Guest post by Lisa Occhino
You were probably well aware when you decided to pursue music as a career that money wasn’t exactly going to start pouring in on day one. It’s no secret that until you’re able to earn a full-time living as a musician, you’ll need to supplement your income in some way.
The key is finding jobs that provide some financial stability, but also flexibility so you can still play gigs, rehearse, write, and go out on tour.
While having a side job that’s related to music is awesome for obvious reasons, many of the best jobs for musicians are actually in completely different fields, allowing you to dedicate all of your creative energy to your craft. The 15 jobs for musicians below are far from an exhaustive list, but use this as a starting place to see what jumps out at you or sparks an idea.
1. Music teacher/mentor
Teaching music is an obvious one, but there’s a reason why it’s such a popular choice! People will pay a lot for good music lessons, and you have complete control over your schedule and the number of students you take on. You could give private lessons in your students’ homes, have people come to your home, or even teach at a local music school.
If you travel frequently or want a wider pool of students, online music lessons and mentorship are becoming increasingly prevalent. Websites like TakeLessons and Lessonface are great for teaching instruments like guitar, piano, and voice online, while other sites like Soundfly pair experts in composition, production, orchestration, and more with students seeking personal mentorship for 4-6 weeks at a time.
2. Sound tech
If you’ve gigged a lot, you probably know a thing or two about live sound already. Supplement your naturally good ear with a program or an internship to learn the equipment and hone your skills, and you have the potential for an awesome musician side job on your hands.
Work your existing connections at local music venues and see if any of them are looking for help behind the soundboard. If touring is more your thing, find out if any bands you know are looking for a sound tech to join them on the road.
3. Cruise ship performer
Although your performance schedule on the cruise will be rigid, this is a great option if you want to make a lot of money at once, and then get a bunch of time off. In between cruise ship gigs, you can fully dedicate yourself to your craft without worrying about how you’re going to pay your bills.
4. Wedding DJ
Do you pride yourself on your broad range of musical knowledge and your ability to read a crowd? Consider putting it to good use as a wedding DJ. Basic DJ gear is pretty affordable these days, and as a musician yourself, you’ll have a leg up over much of the competition.
5. Music store salesperson
Working at a music store or record store is typically an entry-level day job, but it’s pretty awesome to be around instruments, gear, or records all day — and you get the satisfaction of helping other people along their musical journeys in some way.
You’re probably not going to be getting huge paychecks, but the plus side is that you’ll be surrounded by like-minded coworkers who will understand if you need to take a little time off or cut out early for an important rehearsal or show.
6. Bartender at a music venue
Bartending itself obviously doesn’t involve music directly, but if you do it at a cool venue that you love, it’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your local music scene. The tips can really add up, and you’ll also be in a great position for built-in networking opportunities with other musicians who come through.
7. Piano tuner
You don’t necessarily need to be a pianist yourself, but having an excellent ear and a deep understanding of the instrument are essential to get hired as a piano tuner. A decent amount of training will be necessary if you want to really be in demand, but it’s worth it — piano tuners are typically self-employed with a ton of flexibility, and you can bet that there’s always a piano somewhere that needs to be tuned or repaired.
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8. Freelance writer
It makes sense that many songwriters also have a knack for other types of writing. Once you get some experience under your belt, make a list of music publications you like and find out which ones compensate for contributions. You can easily turn your own music career experiences into articles containing tips and advice for fellow musicians. You can also make great industry connections doing artist interviews, album reviews, and concert reviews. (The press passes certainly don’t hurt, either!)
9. Uber/Lyft driver
Have a reliable car and insurance? You can make some pretty decent side cash driving for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft in your spare time. You don’t have to report to anyone, so you can choose to work whenever it’s convenient for you.
10. Restaurant server or bartender
Serving and bartending in restaurants are some of the most common side jobs for aspiring creatives of all stripes. You can take shifts that work best for your schedule, and it’s usually not too difficult to switch shifts with a coworker if you need someone to cover you while you hit the road for a weekend tour.
Similar to restaurant work, picking up a side job as a barista can fit in nicely with a musician’s schedule (not to mention the free coffee perks). Many coffee shops don’t require any previous experience, as long as you come across as friendly, competent, and eager to learn.
12. Temp worker
Okay, I know — there’s a good chance you’re not exactly the office cubicle type if you decided to pursue music, but the keyword here is “temp.” As in temporary, with a concrete start and end date. You don’t have to take an assignment that an agency offers you if you’re unavailable or uninterested.
As long as you’re organized, detail-oriented, computer-savvy, and have some previous office or administrative experience, this is easy money waiting to happen. Temp contracts tend to pay pretty well as far as part-time jobs go, especially considering the minimal experience needed. The responsibilities usually involve answering phones, scheduling, filing, and data entry.
13. Babysitter or pet sitter
If you love being around dogs, cats, or kids and have experience taking care of them, this is a no-brainer. Clients will most often come through personal referrals, so start with people who already know and trust you, and gradually build up your client base from there.
Have a math, science, or history degree that would otherwise go to waste at this point in your life? No matter where you live, there are always going to be students who need help in school — and parents who will do whatever it takes to make sure they pass.
15. Graphic designer
Graphic design is obviously a more specialized area of expertise, but being a creative person, you might be surprised by how naturally it comes to you. There are tons of online courses you can take to learn graphic design skills, which you can use to create anything from social media ads to concert posters to band logos. Plus, it’s all work you can do from home — or anywhere, really, as long as you have a laptop with good design software on it.
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