How to Keep Making Music When You’re Exhausted from Your Day Job

productivity, Songwriting Musings

I have been talking about going for a music career, like really going for a music career for a very long time now. I am making to-do lists and practising, visiting open mics, and socialising with other musicians, but there is just one problem with the whole setup. I’m not making any money apart from a few gigs that paid last month’s rent and nothing else.

None of this was an issue a few months ago when I still had savings, but after a recent trip to London, I’m dead broke. Careful deliberation followed: do I start busking to make money or do I get a part-time job? Do I do something I enjoy but might get stuck in or do I do something horrible just to incentivise myself to make music? In the end, I decided on a part-time job that I enjoyed but that I could clock out of so that when I got home, all I had to think about was music. I’m starting work in a hostel (again!) next week.

I’m quite excited about having a stable paycheck, despite the fact that the job has nothing to do with music. I was inspired by The Roches’ ‘Mr. Sellack’, the song in which one of the sisters asks for her waitressing job back after running out of money.

O Mr Sellack

Can I have my job back?

I’ve run out of money again.

Last time I saw ya

I was singing Hallelujah

I was so glad to be leavin’ this restaurant.

The Roches, ‘Mr. Sellack’

However, I do know that having a job next to being a musician can take its toll on my motivation. But I’ve had to juggle jobs with uni and music before, especially while living in London, so I have a few strategies worked out to get me back to my guitar or my writing desk after work:

1. Sunday evenings are for planning.

Before my work week begins, I sit down with my bullet journal and write a to-do list. I list everything I can think of – who I need to contact, who I’m meeting for rehearsals or press shots, what I need to write, or the songs I need to memorise. Then I weed out the stuff that isn’t that important or can wait until the week after, so I’m not overloading myself with to-do items. Then I plan out how much everything will take and decide what days of the week I need to do everything. I always have one buffer day at the end of the week where I don’t schedule anything, so I can use that day to rest or to finish up everything that didn’t get done earlier. When I worked a lot, I scheduled my workdays by the hour, so the schedule was airtight, but now that I live in Berlin and don’t have to work quite as much to pay rent, I’m not as anal about this stuff anymore.

2. I make a habit of practising every day.

I have to admit that I’ve been slack with this over the summer, but usually, I try to make time for music practice every single day. On days when I have too much going on or I’m just too tired, I only do vocal warmups and maybe run some scales on my guitar to stay in shape. That only takes fifteen minutes but it keeps me from going stale or from making me feel like less of a musician because I’m spending so much time away from my instrument. Make sure you make time to play every day, even if it’s just a little bit.

3. I implement achievable goals so that I feel like I’m moving forward.

The worst part about having a day job is that it can feel like a step back, or like you’re giving up on music, even though a day job is often necessary to sustain your music career. It can help to have some objectives to work towards that make you feel like you’re still making progress. I have recently scheduled a new song release that I’ll be working on for the next month.

4. I funnel my money back into my music.

This is something I never used to do. All the money I made, I would spend on travel or simply put into a savings account (and there’s nothing wrong with that either). But to grow as a musician, you have to invest money into music, which is exactly why having a day job can be a blessing. I am planning on recording an EP in January, so I will be saving up most of the money I make to pay for studio time.

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