Everyone has a side hustle these days.
For many people, it’s the only way to make ends meet. According to this USAToday article, over 7.8 million of us hold multiple jobs. And considering today’s devaluation of the arts, I imagine many of those people are musicians. Musicians need to create their own opportunities and as many revenue streams as possible. The trick is balancing it all.
For today’s college students, the need for extra income comes as soon as the acceptance letters arrive. In 2013, 4 out of every 5 students worked at least one part time job while trying to focus on school. Trying to find time to attend classes, study, hang out with friends, practice, AND work a side job can be crazy. Sometimes impossible.
With the amount of studying and focus required for making the absolute most of the college experience, it’s vital to find a side hustle that’s flexible for your schedule, doesn’t demand your focus when you’re not on-the-job, and makes you money (duh). Whatever you do, it should take as little time as possible, use your musical talents in combination with other practical skills, and give you big cash returns.
The best kind of side hustle is one that can help your real career interests and one you create and maintain total control.
Some people turn to online surveys and phone apps to make money. But let’s face it, sitting there filling out a 20 minute survey to make $2 isn’t quite the most efficient use of your time.
Others turn toward more traditional side jobs serving up mocha frappuccinos, flipping pizzas, or tearing tickets at the multiplex theatre.
Let’s face it. This is no one’s first choice.
Obviously to be a musician you have many musical skills. But what are your practical skills? What do you do in “normal life” that can help you develop your own unique side job?
So how do you discover the best side hustle for you?
Know your skill set. Know what you’re great at and what you’re…not. As James Altucher says, “You just need to find what you’re OK at. Because if you are OK at one thing and OK at another thing then you can be the best in the world at the intersection.”
Don’t know what your skills are?
Here’s what you do…
Try these steps to uncover your skill strength and weakness to discover the perfect hustle:
Step 1: Write down your strengths and weaknesses.
Grab some paper (note cards are best!). Write STRENGTHS at the top of one sheet. Now write WEAKNESSES at the top of another. If using note cards, write only one skills/weakness on each card. Write down literally anything you know you do well or poorly. If you now you can kill it on snare drum, then write it down. Know you make pretty rockin’ websites or suck at timpani tuning? Write that, too. Make a pretty great public speaker? You get it…The list of weaknesses is simply to be honest with yourself and know from what areas to stay away.
Step 2: Look for patterns in your skills.
Sometimes it’s not so easy to uncover your skills. After all, it seems like any mention of something we did or can do is bragging. So we tend to keep things to ourselves. There’s bragging and then there’s being real. There’s nothing wrong with being real, so let yourself be free from any judgment here.
If you try writing down your skills and still can’t seem to identify your skills? Try these steps:
Step 1: Ask a friend.
Ask a friend straight up: “What do you think my skills are? What can I do well? What don’t I do well?” And make sure your friend knows that the best thing they can do to help you is to be honest. Don’t hold anything back. It’s a time to be real. If being real scares you, you’ll need to figure that out. Being successful doing anything requires the ability to accurately and routinely examine yourself. Be careful not to get defensive. You may hear something unexpected. You may hear exactly what you’d hoped you would hear. Just be present and write it all down.
Step 2: Keep a journal when you do ANYTHING.
You have an unbelievable number of skills. And most of them aren’t musical. Ever cook breakfast? Fix a flat tire? Write a blog post? Plan a friend’s bachelor party?
Every one of these experiences required tons of skills. And best of all, if you’re creative enough, you can combine them in a way that’s perfect for YOU. And you can be the best in the world at the intersection of those skills.
Next time you make breakfast, write down every skill that goes into the process of cooking.
Cracking eggs. Identifying the perfect amount of oil to use. Time management making eggs, bacon, and hash browns all at once.
Do you help keep inventory of the instruments at your school? Write that down. Think about everything you do.
You’re probably using technology to keep the log, categorizing instruments, maintaining a logistics spreadsheet of where they belong in the building and who maintains responsibility for them, and you may even perform maintenance on the gear.
As silly as this may seem, this procedure can help you hone your skills for identifying skills.
Yes. Believe it or not, it’s a skill to identify skills…meta for sure.
Take this new skill of identifying skills (gotta find a better way of saying that) and the feedback from friends and go back to the steps for identifying your personal strengths and weaknesses.
Now the real fun begins.
Spread out your skills cards on a table. Combine those skills you uncovered in as many ways as possible. Try putting just two together at first. Then, try tagging on a third skill. Even a fourth skill.
My first list: social media content creation & ensemble performance communication. Maybe this combo means I could explore starting a duo with a friend playing at local art galleries and I’ll take care of the social media content to drive audience engagement and getting our name out there, leading to more gallery attendees and more pocket money. Or I could audition for a community orchestra and take over the social media responsibilities and get paid a little for it.
This seems pretty broad. So let’s try getting a bit more specific by adding another skill to the list.
My second list: social media content creation, ensemble performance communication, grant writing.
Instantly, I think I can be a bit more specific and yet, create addition opportunities for myself based on this list. At this point, the options are obvious. Perhaps I can write grants, perform, and take care of social media posts for my touring ensemble. Or I can be the social media director for a local music organization that’ll pay me to do it because they know I’m a musician and truly understand the values and mission of the organization.
My third list: social media content creation, solid cook, time management.
Maybe I could be an event coordinator. I know what good food is and can identify the appropriate food to fit the event. I can be the stage manager of the event and manage the promotional responsibilities leading up the to event. And get paid for it!
Check out my list.
Here’s my real life (short) list of strengths:
website design, website content curation, social media content curation, branding design and implementation, engaging with an online audience, event coordination, time management, event planning, logistics planning and direction, blog content curation, audio recording, mix/master techniques, recording technology, music composition, music engraving, music performance, music education, writing articles, public speaking.
So I take this list and combine these skills into what I currently do:
Teach college lessons and percussion ensemble, created and maintain social media identities and the website for the college program, teach youth orchestra percussion, established a percussion ensemble in the youth orchestra program, curate social media content for the youth orchestra program across multiple platforms, write music for drumlines, teach drum corps, perform in a sax/percussion duo, perform in a professional orchestra, publish articles, use my ability to engage with others and social media to create opportunities (co-hosting and being a guest on @percussion podcast, Skype clinics, teaching and instrument maintenance engagements), designed, composed, engraved, and mixed the audio for a timpani etude collection.
All of the skills I listed are pretty easy to identify when you see my activities listed above.
That’s just a brief example of how I help myself create the perfect side hustles. And this is just a short version of what these steps can do for you.
The more skills you can combine, the more value you bring. The goal is to be indispensable.
The more skills you can combine, the more doors you can open for yourself. Take on more responsibility at a particular job, the bring more value, and expect to be paid more. The more skills you have, the greater the number of potential side hustles. And perhaps you’ll have more than one hustle at a time. All leading toward more income.