When should I quit my “day job” to follow my music dream?

This week’s newsletter was written by Panos Kolias.

I have seen this question written in several forums. I have been asked this question several times, and had to ask the question of myself too.
If you are asking that question, you have probably already decided that you want to change your life and follow a music career, and it’s only a matter of correct timing.
Well, here’s the bad news:  There is no correct timing. Sorry.
Here’s the good news, though:  There is no correct timing. So relax and keep your day job to pay your rent while you are building your music career. Because whenever you are going to quit your job, it’ll be ok.
How you will know when to take action? Though there is no surefire way to know exactly when the time has come, you will feel something.  And you can be more confident that your “feeling” is true and that time has come to change your career if…

1) You do not hate your day job.

Hating your day job creates a ton of problems. Besides the obvious ones like headaches, tensions, health issues and bad work/performance results, you are more likely to make bad decisions because you are not thinking clearly. Feeling that the time has come to quit this job may be a desperate act from your subconscious in order to keep you healthy – or even alive.
Let’s explore this a bit because it is a serious issue for many musicians.
If you hate your day job, then start building your music career by looking for another day job.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that a day job has nothing to do with music.  Or, that a job at a record label is not a day job. A day job for you is there to support you financially, wether it is related to music generally or not.
The less a day job supports you financially, the more it should be related directly to your music career (and not to music in general). For example, if you want to be a songwriter, dancer and singer and perform on the stage, giving music lessons is a day job just like any other. If it does not support you financially, look for another job or start giving lessons in songwriting, dancing, singing and performing on stage.
And if you want to be a composer and your are playing guitar in a top 40 cover band, that is your “day job.” If it doesn’t pay well, what is the reason to do it? Yes, it is related to music, but it’s not more related to your dream career than any other music job.  So if it doesn’t support you financially, you should either start playing your compositions with this band, or look for another band/job/occupation.
So all you have to do is to find a day job you like or find a way to like the day job you have. Easy, huh? Sure it is: there is no need to have a day job completely outside the realm of your music career.  And there is not a need to have a day job in the exact same realm as your music career, either.  Just find something that supports you and which you can be happy enough doing while you pursue your “dream career.”

2) Your need to work on the “dream career” is so great that you have already neglected other activities that you love to do.

If you have already eliminated time-consuming but nonproductive activities you enjoy – watching TV, going out every night, doing sports five times a week, meeting friends every day, etc. – then it may be getting to be time.
Of course, maintain balance.  If starting your day with a 2-mile run gives you energy and power to go through your day, you should think twice before you stop doing it.  But if you are still wasting time surfing the internet, that’s the first thing to change.  Not your day job.

3) You have worked on your “dream career” as a side job for quite a while, and have positive results.

This means that you have gotten positive feedback from employers that paid you to do your music work.
Support from family and friends is great, but they are biased in two ways:  The may love what you do because you are the one doing it and they love you.  OR, they may not want to encourage you because they love you and are “worried” for your future. Don’t judge them. Accept that they love you and thus are biased. It’s a bit different if they happen to be professionals in the realm of your “dream career,” but the best confirmation comes from outside.

4) You have lowered the time you invest on your day job and increased the time you invest on your “dream career,” and still make a living.

These adjustments might be of different natures:  Get rid of the car.  Move to a smaller apartment. Spend less money and more time on practicing music.
Now that you’ve prepared for more frugal living while you make your career transition, you can spend more time on your music career and start earning money from it.
If you find yourself feeling like time has come to change your career and follow your music dream, and some of the points above are true, maybe it is finally time to do it.