The Gig Economy: How to Bring in Money Without a Full-Time Job

When musicians are starting their performing or songwriting careers, they usually have a day job and play music on the side. The dream is that performing and/or songwriting will someday pay the bills, but it’s hard to get there. Many people, like myself, were brought up thinking that this is what you’re supposed to do as an adult: get a full-time, 9-to-5, weekday job, and fill the rest of your time with hobbies.

 Busking could be one of many gigs for a musician. Photo via  Pixabay .

Busking could be one of many gigs for a musician. Photo via Pixabay.

Lately, though, I’ve come across more and more musicians who don’t have a full-time day job, especially in Nashville. Instead, they have multiple part-time jobs or take on various types of short-term work that add up to a full-time salary. Whether that means driving for Uber, babysitting, or temping, it typically creates a more flexible schedule so that they can fit playing and songwriting in wherever they need to.

This approach to work is actually a growing business trend. For example, freelancers or consultants like myself take on short-term “gigs” in our fields rather than being employed full-time by a company. Each project I take on with an artist is one of my gigs. This expands far beyond the music industry. In many fields where job openings are dropping or stagnating, freelance and contract work is growing. Just look at journalism: publications rarely hire writers as full-time employees anymore; they look for freelancers to write one-off assignments.

An article in the Harvard Business Review got me thinking about the gig economy. The author, Diane Mulcahy, even says she’s told her MBA students to “stop looking for a job.” She reflects on the fact that the gig economy is growing rapidly, but we still prepare our students for the 9-to-5 workforce. Maybe that whole idea that you need a day job is outdated. Maybe it was never accurate in the first place.

Some people love the 9-to-5 life. They enjoy the office atmosphere, and you can’t deny the perks are pretty cozy: a steady salary, benefits, nights and weekends off, often free coffee in the office. But for those of us who are happier not knowing what to expect every day and making our own schedules, the gig economy is a nice alternative.

 Pro of freelancing: you can work from your bed. Photo via  Pixabay .

Pro of freelancing: you can work from your bed. Photo via Pixabay.

So how can you take advantage of the gig economy to create that kind of alternative life for yourself? Start thinking in terms of your individual skills rather than your overall resume. Are you good at social media? Search for social media management projects on sites like Upwork. Are you a good writer? Lots of blogs will pay for contributions, and lots of businesses look for copywriters for their blogs, websites, or even advertisements. If you’re good with kids or animals, Care.com is a network for babysitters, tutors, pet sitters, home care, and errands. There are even music composition gigs listed on a lot of freelancer websites.

Musicians are already collecting revenue from multiple gigs – performing gigs as well as songwriting, placement in ads or movies, merchandise sales, streaming, etc. If there’s other work that you have experience with, maybe add a few non-music gigs to get you by instead of taking that day job. It will certainly make it easier to leave that other work behind when you get to a point where your music can pay your bills. And if you're not a musician, maybe take a tip from them and see if the gig economy can work for you.


Resources for freelancers and part-time gigs:

  • Upwork – Great for online and remote business, including web marketing, graphic design, copywriting, and more.
  • Freelancer – Similar categories as Upwork, plus engineering, product manufacturing, and local physical jobs and services.
  • FlexJobs – A wide variety of telecommuting, part-time, and flexible jobs.
  • Guru – Similar to Upwork or Freelancer.
  • PeoplePerHour – Hourly or fixed price jobs in various categories that include video, photo & audio, creative arts, social media, admin, design, and software development.
  • Care.com – Care-related work, from babysitting to pet sitting to tutoring.
  • The Creative Group – A hiring agency for creative professional work, like graphic design, marketing, and web development. Positions range from entry-level to executive, freelance to full-time.
  • Other job search sites – Most job search websites have an option to filter by part-time or contract work.
  • Social media – Join freelancer Facebook groups, follow some Twitter accounts that post freelance gigs, and keep an eye open for friends and connections looking for help on their projects. This may be the best way to find creative freelance work. Word of mouth is king.

The gig economy is great if you want to spend more time with your pets. We're confident you'd be more productive than this kitty.