Imagine graduating music school, only to realize your career path isn’t what you expected. You’ve come across the various pros and cons of self-employment.
I love working for myself, but I know not everyone does. Read on to learn if freelancing is the right path for you or not!
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy to learn more.
Pros of Self-Employment for Musicians
Working for yourself as a musician can be incredibly fulfilling. You get to do what you love each day and not have to do something just because a boss tells you to.
Here are some of the most significant pros of self-employment.
My favorite part of working for myself is getting to decide when and where I work. I also get to choose what type of work I do, which can keep things interesting.
If you’re ever feeling under the weather, you can take a day off. Or if you don’t want to get out of the house, you can work from home that day. The control is nice because it allows you to incorporate your work into your life.
When you work for someone else, you may have to stick to a schedule. And if you ever have a doctor appointment, you have to request time off. That’s not necessary with self-employment.
Because of the control you have, working for yourself can also be really flexible. Now, I like to follow a routine, especially on weekdays. However, if I have to adjust that routine, I don’t beat myself up about it.
Whether you have a personal emergency or something else comes up, you can focus on that. Then, you can work later or on a different day.
Of course, you may need to spend time rescheduling lessons or meetings. But you get to decide to do that. You don’t have to be forced to log on for a lesson when you aren’t at your best.
Depending on the type of person you are, this may be a con. However, I love getting to do multiple different things to make money. You can choose from a lot of music business ideas to find something you like.
When you have a traditional job, you may have a few responsibilities. But they’ll all probably be related in some way. Eventually, you could get bored of doing the same old thing all of the time.
Even if you only do one thing (like private teaching), you get to work with multiple students or clients. Those people will all have different needs and style preferences, so you won’t get bored as quickly.
More Income Potential
As long as you choose the right path for you, there’s a decent chance you could make more money freelancing than with a day job. That’s been the case in my experience, anyway.
I’ve earned more than I ever could have earned with the one day job I had after college and before grad school. Not only that, but I work significantly less than I did.
Arguably, I could increase my earning potential even more if I worked more. As a freelancer, you set your rates. That means you can look for clients or students who are willing to pay enough so that you can work as much or as little as you want.
Another great thing about self-employment is that you can diversify your income more easily than a traditional employee. As a freelance blogger, I’ve had anywhere from one to 10 clients at a time.
Of course, I lost that one client, so I lost all of my work. I didn’t make that mistake again and have since had at least four active clients. That way, if one client drops me or doesn’t need me for a while, I still have work to do.
It’s also a lot easier to replace a single client or student than a whole entire job. So even if your other work doesn’t make up for the client you lose, you can find something a lot more easily.
Ability to Work Less
I briefly touched on this, but one of the biggest pros of self-employment is that you can get to a point of not needing to work that much. In the beginning, you will probably have to work a lot to put yourself out there.
Once you start growing your studio or getting regular gigs, you can take your foot off the gas for a bit. You still need to work to find work, especially if you’re a performer.
However, you can have more flexibility to take time off and enjoy your life. I love being able to just relax on a random Wednesday afternoon and not worry about finishing up a client project right away.
Cons of Self-Employment
Sadly, there are just as many cons of self-employment as pros. Also, working for oneself isn’t the right path for everyone.
Consider the following drawbacks and if they outweigh the pros for you.
One of the most obvious downsides of self-employment is that it’s not as stable as a traditional job. You can’t count on receiving a paycheck for X amount every other week.
Some clients or students/parents may refuse to pay you for your work. So you could waste a lot of time hunting down payment. You could also easily lose a client or a chunk of students (and thus a chunk of your income).
However, you may also have some months where you earn close to double that of other months. That can make budgeting for things more complicated, and not everyone wants to deal with that.
Being self-employed comes with its own set of benefits. However, I’m talking about benefits like paid time off, health insurance, and retirement contributions. When you don’t have a traditional job, you don’t get any of that.
I turned 26 in 2021, so in 2022, I had to sign up for my own health insurance. And I had to set up my own health savings account (HSA) to help cover the costs of medications and appointments.
It was also all on me to set up an individual retirement account (IRA). If you don’t want to deal with setting up and managing all of these accounts, I can understand wanting a traditional job.
Not only that, but you have to find the money for all of these things. You need to set aside money for taxes as well.
Self-employment is best for people who are self-motivated. You won’t have a boss telling you to get up and go to work each day. Sure, you may have clients or students waiting for you.
However, you’re still the one in charge of your time. If you can’t force yourself to get up when you need to, you could easily waste a lot of time and lose out on quite a bit of money.
I’m lucky in that I am pretty motivated and disciplined. However, there are still days when I’d rather go back to bed than get up and work. You have to be able to push through those tough times.
Can Be Isolating
Depending on the type of music business you have, you might find it very socially isolating. As a blogger, I work from home, and I rarely have Zoom calls with other people.
I’m lucky enough to live with family, so I still have social interaction outside of work. But if you’re someone who needs to be with people, you may have to be careful about the type of business you start.
That way, you’ll get to interact with clients or students each day. Even if you’re an introvert, having some interaction can help. If you live alone, it’s even more important to work with others, at least occasionally.
May Have Many Expenses
On the one hand, you can write off a lot of qualifying purchases as a freelancer. But you’ll also have more expenses than a traditional employee. For example, you may need to pay for faster internet to support Zoom music lessons.
You’ll also have to pay for things like website hosting or other software. All of that can add up and eat into your profit each month. That doesn’t even include any money you spend on health insurance or other benefits.
Unless you like working with numbers, you may want to hire an accountant. Then, you can learn what you can write off on your taxes and what you can’t so that you don’t break any laws or receive any fines.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have a lot of paperwork. Some of it is stuff you’ll need to keep on hand. For example, I have to reference a letter from the IRS every time I pay my quarterly taxes because it has a special PIN on it.
But you’ll also have to organize various 1099s from your clients. You’ll need to keep up with other financial records, such as receipts.
And you should keep a copy of your W9 on file. That way, when you get a new client, you can send it to them quickly and easily. Managing all of this paperwork is overwhelming and can take a lot of time.
The Guilt of Not Working
One thing a lot of freelancers struggle with is feeling guilty for “not doing enough.” I only started experiencing this recently, and it’s a horrible feeling to have.
When you work a traditional job, you clock in, do your work, and clock out. But if you work for yourself, the work never truly ends. There’s always something you could do, such as post on social media.
That can make it hard to take time off from work. Your guilt may eat you up inside and keep you from actually enjoying time with your family or friends. You have to work to ignore those feelings when you don’t need to work.
How to Deal With the Pros and Cons of Self-Employment as a Musician
If you want to work for yourself, you totally can. However, you may want to try the following tips to help deal with the pros and cons of self-employment.
Set Up Your Own Benefits
Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have health insurance or a retirement account. Sure, you have to set these up, but you can do so more easily than you may think.
If you want help, you could go to your local bank. Someone can walk you through the process of opening various accounts. Then, you can talk to a health insurance agent to help choose the right plan.
Don’t Underestimate Your Necessary Income
Another thing to keep in mind is how much you need to bring home after taxes. Try not to underestimate this number. If you do, you may end up not having enough money at the end of the month.
Overestimate how much you think you’ll need. If you’re wrong, you’ll have cash leftover. And if you’re right, you’ll have just what you need to cover your bills.
Create a Work Schedule
I’d also suggest creating a realistic work schedule. You can test out a few different schedules to see which routine makes more sense for you.
For example, I enjoy doing most of my work in the morning. But maybe you have to teach in the evenings, so you start your day a bit later. That’s okay; everyone will have a different schedule.
Use the Right Tools
You can use a lot of tools to help manage your work and keep from wasting time. Be sure to consider a few apps and programs, and test them out to see how they affect your workflow.
That way, you can cut down on the amount of time on spend on certain tasks. You’ll have more time for other things or for simply relaxing.
Save an Emergency Fund
Whenever you receive extra money, put it in a savings account. You need to build up an emergency fund in case something goes wrong or you lose all of your work for a while.
Experts recommend saving anywhere from three to 12 months of expenses. I’d say you should save as much as you can. That way, if something goes wrong, you can still cover all of your bills as you find more work.
There are many pros and cons of self-employment. It’s a popular route for musicians, but it’s not for everybody.
Be sure you consider the advantages and disadvantages. Then, you can choose the better path for you.
And if you’re looking for more tips and resources, subscribe to get my guide to the best online business tools for musicians!