"I can't wait to quit my day job and do music full time!"
How many times have you said that to yourself and everyone around you? The necessary evil of a day job that has nothing to do with music can make you feel you're never progressing fast enough to get your career off the ground.
It takes up too much of the time you could be spending practicing, writing new songs, networking, engaging with your fans, or anything else in the world that's more important than what you do.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Finding ways to leverage your current day job will not only help move things along in your future career, but also keep that frustration from spilling out and getting you fired before you’re ready to leave.
In order to make the most of it, you have to reframe how you look at your day job and how you spend your time while there. Doing so will enable you to find a renewed tolerance for your job that keeps the lights on and avoid burnout.
Below are four skill sets found in most day jobs, all of which can be invaluable to any music professional when applied correctly by utilizing resources already available to you at your workplace.
1. Customer service
The secret to fan engagement is giving people what they want. It takes clear communication, persistence, and the ability and passion to serve others. Remember, promoting your music or services requires putting the spotlight on your fans. Waiters, retail sales clerks, and other customer service-based jobs deal with meeting the needs of others on a constant basis.
If you can learn to sell someone dessert after a large dinner or get them to sign up for your store's credit card, you'll be a pro at selling merch after a show and getting fans on your mailing list.
2. Branding and marketing
A solid brand is crucial for any successful endeavor. It's important to have a consistent look and message in order to build that ever-important "know-like-trust" factor. Working in retail is like going to branding boot camp.
Whether you work in the stockroom or out on the sales floor, spending time at a company that's already built a loyal customer base can teach you invaluable lessons in message consistency, product placement, and up-selling (offering a higher priced item after a smaller sale). Asking to shadow the visual team for an afternoon or sit in on a marketing meeting can shed real light on how to set up your own brand.
3. Clear communication
Whether you're pitching to a blogger, writing a newsletter, or posting online, you must be able to communicate clearly. Staying organized is also a must in order to ensure details don't fall through the cracks. Working as an administrative assistant, or anywhere where you're tied to a computer desk, it's important for you to practice your writing and organizational skills.
Practice pitching relevant ideas to coworkers or your boss, and soon you'll be fearless reaching out to venue owners and other industry leaders. In addition, working alone at a desk can bring some downtime for researching possible gigs, new contacts, etc.
4. Public speaking
Nothing builds a following like an engaging performance. If your job requires you speak often in front of groups, like a teacher or consultant, use that time to work on your eye contact, audience engagement, and overall stage presence. If you can win over a class of attention-deficient children, getting a noisy bar to pay attention to your show will be a breeze.
We've seen how some of the most respected and well-known musicians maintained their day jobs longer than most would expect. When you're able to make your job work for you, it's no longer a hindrance but another supportive structure in your journey.