It’s been 1,5 years since I discovered the joys of full-time employment and now at least once a month for a very short period of time my bank account can breathe a sigh of relief. However, despite the obvious financial perks, full-time employment comes with a full-time commitment and this means that I have less time and less energy for the true passion of my life – my music…

Full-Time Musicians, Do They Exist?

It’s not a secret that it’s very hard to make the ends meet as a musician, especially if you’re just starting out. Gigs are often unpaid and CD sales are ridiculously low. And let’s not forget that before an artist can start selling their CDs, they still need to make an investment into recording the songs and manufacturing the physical copies. And even when you finally start getting paid shows and the CD sales go a little bit higher, it’s still incredibly difficult to reach a realistic sum that would sustain you for a month and would simultaneously allow you to invest at least a little bit in your own career development.

That’s why most music artists have day jobs. Some prefer to stay within the music field and become producers, co-writers, music teachers, regular open mic hosts and functions’ cover singers. Whereas others continue working close to the music industry but end up transitioning into other creative areas using their additional skills of photography and video making. And then there are those who choose completely different jobs that have nothing to do with their music, and just like me, these artists lead something of a double life of which Hannah Montana would be proud of.

Each artist chooses whatever category they are most comfortable with or whatever opportunity comes their way. And though working for yourself and having the flexibility sounds amazing, most creative jobs don’t provide much social security, so that freedom and variety definitely come at a price! Personally, I decided a long time ago that if I were ever to enter the scary world of freelance and subject myself and my family to the financial uncertainty, I would only do it for my own music. As much as I enjoy making videos and playing covers, it’d still feel like settling for less. And so until I build a little empire of my own, I will continue working 9 to 5 and lead a double life where my colleagues get genuinely surprised to come across my songs on the Internet.

Time is Money

Time is the most valuable resource ever and since getting a full-time job, I’ve been relating to this expression more and more. In all honesty, I felt like I never really had a lot of free time to devote to my music with all the university responsibilities and extracurricular activities I had, but only now I understand how wrong I was. It turned out that a student’s schedule is actually pretty flexible and manageable compared to the regular working hours that all adults have to endure.

When you’re a student, you decide if you want to attend a lecture or listen to it online a few hours later in the comfort of your own home. You choose how much time you dedicate to reading for an upcoming seminar and decide when it’s time to isolate yourself from the world so you could finally submit that outstanding essay of yours.

However, when you have a job with fixed hours, there is no flexibility left and you need to be in the office no matter what! After finishing work, I get home and I’m left with about 4 free hours (if I’m lucky). Within that time I need to fit all the tasks from my huge to-do list, life admin stuff, any social obligations and at least a little bit of self-care, which these days mainly revolves around trying not to pass out on the sofa and get to the actual bed. If one evening I get stuck at work or don’t complete everything on my list, it gets added to my tomorrow’s assignments making my to-do list more enormous and my anxiety levels more intense.

Is This Forever?

So far, my day job has been crucial for my music career because as a truly independent artist I have no one to back me up except for me and my lovely listeners. This ability to invest whatever little I have has been particularly important for the making process of my upcoming EP. Sadly, the battle between making money to sponsor my music and finding the time to actually practise it has been exhausting and I’m slowly coming to the realisation that having 2 jobs at the same time makes me Jack of all trades, master of none. Getting the right balance between the two is getting more difficult each month and, eventually, I know that some serious adjustments will have to be made because despite still singing songs about being in my 20s, I’m gradually approaching my 30s… If I’m honest, I don’t really have a coherent answer yet to what’s next but as a true dreamer and an optimist at heart, I continue hoping that one day I’ll wake up to the news that I can just do my music and that would be more than enough.

Fresh Perspective: Meet Vic Allen

Sometimes I find it really upsetting to think about how little time I get to spend doing what I truly love and, sadly, I know for a fact that I’m not the only one with this struggle. While I was preparing this article, I got curious to find out how other aspiring musicians in similar circumstances handle the same situation. Do they have the same concerns? Are their challenges similar to mine? Do they find any benefits at all spending 40 hours doing things outside their music dreams? I asked Vic Allen, an incredibly talented country singer-songwriter, to answer a few questions about her own double life, and while Vic was combining her responses, I wrote down my own so I could compare them fairly at the end. The results were very eye-opening and I won’t lie, I was quite surprised to find out just how real the struggle is…

What’s your full-time job?

VIC: I work full time but have two different jobs – an animal welfare officer and a presenter educating the public on conservation.

RIA: I work as a legal assistant. I’m a qualified lawyer in Russia but I still need to pass extra exams to become qualified in the UK, which means I cannot really progress further in law until I commit to it fully and invest around £25k in further education.

What’s your biggest challenge combining a full-time job with your music career aspirations? 

VIC: My biggest challenge is just having the time to fit everything in – getting home at 7 pm in the evening 5 days a week means I’m often up late sending emails or finishing editing a video or I’m at the studio. It means I get very little free time and often tired! It also means I have less time for writing which I hate.

RIA: I’m a morning person and feel most productive in the first half of the day (when I’m usually at work). Unfortunately, I really struggle to complete tasks in the evenings, I constantly feel tired and drained and find it daunting that realistically I only have Saturday and Sunday to make a real impact on my music career because the rest of the week is just for little bits here and there.

How does your music benefit from you having a full-time job even though it’s not within the music industry?

VIC: The main benefit of having a full-time job is that it means I do have some money to record my songs. Having less time to spend on music can also make me appreciate the time I do spend on it more.

RIA: I can invest in my music and bring it to a higher standard by hiring professionals instead of constantly seeking favours. I’ve also finally got the much-needed equipment that’s helped me build the sound of my new EP. That would’ve been absolutely unachievable without a full-time job or a lottery win.

What’s your approximate daily schedule?

VIC: I get up at 8 am and commute an hour to work. If I’m working on a big project, like editing a video or sending a new release out to lots of different people, I’ll take my laptop to work and work on stuff over my lunch break. I leave work at 6 pm and get home at 7 pm. Often I have more emails etc. to send once I’m home!

RIA: I try to be up by 5:30 am, do yoga and then open my laptop to schedule posts, send emails and do other admin stuff. I get to the office for 9 am and try my best to be back by 6/6:30 pm. I try to squeeze some calls and emails during my lunch hour and often bring my laptop with me, though I find that 1 hour is not enough to get anything coherent done. When I’m back home in the evening, the real struggle begins during which I try to prepare any future content, promote pre-orders, rehearse, send more emails and so on. I usually pass out on the sofa, then drag myself to bed at midnight and start over the next day. Very cheery!

How do you feel about taking time off for social activities? How much does it intervene with your regular schedule? 

VIC: I sometimes struggle with taking time off for social activities – I often feel guilty when I’m spending my free time doing fun stuff instead of working on my music as I feel like I should be working hard all the time. So it can be really difficult.

RIA: Doing anything outside work and music makes me feel incredibly guilty like I’m wasting precious time, which is a really horrible feeling because spending time with friends and family (or with myself) is very important and definitely not wasteful. Sadly, because I have no free time at all, I’m constantly beating myself up if I take time off work for anything else but my music.

Do you see yourself continuing with both jobs in 3 years or you envision a certain change?

VIC: I honestly don’t know what I envision for 3 years time. I don’t like making plans as often things don’t work out how you plan anyway. But I know I can’t do both forever as it’s too exhausting.

RIA: I’d like to believe that my music will fully support me without any other job on the side. I force myself to be very optimistic about it because, otherwise, it feels like all the hard work is for nothing.

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Check out Vic’s brand new EP called “Enough“, which is a beautiful collection of songs about big dreams and crushing reality. Vic is also on tour this November, so if you’d like to come see her live, have a look at her website for more information.

And as always, if you decide to pre-order a copy of my upcoming EP, I’d be incredibly grateful! 

Photos by Jamie McNamee