I’m writing this on a Monday and like many of you, I have returned to my full-time day job wondering where the fuck the weekend went and why my office has run out of coffee at this most pivotal time of the week. At best, working your ‘dayjob’ is never going to be as enjoyable as playing music. At worst, it can feel like your soul is slowly being sucked dry as you spend groundhog day endlessly grinding on a hamster wheel of pointless tasks.
I’m sure almost all of us have at one point or another worked jobs we hated in order to pay the rent and generally live life. But even if we’re working a job that we kind of enjoy, the frustration of knowing our day-job is not fulfilling our life’s mission can massively suck.
Back in Sydney, I worked at a corporate job that I didn’t particularly enjoy for 5 years. My team and boss were actually pretty cool but I still found myself getting anxious each Sunday night at the thought of spending another week in an environment where I felt I didn’t belong or where I wasn’t fully meeting my potential as a human. It’s my belief that when we spend too long in a space where we’re not meeting our full potential or properly utilising our skills and talents, it can seriously impact our self-esteem and motivation.
Not to mention that working full time and trying to run a serious band is a lot of work and if we’re not careful, this path can seriously lead to Musician Burn Out.
But in the aforementioned job, as well as the other positions I’ve held, I have always found a way to make the most of things. These ‘hacks’ kept me sane when peers around me were throwing in the towel of their music careers all-together because it was all too hard. So here are my top tips to make the most of your day job when all you want to do is play music!
1. Use your ‘Net Time’
Most of us have some sort of commute to work and for a good portion of us, it’s public transport. This is the time to post on social media (or maybe schedule in a few posts), make sure all comments and messages are replied to, plan your bands next video clip and anything else you can do from your phone. If you drive, put on a music industry podcast and up-skill on your commute. Doing these things means you have a sense of purpose right from the start of your day and you’ll have a number of things already checked off the list before even getting to work.
2. Lunch breaks are for writing
Use your lunch breaks to get outside in the fresh air, go for a walk and blast new demos you’re working on. I had an hour’s break in my old job so I used to walk around the city or sit in Hyde Park, completely switch off from work and write. They also didn’t mind me listening to headphones so usually this process would continue when I was back in the office and I either used to write ideas lyrics in the body of an email (which I emailed to myself afterward) or in a notebook between doing other tasks.
3. Think of your job as an ‘investor’
One of the key mindset shifts you can make when you are heading to your day job day after day is thinking of your day job as an ‘investor’ in your band. This position is basically funding your dreams so this is definitely something to be grateful for.
4. Use your annual and sick leave to work on your band
Whenever I felt things were getting a bit too overwhelming, I took a mental health day. For me, I recharged by spending a day out of the office and working on what I loved – music. My manager never required us to get a medical certificate for just one day off which helped. But regardless, mental health is so important and must be taken seriously. Even if you don’t spend your day off working on music, any type of activity that helps you chill or makes you feel good (Netflix included), is beneficial to your wellbeing and therefore, music career.
5. Use your ‘downtime’ to get shit done
I have booked tours, written countless emails, organised videos, artwork, recording and more all whilst sitting at my desk jobs. I’ve always found jobs that allowed me lots of downtime. I found myself in customer service/admin jobs that were so easy for me to do I sometimes completed all tasks within an hour or two, leaving the rest of the day to work on my music career and take the odd phone call.
In another job I had I was in the office alone 50% of the time which was pretty rad. When I was working in cafes during uni I used to write lyrics in the order books then stash them in my apron. I also learned to harmonise by mopping and singing along to the radio when no one was in the restaurant. There’s always time to squeeze in what you need to get done!
However I must say, I always got my actually work done though…most of the time. Obviously, I didn’t want to get fired by my ‘investor’ and don’t want you guys to either. So if your job is super strict, super busy or you have a micro-manager as a boss, the next few tips are going to help you out.
6. Go part-time
If you can swing it so you work a 4-day week or 9-day fortnight, do it. When I moved to Melbourne I was so burnt out I actually took a job that was only 3 days a week for a period of time and it was one of the best things I ever did. Yeah I took a heafy pay cut but I made it work and you can’t put a price tag on sanity or creativity.
7. Change jobs or change hours
Find a job where once you leave the office, you don’t think about it until 9am the next day. Ari Herstand talks about this a lot in his book How to Make it in the New Music Business (which I highly recommend you read).
Otherwise, see if you can shake up your hours to make them work for you. I work 10 am to 6pm in my current job and it means I miss all the traffic so there is less commute time and more ‘me’ time and I can sleep in after a late-night rehearsal. These little luxuries really make all the difference to not feeling like I’m “working for the man.”
8. Figure out a way you can work for yourself
There are so many ways you can make money online and musicians are no exception. The podcast Passive Income Musician is definitely one to get into if you want to add some extra spicy cash to your life and even transition to fully working for yourself. Many people are doing it, myself included, and you can too!
Enjoy the rest of your day guys and remember that there is always something you can do to make your dayjob work better for you if you think creatively!
PS. Have you downloaded my free guide to planning your band’s video clip yet? If not, download it here.