How To Get Started As A Mobile DJ – Setup Guide For Beginners

Phil Morse | Founder & Editor
March 3, 2020

Many DJs are realising that for all kinds of reasons, having their own mobile DJ setup and playing mobile gigs is something they want to do. It’s obvious to see one of the big attractions, and there’s no shame in saying it: Money!

The truth is, mobile DJs get paid much more than the vast majority of other DJs, such as bar, lounge pub and club DJs. People expect to pay for mobile DJs. Mobile DJ never get asked to play “for the exposure”, and the expectation is that they will be paid properly.

It feels good to get paid for your DJing. Getting money for what you do validates you as a DJ: If you are earning, you must be good at it, right? It also lets you spend guilt-free on your mobile DJ setup, feeding your gear addiction (don’t worry, it’s OK to admit it – we understand!).

And should you have demands on your time from family, being seen to be making a success of your hobby can be a great way to negotiate extra time to spend on it, because your loved ones can see the benefits to both you and them of having both you happy, and a bit of extra cash knocking around!

Of course, there are lots of other reasons for wanting to own a mobile DJ setup and be a mobile DJ, too.

People who love DJing but who have work, family and other commitments, or who are simply just getting older, may not want to be out DJing till dawn any more, and many prefer the (relatively) more sociable hours of playing mobile gigs.

Also, as the vast majority of mobile DJs are doing it part-time, and as a solo thing, it is basically a “hobby with benefits” – running a part-time mobile DJ business needn’t dominate your life.

Then there are the club DJs who realise that they’re never going to make the money they need from club DJing alone, and so choose to mix up mobile DJing with what they’re already doing, to get a nice balance (of gig types and cash).

Plus, let’s not forget that mobile DJing as an art form comes with its own challenges, which when conquered can be immensely satisfying (more about this later). Many DJs who love their club gigs also love their mobile gigs, sometimes even more than their club gigs.

But whatever your reason – money or otherwise – let’s just assume you’ve always wanted to own your own mobile DJ setup- and you’ve decided that as no, you aren’t going to be the next Calvin Harris, now is the time.

The question is, how to do it? That’s what we’re going to look at for the rest of this article, as I talk you through five things you need to do to get it right.

1. Do at least a bit of research before you start

I know this sounds boring, but if you start spending time, money and effort launching your mobile DJ business and buying a mobile DJ setup without the research, you’re setting yourself up for failure – it’s probably the number two mistake (we’ll talk about the number one mistake in point four).

You need to have a clear idea of who is operating in your area, what kind of events they play, and what venues they play at, as a bare minimum. It also pays to know how they play (their style), who books them, how busy they are – things like this.

This basic research can be fun, and isn’t something you need to think about too much – what you’re doing is feeding your brain the raw materials it needs to start coming up with good ideas about your own mobile DJing. For now, you just want the info!

You know those police shows on TV where the detective has a big board with a map, some string, some pictures of people’s faces, stats about bodycounts and so on, and you see the detective staring at the “case board” on the police station wall, before finally exclaiming something like: “Bingo, that’s it!”?

You need to create your own “case board”.

Want to see our course on this? Click here for info

You’re going to ask around and start listing DJs who people are booking, or know, or have used. You’re going to try and find out what they charge. You’re going to study their websites, Instagram feeds, Facebook Pages and YouTube Channels and get a sense for who books them, where they play. You’re definitely going to try and find out what they charge.

Even better, you’re going to get yourself to some events where the DJs in your area area are actually playing, so you can see what they and their set-ups look like, and hear how they play. (What music? Do they mix? How do they use the mic? How does the crowd respond? What do they do well, and not so well? How good do you ultimately think they are?)

Write stuff on PostIts and take over a plain wall in your home if you want. Print stuff out. Use a big map of your city to pin venues and catchment areas on if you like the idea of going all “cop show”.

Or, go digital, using something like Evernote or Trello to organise your findings, your links and online clippings. No need to get too anal about it, and no need to try to draw any clever conclusions yet: Like I say, we just want the “raw info” here.

Every successful mobile DJ understands the market they’re in, and intimately – so start right from the beginning, and never stop doing this.

2. Choose a niche to conquer first

So this is partly the purpose of doing that research. There is no point launching a mobile DJ business where you’re trying to be everything to everyone, because what happens is you end up never being better than anyone else at anything – and this means at best, you’ll always being your clients’ second choice. This can be the difference between your mobile DJing making or losing you money, especially at the beginning of your journey.

Far better to lean on the research you’ve done, and – coupling this with half an eye on what interests you and what you feel drawn to – pick a “niche” for you to conquer first.

For instance, you may realise that nobody is doing a good job of children’s parties. Or that the wedding DJs in your area are all very traditional and cheesy, and you feel there’s a gap for something more classic (or conversely, more modern).

You may realise that the business sector in your town is having to book run-of-the-mill mobile DJs who aren’t offering them anything different for their swanky corporate events.

One thing I can guarantee you: There is absolutely no way that every need is being satisfied completely and properly by the mobile DJs operating where you are.

Does your church or religion open any doors? (Could you be the go-to person for Bar mitzvah or Bat mitzvah parties, for instance, that are being badly served by your soon-to-be competition)?

Does your knowledge of a certain music type mean you’d be a more naturally choice for your community, meaning if you entered the market you’d maybe be able to make your mark instantly? (For instance, if you’re in a Hispanic neighbourhood and you realise that the quinceaƱeras are being played by DJs who don’t really understand Latin music, but you do, could that be your niche?)

Are you relatively young, and so you understand students, and live in a college town, so could be a better choice for university bookings than older DJs? Or are you an older Dj yourself, and so could be a more natural choice for people looking to book a DJ for retirement parties, second weddings and so on than the younger DJs? Do you have a love of formal dancing, and you’ve realised no mobile DJs in your area offer that as part of their service?

The real magic here is in combining what you’ve found out about your area and its needs, with where you feel your energy lies (or could lie).

I can also guarantee that if you were to write down your target audience and the type of mobile DJ you want to be before following points 1 and 2 here, and then write it down again afterwards, what you write would be different the second time – and the second “version” of who you want to be as a DJ would be more considered, more economically viable, and more exciting for you as well

Why? Because not only will you have identified a niche, but you’ll know your hunch is based on data – in other words, there’s a decent chance you could make some cash doing it!

3. Spend your time wisely

Mobile DJing is one of those pursuits that needs what wellness therapists might call an “holistic” approach in order for you to succeed at it. The fact is, it has a LOT of “moving parts” that you need to get right in order to get success. Think of it like trying to keep many plates spinning at once.

The issue is, of course, that none of us have got limitless time.

I bet you can recall a time in your childhood where you had what felt like forever in front of you to do whatever you liked.

Maybe it was the start of the summer holidays every year. For me, in the summer holidays I remember doing all sorts of things. I used to explore in the woods at the back of my house for what seemed like weeks on end. I taught myself guitar (as Bryan Adams said, I “played it till my fingers bled”). I mastered computer programming. And later, as a student, I taught myself DJing (instead of doing college work…).

I did all of these things kind-of randomly, but also intensively, because I had zero other concerns – you know, little things like earning money, looking after anyone, and so on. Ah to be back there again!

But none of us is, and so it is important that what little time you do have to work on your mobile DJ business, you spend properly.

For instance, you’re going to need to do marketing to get the clients in. So should that be Instagram or YouTube videos? Facebook or website work? Managing online advertising campaigns, or shoe-leathering it around local companies with flyers?

Should you be booking newspaper ads, getting on the phone and hard selling your services, or following up on leads from gigs and putting in to place email marketing to do that automatically when people sign up on your website?

Want to be shown how to do all of this? Click here for course info

But it’s not just marketing. You’re going to need to spend time filling out your music collection so you have music suitable for all and every type of gig you will be booked to play at. You’re going to want to be learning how to use your mobile DJ setup properly, practising mixes and mixing. You’ll need to buy and maintain the right gear. And of course, you have to find the time to actually perform the gigs.

And the learning! The learning never ends. What, exactly, SHOULD you be posting on Facebook and Instagram? How can you take great photos at your gigs to use on your website? (Hint: You can do more than you think with your phone’s camera: It’s about learning WHAT to take pictures of, and HOW to get good results).

What’s the right way to structure your sales pitch, your price list, your contracts?

I could go on.

The point is, without an overall plan – a plan that isn’t just about this week but this month, this quarter, where you want to be with your mobile DJing this time next year, and what you ultimately want to get out of it overall – you’ll never know quite what you should be spending your time on.

When this happens, you’re likely to fall into “panic mode”, where you’re either committing more and more time to your DJ business (time that you haven’t really got, that’s hurting other areas of your life), or you’re flipping from thing to thing, yet giving NOTHING the time it needs to really work.

Yes, as with any endeavour that doesn’t have “instant results” but has a big prize if you get it right, structuring the time you have for mobile DJing is important.

So have a plan. Think short, medium and long term. And constantly revise it.

Planning your time wisely is a non-negotiable.

4. Spend your money wisely

Here’s a home truth: You have to spend money to make money. Nobody just starts magically making money without financial input, and even if you reckon that you’ve already bought/got the gear and you’ve got gigs lined up (so in theory you don’t need to spend money to “become” a mobile DJ), actually you still do.

At the very least you’ll likely need to pay your accountant a bit more (if you have one, if not you’ll need one…) to handle this extra income source, and you may need a business licence, and business cards. At the very least.

Most likely, though, you will need to add at least something to your mobile DJ setup. (Remember earlier when I said I’d touch on the biggest thing people waste money on? This is it – gear. New mobile DJs tend to spend far too much on their mobile DJ setup, and often on the wrong things. Hint: You need less than you think, and you can always hire gear, using gig deposits to cover the cost…)

You’ll also need to spend on music, on marketing, and all kinds of other things you can’t predict at the beginning.

The problem is, it’s a bit like the “time” issue in point 3: Knowing where to spend your money is important, because your money is limited – and you’re in this to MAKE more money than you SPEND it, right?

In the building where I work (the World Trade Center, in Gibraltar, which is where I am sat typing this now), a relatively young company that had employed quite a lot of people recently collapsed. The problem, it turns out, was that they’d been given a big budget from their shareholders, but they spend that money as if they were already making money – and in the end it ran out.

The shareholders weren’t prepared to put any more in, and so that was the end of that. It affected people I know and their families, and indeed we had a lucky escape ourselves, as a family member very nearly took a job with them when they set up a couple of years back.

Yet it could so easily have been avoided, if only they’d spend their money wisely.

So while of course your stakes aren’t as high as they were for that company, the principles are exactly the same.

So four tips I have for you are:

  1. Use “sweat equity” – ie count your time and the time of anyone willing to helpyou as “money” that you don’t have to spend. Call in favours for thing like getting help building your website, designing your logo, setting up ads – in other words, get friends and family to help you, rather than paying
  2. Only spend when absolutely necessary – Put up with inconvenience if it means you keep your cash in your pocket. That means using the spare bedroom for your gear rather than hiring a lock-up; avoiding buying a van when you can squeeze everything in your car, at least for your first few gigs; hiring lights rather than buying them; and so on
  3. “Bias” towards spending money that you can see a fast return on, and track the results! – Want to spend on advertising? Stop that spending if it doesn’t work! Business cards are probably worth the cash, but once you’ve printed them, give them out (they won’t make the money back sat in a box in your drawer). Set up a website, but do everything you possibly can to make sure your (easy to fill in) enquiry form is being used, and if not, change things relentlessly until it is
  4. Don’t go into debt – or if you have to, make it “soft” debt. Much better to spend money you’ve already earned (so, the proceeds of gigs) rather than to borrow, gambling on the gigs coming in the future. But if you do borrow, make it from family (ie “soft” loans), where you can pay it back as and when you have it. Of course you will pay it back, but that flexibility is crucial

Now read this: Bumper list of resources for new mobile DJs

So if these are all ways of avoiding spending money, where should you spend it?

One of the best things to “buy in” is expertise. Wake up call: This is not as easy as it looks, and you don’t have all the answers, and you’re putting your time and money on the line here. Much better to get the right advice so you don’t make expensive mistakes. Investing in knowledge is actually a way of saving money, for this reason.

It could mean taking an amiable local DJ (who’s close to retiring and happy to help you) out to lunch a few times, to get tips and advice. It could mean paying to join a local DJ association chapter, and attending their training days. You may buy a ticket to attend a DJ conference and go to all the seminars (you may even see me there, presenting one!).

Signing up to an online course with a school such as ours is one of the most cost-effective ways of paying for expertise, because for a one-off fee you get sufficient access to knowledge, you get coaching, and you get a community of DJs who are on the same journey as you, meaning you’ll feel less alone on your journey.

However you do it, though, don’t skimp on investing in knowledge – otherwise, you may find yourself spending money blindly, wasting your time doing ineffective things, and generally not giving yourself the best chance of succeeding.

5. Don’t JUST do this for the cash

My final point is a crucial one.

Just because you realise there is good money to be had from mobile DJing, don’t go into this secretly thinking that you’re trading your soul for cash, or you’re better than people who are mobile DJing (and mobile DJing alone), or that mobile DJing is easy and so it doesn’t deserve the respect it is due.

Mobile DJing is not easy. Just buying a mobile DJ setup does NOT make you a good mobile DJ!

Try playing the Alcoholics Anonymous Christmas party, where nobody’s drinking. Or try playing a corporate event where the company is delivering a challenging year’s results to its workforce, some of whose ex-colleagues aren’t there because they were recently made redundant. Or playing a wedding with three or four generations to keep entertained, especially where the families are of different social classes, religions or ethnicities.

One universal truth is, people don’t go to mobile events for the DJ. That makes dancefloors harder to fill and harder to keep full.

Want to be shown how to do all of this? Click here for course info

Mobile DJ gigs are as much about your people skills as your music skills. They are hard. And to go into this thinking it’s not something to be respected and it’s not something you’re going to have to work hard at does mobile DJing a disservice.

(Not that the established mobile DJs will care, of course, because they know DJs who think like this simply don’t last the course.)

Conversely, if you go into this respecting the art form of mobile DJing, realising that to do a job like this is actually many times harder than playing to a club crowd who are all suitably inebriated (and have – crucially – come to hear the music you’re be playing) you’ll be OK.

If you come into this happy to proudly tell people that you’re a mobile DJ, and that yes, you love the idea of playing the music that matters to the people invited by the person who booked you, rather than playing all YOUR favourite tunes and wondering why nobody is dancing – then yes, you have a good chance of succeeding.

If you can leave your ego at the door (because mobile Ding is never about you), see the bigger picture of the job at hand, and work tirelessly to make the event a success for the organiser who has put their trust in you, then guess what?

That person will be happy to pay your fees, and will more than likely also be happy to give you a hefty tip on top. That’s when you know you’re doing it right.

If you want to earn a great extra income as a mobile, DJ, just make sure that’s not the ONLY reason you’re doing it.

Finally…

In this article I’ve touched on five things you need to be aware of and strive towards when fixing yourself up with a mobile DJ setup and side hustling your way as a mobile DJ.

If you feel confident getting on with all of this on your own, great – just make sure you locate at least someone to talk to about this who’s done it before, because it will save you so much time, money and wasted effort.

But if you’d prefer to have someone teach you, you feel you’d value some coaching to help you stay on track, and you think you’d enjoy being part of a community of likeminded people on the same journey, you should check out our New Mobile DJ Blueprint course, which has trained hundreds of DJs to do this.

Click here to learn about The New Mobile DJ Blueprint.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to ask any questions you have or give us feedback in the comments below.

Last updated 3 March, 2020

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