Wanting a career change. Advice?

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workshed
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Wanting a career change. Advice?

Post by workshed » Sun Dec 24, 2006 12:29 pm

Little background: I am 35, married, two kids, mortgage, car payments, etc. The whole shootin' match. I've been a graphic designer / web developer for the last 10+ years. I've been running my own business for the last three years. To put it bluntly, I am plain old burnt out on my profession. If I was 10 years younger, I'd pick up and go back to school and learn some new skills. But with the mortgage and kids and all, that is a scary prospect.

If I could have my way, I'd drop everything and focus on improving my recording skills full-time. I won't kid myself -- I have a LOT to learn. But I am willing to learn. I have a few studio resources where I could intern and learn a ton and maybe even get on as a freelance engineer. I live in a small town that is far enough from the city, yet growing fast enough that a commercial studio could actually do well if it were properly outfitted and advertised. I have generally good people skills and could leverage my existing career to add value to a recording studio and pick up slack when sessions are slow.

The problem now is that I work too much -- often all day, and then later into the night -- just to keep up with the constant flow of projects I get in. This has recently caused me to get behind on a couple of larger projects and to add to it, my longtime retainer client has decided to hire for an in-house position to do the work I normally do for them (they offered the gig to me, but I can't do it with a part time employee and office space lease). This means less steady income and the need to take on, yes, even more work.

But the bigger issue at hand, is that I work so much I never have time or energy to record these days. For that matter, I don't even have time to hang out on the TOMB as much as I'd like. I have a couple bands who want to record with me right now, but I honestly don't know where I will find the time to a) get my home studio back into shape (we've been rearranging the space it's in); and b) set an entire day or more aside to record them, as it sets back my productivity on my already behind-schedule projects with my day job.

So, my questions to you, denizens of the TOMB, have any of you found yourselves at a similar fork in the road? Which way did you go? Why? Do you regret your decision? And most importantly, if you did pursue your dreams, how did you make it happen?

Discuss. Please. For my own sanity.

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Post by inflatable » Sun Dec 24, 2006 9:01 pm

I'm gunna be rather heavy handed, but it looks like that's what you need at this point.

WTF are you thinking? Grow up. You have a family now. Your job shouldn't be your passion. You need to realize that you aren't a kid anymore. People depend on you to eat and have a roof over their head.

Changing jobs from what you know and can make decent money at is literally career suicide.

Here's what I think you should do:

Hire a kid engineer in the town to do the actual recording. You become the Producer. Let the band and engineer use your studio. They'll respect your opinion even more than if you are the one doing the button pushing.

It's obvious you have a passion for music making, but reality often doesn't allow us to do what we love and still be able to pay the mortgage.

I don't know too many people in our industry that have stable incomes. The ones I do know don't love their jobs. They play in cover bands in Holiday Inn 5 nights a week to make ends meet while still composing and recording during the day.

Keep the day job. Take on bands as a Rick Rubin style Producer, which is really more like Executive Producer.

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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Sun Dec 24, 2006 9:56 pm

I think you should find a job as a high school shop teacher specializing in pimping out mid-1970s Corvettes. No, actually I'm just jealous that you got the name "Corvette Summer" at Myspace before I thought of it.

Best movie ever.

I'm a homebody with no future in music (at least not any future earning capacity or objective) and I get a kick out of it in my spare time. I also dig my day job. Maybe in ten years I'll be in your boat. Sorry, can't help.

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Post by getreel » Mon Dec 25, 2006 9:06 am

The way society is set up now doesn't leave much free time. In that free time, I like to spend time with my family and play/record music. I like to look forward to and think about my music projects while I'm at work at my day job. That helps. I have to plan weeks ahead and not let anyone give me anything to do that would interfere with planned "studio time". I am also very burnt out on my day job, but there's nothing I can do about it. I just do the best to make things work. I also work in computers/web design/networking/repair. My main job is Sys Admin at an ISP. I do some side work to finance music projects etc, but I turn down side work sometimes in favor of studio projects. Maybe you should think about taking a day job working for someone else using the same tech skills you already have. Then it's a more predictable schedule and you have an excuse for turning down work(because it's on the side and you are too tired after regular job). Something like that could work anyway.

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Post by mwingerski » Mon Dec 25, 2006 9:19 am

As some one who records full time and experienced a very lean early december and just got finished with the christmas season, I'll tell you that your family life and financial life will suffer if you choose this profession without building up your skills and client list first. And even if you do, you probably already know about the cyclical nature of self employment.

It sounds like you're in need of restructuring your web design business to free up your personal time. Outsource. Web development is an easy to field to outsource in... particularly among other recording enthusiasts.

Sounds like you're doing well in your business, you just need to think of a creative way to make it run itself to give yourself a vacation and some extra time to focus on doing what you love to do, which is recording.

That said, it also sounds like you'll need to make that free time to improve your skills and probably your gear, to make yourself a more viable commercial engineer.

Most of the people I know that record for a living didn't just decide to do it as a career change. It's something that slowly built up and they were able transition to from a murky day job (or three) as their skills and equipment and client list improved.

The wife and kids and mortgage adds a whole other layer of complexity. I would probably be looking for a different line of income if I were to add kids to the equation...

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Post by workshed » Mon Dec 25, 2006 6:03 pm

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. I appreciate all of the advice -- even the heavy handed stuff. I want to clear one thing up, and that's that I am not going to do anything to jeopardize my family. I'm probably entirely too responsible and conservative when it comes to financial risk, so I won't do anything too stupid.

Ultimately I was looking for success stories or ways to transition smoothly. But I am now reminded that the income may not be as stable as it is with what I do now.

I think I'll probably be sticking to my original plan, which was to slowly work the recording into the business as a creative service. My business is going to be shifting more towards a creative agency than a web development shop in the new year, which will help remove the stressful side of things (the super technical jobs). I already have a couple voiceover clients, and I am going to work towards finding a new office space with room for a studio when my lease runs out in 4 months. That seems the most viable, as I could then have the solid income and work in the recording stuff as time moves on, and as my skills improve.

And if all else fails, I will work for someone else and have regular weekends and vacation time again.

Anyhow, hope everyone had a nice holiday. I am finally getting over my anxiety today, which has been plaguing me for the last week. Ugh.

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Post by versuviusx » Mon Dec 25, 2006 10:02 pm

dude i'm so trying to avoid this same predicament that you are in. it really is a pickle. it's a really hard problem to deal with. it's kind of like credit card debt...once you get in servere credit card debt it's almost impossible to get out...that's why people say that credit card companies work for the devil.
so what i've been trying to do is to have a stable job that i can maintain that brings in a consistent income and then i want to have my hobbies on the side that i do at nights and weekends that can make money on the side. but in all honestly i know that what ever this investment is on the side it has to be something that can take very little cost, something that not many people would think to do or would want to do, and something that has high profit margins and something that requires very little maintenance or looking after. for example and i won't go into too many specifics but maybe offering a product such as a kit that people can put together so all you are doing is selling information and parts that you can easily bag up and ship out the door in seconds with very little time,energy, money or daily thought invested. it's harder than what it sounds but i can be done. the beauty is that it's just one idea and there are millions of ideas. but until you do it...it's just a nice idea.
another thing to do is to really sit down and figure out what the hell you have and don't use and get rid of it. why would i bring this up? because everybody has stuff that they own but don't use which can have value to someone else. maybe you have a $2000 ab machine that you never use, why not sell it on ebay and get something out of it so you can put that towards gear which you will use. maybe you have some old gear that you don't use but could get something out of it. it's about using all of your resources bone dry. it's about being a guerilla or a ninja. what you're asking for is something that most people never get. so you should know that you may have to do some extreme things to get the results you are looking at. other people may see it extreme or criticize it. i say do what gets you results because in all honesty you will not be able to count on anyone to help you or do it for you. you can only count on your self so i say if it gets results do what it takes. i just think that there are so many people who are miserable who have all this stuff that they think they need when in reality they could actually be happy with less stuff and more quality stuff that would really make them happy. and the crazy part is that it all adds up. for example i know guys who sell stuff on ebay that they never use and end up finding 1000-2000 bucks by selling it and then getting something that they will actually use everyday and make a world of difference in their recordings.
there are other ways too. i used to work for these guys who own a buisness. the buisness this year will bring in to close to 40-50 million this year. the point is that they have so much money they can't even spend it all. but if you only knew how they have so much money that they can't spend it all you would be shocked. first of all they all drive porshes and land rovers all under the company that they technically don't own but which they use all the time. which means they have no car payments, no gas payment, no cell phone bills. they write off everything and they have their own laywer and accountants! they buy properties and then resell it over and over again, and they live for free which means any profit they make is all 100% net. what a great idea. very few people can roll like that. but if you know about different tricks and ideas one day you may be able to use them. the main important point here is that you may not be looking at reality mathematically accurately because you may not know about certain tricks that can make an opportunity worth your time when you generally would have dismissed an opportunity because you had the wrong numbers and did not take into consideration every little number until you had a finite number to work with.
there are lots of people who are employed every year with the dedicated task of coming up with very accurate forecastings of fiscal years such as budget planning and project earnings and they have to take in every little financial detail or they lose their job. why are these people employed? because they offer a very valuable tool which allows managers to make better informed decisions which could make or break a money making project or company.
i totally see it as a war. so i say: use what ever you got...everyday all day. make every dollar count. that is the kind of mentality you have to have if you want to be financially free to do the stuff you really want to do. of course these guys are all connected and have tons of money which you don't have. but you have to work your way up some how.basically it's a waiting game and a patience and strategy game where you are waiting for the other opponent to make a mistake so you can put them in a devastating lock so you can be free. the opponents name is slavery and some how put your self under the mercy of this opponent. and you need to know that you have no friends and that there is no love or mercy and that your opponent will never give up. so you have to use strategy and make sure that every decision you use is going to get you something. if you're looking for some fantasy pipe dream story i'm not gonna give it to you. everyone i know who has money or is financially free have all worked very hard for what they have and no one gave it to them, they had to take it. some people do have it given to them. but if that is not you what is the point of even thinking about that situation.
the reality of the situation is that life sucks and it only takes one mistake to cripple you for life or at least for a very long time. i've found and i know this may sound silly. but it's important that you surround your self around people who are very capable, wise and smarter than you, perhaps even older than you. it's good to have mentors. some people are so smart just being around them for a very short period can benefit your life until you die. they can teach you ideas and principles and good habbits that would have taken you life times to learn on your own.
how is this related? it's totally related. maybe you wouldn't be in the spot you are in now if you had some of these people around. they can make a world of difference. you're still alone. but having those kinds of assets can change everything.
you may think i'm crazy or sound crazy. but i'm 27 and i don't have any kids or a girlfriend or even a career. all i have are 2 college degrees and i'm still worthless and i want very desperately to avoid some of the traps that alot of people fall into and never get out of.i too am looking for a way out and i know it can be done....it's just very very hard. and it takes balls and risk.me and you are different boats cause you have kids and a family but i know that i am probably what you were 10 years ago....the only difference between us is that i can see the war ahead and i am preparing. i wish you good luck and i hope you reach your goals. the pursuit of happiness.

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Post by workshed » Tue Dec 26, 2006 7:45 am

versuviusx wrote:dude i'm so trying to avoid this same predicament that you are in. it really is a pickle. it's a really hard problem to deal with. it's kind of like credit card debt...once you get in servere credit card debt it's almost impossible to get out...that's why people say that credit card companies work for the devil.

<snip>
Wow. Wow! Thanks! I see what you are getting at and I think you have some great points. Honestly, after three years of working for myself, I can't see myself working for someone else again. I have seriously thought about finding a business mentor, as I have reached a point at which I am beyond my experience in terms of where to go from here. I've also thought about maybe trying to start or buy another business that may have more equity than just being a creative agency, something I could sell down the line. Or leveraging my web skills and trying to create a web app or product that could eventually be sold or licensed out. So many options.

Anyhow, I will tell you this: While you have no kids or family to worry about, and are still young, take those risks while you can. I've always lived in fear of financial failure, which has held me back from pursuing some things I wish I'd pursued long ago. This is, in a large part, due to my upbringing. At the same time, many of my friends from bands long past who did try to live the life are now in dead-end jobs with no education and equally (or more) miserable than I am in many ways.

I guess it's all a matter of knowing when to throw in the towel. You already have the degrees, and that's a great start.

Anyhow, thanks for the pep talk. I hear you loud and clear and am going to figure out a way to make things work. I just need to get through this rough patch.

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Post by hiddendriveways » Tue Dec 26, 2006 1:37 pm

I'm 34 years old, no kids, rent an apartment, my houseplants need water, etc.

Remember the late ninties? The idea of owning your own web design business with a wife, kids, and a mortgage was the true ideal of modern man. Damn, you just deflated the tires of every 98' Beetle on earth!

Yeah, I don't know anyone who transitioned to a career into full-time music production. I have close friends who do audio work on the side and make some pretty healthy side cash, but the buck stops there. I transitioned into a career within the MI industry, but the transition was hell. I'm happy now, but the first three years s-u-c-k-e-d.

I'm not saying don't do it. But, if you're going to do it, the first thing to do is sell the house. Take the mortgage out of the equation.

How about hiring an eager young kid to do the brunt of your work? That way you can keep the business and free up a lot of time for yourself. You'd have to pay the kid a lot of dough, but at least you've still got your goose laying eggs.

"Commercial studio" - You used that phrase. Think about that phrase. Think long and hard. Make a pho Excel spreadsheet. Go ahead. Dive in.

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Post by NewAndImprov » Tue Dec 26, 2006 6:09 pm

Hey Workshed,

I've done pretty much what you are considering, though not entirely out of choice. I had a day-gig designing educational multimedia for a textbook publisher for about 8 years. We bought a house, no kids though. It was deadline-driven stuff, and I regularly worked 60 hour weeks. Fairly profitable, I bought a lot of studio gear and toys.

The gig got pulled out from under my feet 3 years ago, due to corporate restructuring and outsourcing (funny thing is, I was a free-lancer that was replacing their in-house production team, I guess it was Karma). I'd been gigging regularly and doing occaisional recording throughout. At about the same time I lost my corporate gig, my band started gigging more and touring more. I was able to book a bunch of long-term projects in the months following losing my job, and between gigging, recording and teaching bass lessons, and a few hours a week of retail work, I get by. But I don't know how long I can keep it up. I am lucky to be one of the few recording guys in my area, and I've been doing it long enough that I have something of a reputation. I currently have recording stuff booked out through March and gigs booked through the end of summer. December, however, was really thin on work, and made for a pretty low-cash Xmas season, fortunately my family is not particularly materialistic.

But, man, it's really scary thinking in the long term. Honestly, I'm looking for another day gig. I'm doing what I love, which is extremely cool, but the lack of security of it all keeps me awake at night.

Anyway, I hope this has been a useful perspective.

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Post by kayagum » Tue Dec 26, 2006 6:41 pm

Here's my 2 cents:

Do you really have to go at it alone? I'm betting you're burned out not on the type of work, but the freelancing/DIY lifestyle. Hustling for the gigs on your own is a tough lifestyle.

Everybody dreams of "being their own boss"- a romantic individualistic notion that is so much a part of the American dream. But just like those shows that remake your house for sale in 24 hours, it's not always as easy as it looks.

Many of my friends think I should be a consultant and not "work for the man" (I work for a Fortune 100 company). Sure, your billable rate can be sweet, like $125-$200 per hour for IT work. But after self-employment taxes, insurance, not to mention unreasonable demands from clients, hustling for new gigs, and the threat that your current gigs could be cut off at any time- it's not as sweet as it looks. Trust me- I wouldn't change places with the consultants I have on my project.

In your specific case, I wouldn't dismiss that in-house position right away. For starters, why do you have exactly 1 part-time employee (violating a long-standing rule of never, ever hire exactly 1 person- the overhead and tax headache ain't worth it), and why are you renting your space when you already own a house? If your current house won't work, maybe find a better property. And, maybe the in-house gig will provide enough stability so that you can pursue the audio gigs without fear of missing your mortgage payments. And, this doesn't even take into account hustling for other gigs.

A dozen years ago, I was at a crossroads- I had my day gig as a database analyst, I was doing theater work and I wanted to do music. I really thought I had to pick 1 over the other 2. I decided instead to let time sort it out. What eventually happened was that I was able to do all 3. The day job paid the bills, but because of the other 2, I couldn't obsess or work too much overtime, making me more efficient and I'm probably ahead because of it. I couldn't be in a full time band, nor could I do more than 1 theater project a year because of my day job, but I was able to be picky and do projects that had artistic merit, and not because I needed to make rent. I got to do some really great projects that I enjoyed. Because of the day job, I didn't feel like I had to hustle for my gigs- I could approach- and more importantly- be available to be approached for projects and gigs.

One last thing to consider: cgarges asked on another topic (here) who actually made more than $35K - $40K a year. I don't think anyone responded to it. This is not a lucrative business. People do it for the love of it, some have managed to make a living at it. But I don't think anyone is rich.
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." ~ Erica Jong

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Post by workshed » Tue Dec 26, 2006 9:45 pm

hiddendriveways wrote:I'm 34 years old, no kids, rent an apartment, my houseplants need water, etc.

...

"Commercial studio" - You used that phrase. Think about that phrase. Think long and hard. Make a pho Excel spreadsheet. Go ahead. Dive in.
Yes, I think a big part of my master plan is to transition my business to the point where I am delegating and overseeing projects more than doing the actual grunt work. This, I can only hope, will free me up to actually have more free time to pursue the things that keep me sane.

And that's where your last comment really hit home -- and what I think a lot of people have been telling me. One's hobby is not necessarily a hobby of pleasure when it becomes the sole source of income. I love being able to record indie bands, or bands made of young kids just getting a start. There ain't no money to be made there, but it is rewarding.

Anyhow, thanks for your thoughts and perspective. And, yeah, you are totally right about the late '90s web development dream. Really, I have it pretty good, I just need to regroup and take a new tack.

-Bret

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Post by workshed » Tue Dec 26, 2006 9:48 pm

NewAndImprov wrote:Hey Workshed,

I've done pretty much what you are considering, though not entirely out of choice. I had a day-gig designing educational multimedia for a textbook publisher for about 8 years. We bought a house, no kids though. It was deadline-driven stuff, and I regularly worked 60 hour weeks. Fairly profitable, I bought a lot of studio gear and toys. ...
Most definitely, that is what I was looking for. Some real-life experiences. This is what I love about TOMB. People are realistic and they are honest about stuff. Nobody is responding with irresponsible, "YEAH MAN! GO FOR IT!" posts. I appreciate that about this place to no end.

-Bret

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Post by workshed » Tue Dec 26, 2006 10:08 pm

kayagum wrote:Here's my 2 cents:

Do you really have to go at it alone? I'm betting you're burned out not on the type of work, but the freelancing/DIY lifestyle. Hustling for the gigs on your own is a tough lifestyle.

Everybody dreams of "being their own boss"- a romantic individualistic notion that is so much a part of the American dream. But just like those shows that remake your house for sale in 24 hours, it's not always as easy as it looks.
Well, that's kind of what my new approach is. I simply have too much work to get done on my own. So I have my one part time designer guy (who is actually a contractor at this point) and then I need a dependable programmer to round out the team (this role has been harder to fill than one might expect -- the dependable part seems to be the missing link).
kayagum wrote:

In your specific case, I wouldn't dismiss that in-house position right away. For starters, why do you have exactly 1 part-time employee (violating a long-standing rule of never, ever hire exactly 1 person- the overhead and tax headache ain't worth it), and why are you renting your space when you already own a house? If your current house won't work, maybe find a better property. And, maybe the in-house gig will provide enough stability so that you can pursue the audio gigs without fear of missing your mortgage payments. And, this doesn't even take into account hustling for other gigs.
Well, partially because I know nothing about how to run a real business. :-)

But more specifically, my one "employee" is actually a part time contractor who is on a retainer with me for a couple days each week. I worked out of my home for three years, but once I had someone coming in to help me and needed to meet with clients more, a separate space became more necessary to increase my credibility so I can pursue bigger jobs and take on less small jobs that eat up my time. I plan on finding more hours for my part time guy and eventually hiring him. My office lease is dirt cheap -- $400 / month for a 400 sq ft studio apartment that has been converted to an office in a cool old vintage building in a hip downtown area. The new location has helped too, in terms of getting me exposed to more small businesses.

I actually think (and this was my original plan, but I got panicky and impatient) that keeping my business and growing the creative side to where it is running itself more, I will have a better chance of working studio services into the fold and focusing on that portion as I desire. Then, as others have suggested, I can seek an intern-level engineer to run the smaller recording gigs and pick and choose the bigger gigs for myself.
kayagum wrote:
A dozen years ago, I was at a crossroads- I had my day gig as a database analyst, I was doing theater work and I wanted to do music. I really thought I had to pick 1 over the other 2. I decided instead to let time sort it out. What eventually happened was that I was able to do all 3. The day job paid the bills, but because of the other 2, I couldn't obsess or work too much overtime, making me more efficient and I'm probably ahead because of it. I couldn't be in a full time band, nor could I do more than 1 theater project a year because of my day job, but I was able to be picky and do projects that had artistic merit, and not because I needed to make rent. I got to do some really great projects that I enjoyed. Because of the day job, I didn't feel like I had to hustle for my gigs- I could approach- and more importantly- be available to be approached for projects and gigs.
This option is definitely appealing to me and I've thought about just getting a regular job and living a normal life again many times. The fact is, I'm kinda stuck where I'm at until Summer -- my wife works for the schools and her contract does not end until then and there are some childcare issues to contend with. Truth be told, come June, I may very well be on the job interview circuit again. But until then, I'll be trying to make things better with what I have.
kayagum wrote:
One last thing to consider: cgarges asked on another topic (here) who actually made more than $35K - $40K a year. I don't think anyone responded to it. This is not a lucrative business. People do it for the love of it, some have managed to make a living at it. But I don't think anyone is rich.
Yeah, that is definitely a consideration. I'm not rich, but that would be a big pay cut for me. Even more so, I think that is a good reason to use the main business as a means to grow and sustain the recording arm.

Thanks a ton for the perspective.

Have I mentioned how much I love the TOMB?

-Bret

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Post by JWL » Wed Dec 27, 2006 6:23 am

Bret, if it were me I'd start thinking about transitioning your existing business into more of a multimedia services kind of thing. You could grow your business into being, say, a full-featured flash development studio or something. This will often require original music, so there's how to get recording into the mix (bad pun, heh).

Every successful business has a niche market.... find one that floats your personal boat (ie, includes music recording) and yet still pays the bills.

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