I remember the horror of telling my friends and family that I was going to study music in college. Their sincerest wishes for my success were usually tempered with grave expressions of caution or doubt. “That’s great!” they would say, followed by an uncomfortably long pause. “But don’t you worry about not being able to pay your bills?” This, in a nutshell, is the perception of job security in music. If you work in any field in the humanities—literature, language, fine arts, etc.—you have probably at some point faced these sentiments from well-meaning parents, relatives, and colleagues. If so, I want to challenge you to redefine what job security really means.
As a musician, I’ve done freelance work — a gig here, a gig there — for half my life already. Ever since I was old enough to be trusted with the work, I’ve been a “working musician” to some extent. However, the past year brought about a major change. I left my full-time “day job,” which was actually a music job in a church; it involved a lot of work in the evenings. Now, I hold a much smaller church music position, reserving most of my time (especially those coveted evenings) for freelance work and running my business. For the first time in my life, self-employment produces a significant portion of my income (about a third of it). I will probably never view my working life the same as I did before.