One of the reasons many artists find it difficult to spend more time on their creative work is because they must spend time earning a living.
That tension causes some musicians to become increasingly frustrated over time. They repeatedly ask themselves, “when will I ever get to focus on what I love?”
As a creative myself, I can see where people are coming from on this. And yet, I have also found that it is possible to achieve a meaningful balance, and I’ve even helped some open-minded artists do it.
Are you looking for more flexibility in your daily life so you can spend more time on music? Then read on.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
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Streamline Your Expenses
One of the issues many people face (not just artists) is the relentless onslaught of parental and peer pressures and expectations.
It seems a strong majority of the world expects everything to happen on a timeline: You get your first car at 16-years-old, you buy a house at 20, marry at 25, have kids at 27, become the executive of a company at 30, and whatever else.
But most of the time, this doesn’t happen like clockwork. Money can be hard to come by. Relationships require ongoing work. Becoming a big shot executive is unlikely – it’s far more likely that you’ll be fired if you step into territory someone has claimed as their own.
Forget the timelines. You’ll never be happy living by them. You can either make things happen faster, or you can go at a pace that best suits you. You’re going to be constantly disappointed if you think time or age is what’s going to bring the desires of your heart into your life.
That’s why I say conventional wisdom is not wisdom at all, especially when it comes to finances. Please don’t take advice from broke people.
Experience has shown me that you can’t just keep racking up debt hoping that one day your income will catch up with your expenses. First, you must reduce your expenses to where you have something left over at the end of the month. Then, as your income increases, you can gradually add more expenses too.
This is a process called streamlining. It's the opposite of what most people do, which is to increase their expenses as time goes on.
When people say to me they’re going to buy a house, for instance, I probe. I ask “why?” I’m not trying to steer them one way or the other – but I’ve owned a house myself and know how crazy expensive it can get!
Look, you don’t need to live with your parents forever. But there’s no reason to inflate your lifestyle prematurely either. Live humbly for a while. Keep expenses low. Sell off your car and house. Buy a cheaper car, and rent an apartment. Get rid of your TV. Cancel all subscriptions. Stop eating out.
You don’t have to do this forever – just until you’re out of debt and you’ve saved up six to nine months’ income for emergency.
If you’re working more than 30 to 40 hours per week, you’re just chasing money, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. I’m on the other side of that grind, and simply can’t understand why you’d want to get up at 6 AM every morning to risk your life on the road and chase a paycheck that doesn’t even cover your life expenses!
Simplify your life – it’s the easiest way to achieve flexibility. The following steps only increase in difficulty.
Negotiate For Better Hours At Your Job
I recognize there are many different jobs out there, which makes this process rather nuanced.
But if you work at a desk, guaranteed you could be working from home at least once or twice per week. I have friends that already do this.
If you have a job that requires your physical presence, like sales or hospitality, then you may not be able to negotiate working from home. But you could be working fewer hours, especially after going through the process of streamlining your life.
Look, don’t take a pay cut unless you can afford to. I’m not telling you to live on less money. I’m just trying to help you find a better balance.
In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek (I would suggest reading it), Tim Ferriss outlines a process you can use to negotiate working from home. He even gives you a script.
Any time I talk about the book, people tend to go, “that dude is not working four hours per week.” Yes, I know. But let’s not argue semantics. Ferriss is an entrepreneur, and I don’t know too many business owners that live on the beach year-round!
I don’t care if it’s four hours or 40 hours per week. The point is to help you achieve more freedom. If you’re working 50 hours per week, and you could cut that down to 35 without taking a major pay cut, you would probably grasp at the chance, right?
Plus, you would be amazed by how much time and money you could save by working from home. You don’t have to drive to work or take the bus, you don’t have to buy fancy clothes, you don’t have to get up at a certain time, you don't have to eat out, you can finish your work whenever you want to (if it’s on time)… you get the idea.
Again, you may not necessarily be able to alter your work schedule immediately, and that’s okay. But this idea has some merit, especially if you’re sufficiently streamlined and you don’t find yourself needing a ton of extra income.
Take On Freelance Work
Freelancing opportunities are on the rise, and you can earn a lot of money from them. I’ve been a work-from-home freelancer for nearly a year now. My place of business is my room. I only go out for the occasional meeting, social gathering, or local event I’m helping with.
I save money by not having to drive to and from work every day. I don’t need fancy clothing (although I do own a suit), and I don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on gas and car repairs (though I still spend some money on that). And while at home, I’m an earning machine. I’m laser focused on what I’m trying to achieve.
These days, I mostly take on projects because I want to take on projects. I work more because I want to work more, not because I must. Sure, I have the occasional client who’s unreasonable or hard to deal with, but it’s not like they have me on speed dial.
I have incredible flexibility in my life. If I wanted to spend 50, 60, or even 70% of my day working on music, I totally could. But I enjoy writing, publishing, and adding value to my fellow creatives just as much, so that’s the main reason I’m not as active on the music front (but I still put out new music and play many shows).
So, let me get back to the core of the matter. If you’ve successfully negotiated working from home one or two days per week, you could use the extra time you gain back to find freelancing work.
Why would you want to do that? Because your freelancing work could eventually overtake the income you earn from your job. Or, at the very least, it could replace your employment income and allow you to earn on your own terms, entirely from home. You would have way more freedom than you do at a job.
What kind of freelancing work can you do? Just about anything! Web design, graphic design, blog writing, ghostwriting, translation, data entry, transcription, audio editing, video editing, mixing and mastering… If you can find it on Upwork, someone’s getting paid to do it and you could be too!
It would be best to get into something you’re good at and enjoy doing. That way, you’ll stick with it over the long haul, earn more, and keep your clients happier for longer.
I’ve helped a fellow artist create more freedom in his life by showing him how to earn a living as a freelance writer. He loves it because he gets to spend most of his time making music and touring.
Earn More Money From Your Music
This is a difficult proposition at best, but certainly not impossible. I’ve earned money from the music industry in 21 different ways, and that’s a conservative estimate.
If you can turn your passion into profit, it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy your life a lot more.
Don’t worry – I’m not going to leave you hanging. Here are some killer ideas you can use to start earning more:
- Forget perfectionism. Start publishing more music, monthly, weekly, daily if you can. Get an account with DistroKid and distribute it all. The bigger your catalog, the more opportunities you’ll create for yourself. Please do create great music, just don’t wait until you’re beating a dead horse.
- Submit everywhere. Get an account with ReverbNation, Sonicbids, Broadjam, and other sites like them, and start submitting your music everywhere. Please disregard festivals or placement opportunities that aren’t relevant to you (i.e. if you play metal, don’t send your music to a supervisor who’s looking for country). Also, join HITRECORD and see if you can get your music in an upcoming production.
- Create YouTube mixes. I’m giving away my best ideas here. Look, there’s huge money in YouTube mixes. Even I was surprised. You’ve probably seen them out there – they’re typically 60 to 120 minutes long, and they showcase a single genre of music, like easy listening jazz, or progressive trance. These would be difficult to create if you were writing all the music yourself, but the money is there.
Build A Business
Did I mention that the steps you can take to achieve freedom only increase in difficulty? This is where I’d expect to see significant drop off.
Business is an incredible vehicle for creating freedom in your life. But it’s also incredibly difficult, and requires long-term sacrifice and commitment.
You must have a plan, or you’ll spend years wandering aimlessly, as I admit I have. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot. There are no failures in entrepreneurship – only learning experiences.
I’ve met and talked to many people who are financially independent as result of building businesses. They are out there – it isn’t just a pipedream.
Invest Your Money
You may never achieve more flexibility in your life as result of investing, though it can happen. Either way, it’s something all of us should be doing.
You shouldn’t be naïve about your future. Statistics show that you will probably live to be a ripe old age, which means you need a lot of money to maintain your lifestyle after retirement.
Retirement is a bit of a funny concept, because it’s another thing we expect to happen on a timeline (age 65). But the reality is that retirement can happen much earlier than that – it’s a dollar amount and not an age you need to reach.
Plus, many people won’t retire by 65, and if you’ve worked hard to generate other revenue streams, you can keep earning large sums of money, even in retirement.
So, how should you invest your money? I’m not qualified to give you financial advice. So, please don’t come back to me saying my ideas ruined you. The following is just one man’s opinion.
I’ve read Tony Robbins’ MONEY Master the Game, as well as Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
Here’s basically what I’ve picked up. If you want to be somewhat hands-on, index funds are the best things to invest in. Don’t watch the market – it always fluctuates. Set up automatic payments, and just keep paying into the funds until you need the money.
If you could care less about overseeing your investments, get a lifecycle fund, and just keep paying into it. Again, don’t watch the market. Keep stashing money away, and check in when you need the money (i.e. in retirement).
You’ll never rise above your self-image.
That’s a thought that’s stuck with me on my personal development and business journey.
I think that’s the main reason people don’t have more flexibility in their lives. It’s because they don’t think it’s possible, so they don’t even try.
You must believe you are capable and worthy. If you’re willing to add value to the world and the people around you, you’ll see that value come back multiplied.