If you live for weekends and dread waking up for another day at a job you hate, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to pursuing DJing full-time. After all, earning a living playing music sounds like “the dream”, right? It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows though: professional DJing, just like any other career, is tough and can feel like an uphill battle at times. If you’re passionate about it, however, the fulfillment is unlike any other.
So how do you know if you’re ready to take the plunge? Whenever you feel like you want to leave your day job and pursue DJing full-time, there are two questions that you should ask yourself: What are you afraid of, and what pain are you willing to endure?
1. Fear Setting: What are you afraid of?
Everyone’s afraid of something. Being fearless isn’t about having no fears at all, rather it’s about pushing through in spite of your fear. For us DJs, that fear could be anything: fear of not providing for your husband and kids because you left your cushy job to pursue music, fear of your career tanking because you chose to become a full-time DJ, fear of getting kicked out of your flat because you can’t pay your rent… the list is endless.
But you’ve got to ask yourself: What am I afraid of? Am I afraid of not making ends meet? Am I afraid of not making enough of an impact in my local scene to sustain my lifestyle? Am I afraid I’ll never get a stable monthly paycheck?
Let’s do an exercise that New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferris calls “Fear Setting”: Make a three-column spreadsheet. List all of these fears down in the first column. This is the “Define” column.
In the column beside it, list how you can prevent those fears – for example, if one of your fears is you’re afraid you won’t be able to sustain your lifestyle in the beginning, maybe you can take a part-time job somewhere to help with your cashflow while you’re still building a name for yourself. This is the “Prevent” column. Do this for every fear you’ve written in the first column.
In the third column, write what it would take for you to return to your original state before your fear happened. This is the “Repair” column. Perhaps you could take a job in a different company, or even in a different industry altogether. Maybe you were so good in your previous job that your company will take you back with open arms.
The idea of this exercise is to help you put your fears into context and to see them for what they really are – it’s easy for us to blow things out of proportion (or to underestimate them if we’re too cocky). Listing things, thinking of how to prevent them, and figuring out what it would take to fix things if they muck up will help you get clearer on whether or not you should take the plunge into full-time DJing.
2. Pain Pointing: What pain are you willing to endure?
Once you’re done listing your fears, the next thing is to ask yourself what pains you are willing to go through to make the transition to full-time DJing. Author and contemporary philosopher Mark Manson uses this technique to determine whether something is worth pursuing or not.
In my case, when I left my corporate insurance job to do music and become a professional DJ, I knew that I would give up the pains of having to sit at a desk between the hours of nine to five and waking up early (both are major thorns in my side). Surely, it’d be great to rid myself of them.
What I didn’t realise was that I would be trading these pains for others: Not having a stable income meant I had to get creative and aggressive when it came to getting gigs, and that meant dipping into the politics inherent in DJing at the biggest clubs, shows, and festivals. Many are turned off by this because they just want to play music, but what they don’t realise is that it comes with the territory, especially when money and fame are up for grabs.
Another pain was that since DJing basically became my job, if I didn’t turn up at a gig, I wouldn’t get a paycheck. That meant I had to DJ when I didn’t feel like it (I’m moody sometimes), showing up when I’m ill (it’s happened many times), or being forced to play for a venue or function that pays well but you aren’t fond of (we’ve all experienced this at one point).
Taking on DJing as a career doesn’t exempt you from the stresses that are inherent in all jobs, but we all have preferences when it comes to stress tolerance. If you’d rather spin music while nursing a 39 degree fever instead of punching in and out of the office five days a week, then that is the pain that you’re willing to endure.
If you decide to go for it, listing your Pain Points down on your Fear Setting spreadsheet will give you a record. When the going gets tough, you can refer to it to remind yourself that you made a decision a while back to sustain these hard moments. Believe me, there will be many, but if you are really passionate and dedicated about DJing, you’ll find a way to see yourself through.
Ultimately, of course, only you can determine whether or not to pursue a full-time career in DJing. You don’t always need to take the plunge and dive in head first; you can always test the waters and see if it’s sustainable before fully committing.
Do you juggle a day job with DJing? Did you leave a cushy job to pursue a DJ career? What has your experience been with DJing full-time? Share your answers below.