Stepping Stones: PT to FT

Nine years ago, in September 2008, I shut down my DJ business. At that point, I had been spinning tunes for 11 years at party after party and figured enough was enough. So I quit.

My girlfriend and I had just moved 8 hours away from home for a new job she was starting and I wasn’t sure what to do. I was pretty confidant I would marry the woman I was with and that I was probably going to have a family with her. “Time for a ‘real’ job!” I remember saying to myself.

Just one month later, I decided the home building business would be the career choice for me. I knew nothing about building anything. But I was eager to learn and was sure that with enough dedication I’d rise to the top! Obviously, that isn’t what happened.

What did happen though is that I become part of the retail team that stocked shelves and ran the cash register at that local hardware store and building centre. For the next 3 years, it would be my home while I slowly re-created my DJ company.

The commonly offered advice before going full time into business for yourself is that you should have 3 – 6 months worth of income saved up as a “cushion” for use while your business finds its own full time legs. In my case, I didn’t have that. In fact, far from it.

I brought a $44,000 line of credit that was fully maxed out with nothing to show for it (along with a few high balance credit cards) when we made the big move for my girlfriend’s job. In addition to that, we juggled two mortgages for nearly 9 months while waiting for our old house to sell. Those weren’t exactly what I would call, fun times.

It wasn’t long before I began playing music for the occasional event around our new town. I still had my equipment and we could use the extra money so it just made sense. Shortly after that, I met Bryan (see here) and began to see a glimpse of the possibilities that might one day exist for myself as a full time mobile DJ.

Because I didn’t have the means to fund going full time immediately, much less attend all of the training workshops I was hoping to get to, I continued working at the hardware & building centre store until the absolute last minute. Working retail was a major key to my full time success.

The manager of the store was very encouraging of what I was trying to build and as my business increased, I was given the option to reduce my hours at the store. This led to a somewhat natural progression when I finally ended up leaving to pursue the full time career as a self-employed entrepreneur in the mobile DJ world.

For any DJ that is considering the jump to full time (making this your primary source of income) I highly recommend that you suck up your pride and work whatever part time job is close to you until all indicators point to high odds of entrepreneurial success. Do not simply quit your job and hope things will work out! (Unless you’ve got a financial cushion that’ll keep your personal finances floating for some time…) There are always exceptions, but quitting and “hoping” things work out often leads to disappointment and years of frustration.

I credit a large part of my rapid growth to the fact that I was working retail while building my DJ business. Sure, it was a lot of work putting in hours at the store, only then to go home and put even more hours into my business. But that guaranteed income allowed me the mental freedom and fortitude to take more chances with my DJ business than I might have otherwise. Because I wasn’t entirely dependent on my DJ income, I could experiment with things that I might not normally have done, had my income been completely dependent on my work as a DJ.

Tomorrow's success is based on today's input

Assuming you don’t have that financial cushion (which I didn’t, obviously), if you quit everything today and rely 100% on your DJ business, the hazard is that the mental pressure that will come from needing money to pay your bills every month could severely stunt your growth. This will prompt you to search out shortcuts and question why things aren’t happening for you “right now.” It is awfully difficult to focus on the long game, the big picture, when your electricity bill is due this month.

Depending too quickly on self-employment may severely impede your ability to invest in the training required to fully reach your potential. You may even find yourself discounting your services, unnecessarily, because you need the money (any money) for paying your immediate bills.

There is no shame in working elsewhere until you’re ready for full time self employment.

Like I did, hold onto the security and mental freedom of another job until the last possible moment. If you’re too afraid of the work involved in managing that extra job, or maybe you can’t bring yourself to flipping burgers or pumping gas or running a store cash register so that you can attend that extra performance training workshop that might change your life, then maybe this world isn’t for you.

There’s no shame in that either; entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone.

I waited patiently (and worked like hell) until a number of key indicators seemed to point toward success as a single owner/operator mobile DJ. I was booking most of the inquiries coming in and was doing so at price points (at that time) starting at $2000/wedding.

In the end, the retail job I committed to working alongside until the last possible moment provided me with the mental freedom and financial resources to accelerate my growth from a part time weekend warrior DJ to a full time DJ & MC.

After moving 8 hours away from home to a town where no one knew me, to completely shutting down my DJ business (which had never been close to full time anyways), I then went full time with my DJ business in September 2011, three years after that move.

With massive amounts of work, and no shame in working for someone else in the interim…that’s how I made the jump. Maybe you can too.

(and yes, I got married to that girl…and the family followed!)

(this post is the first in a series of “Stepping Stones” blog posts)

~ Dave

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4 thoughts on “Stepping Stones: PT to FT”

  1. Love hearing about your journey. You made an awfully big jump with a lot on the line. I admire you for that and what a great example to the rest of the DJ community.

  2. I’ve been a DJ for 20 years, 10 of those years have been spent running a successful Toronto-based multi-op company. While building myself up to the point where I could go into it full-time, the 10 years before looked very different: I worked in bars, small parties for people I knew, and for other companies often for no more than $100 a night. I also went to University, travelled, and worked odd day jobs from one-off promo gigs to more stable income as a personal trainer in a gym. But perhaps the most important part of the story is that I practiced. A lot. Endless hours in the basement with my records trying out different sounds and styles until I found my own and came into it. If you decided to drop everything and become a rock star, you’d probably need to be damn good guitar player first. Find role models, shadow them, practice, make mixes, play them for friends, and be your own biggest critic.

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