.
9. Staying in your PJs all day. Not advised, just possible.
10. Community. Being a full-time artist automatically makes you part of a community, one that has a mutual lifestyle understanding and one that is supportive of the pursuit of passions of others. You other freelance musicians get that, right? What are your favorite reasons for living the life of a musician? (Comment below or tweet @CBE using hashtag #myjobisbetterthanyours)
Cheryl B. Engelhardt is an established pianist/singer/songwriter who has toured the US and Europe, licensed songs to over a dozen TV shows, and who composes music for films, national ads, and CollegeHumor.com. Cheryl is the author of “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump-Start Strategy,” an incredibly effective, result-oriented eCourse for independent musicians who are serious about breaking through plateaus in their careers. Because you are a loyal Echoes reader, you get a ridiculous 70% discount off the regular price by typing in IHEARTDM in the “discount code” field.