Financial Security While Being Self-Employed
One of the most frightening things in being self employed, especially at the beginning, is the mostly complete unpredictability about your stream of income. This is even more scary when being a composer where you’re depending on projects that might come or not come at completely unpredictable times.
Starting out as a freelance composer trying to make a living from it probably scares everybody at the beginning, not knowing whether you will be able to pay your rent for the next month etc. The upside is that probably everybody needs to go through this. Of course it is easier at the beginning of one’s life. Building up a network and a stream of income while you’re still studying and are probably (partially) supported financially by your parents makes things much easier than having a family, quitting a regular job and trying your shot at being a composer.
For most people (including me) it helps or has helped to get some predictability in your income by doing a related side job like for example teaching where you always can count on a specific amount of money at the end of each month. Of course the downside of this is, that it takes away time from building your career as composer. So it is really essential to balance this side-job properly into your work-life. Also, passive income helps alot. Some composers build their entire career on generating money by placing tracks in libraries for licensing. Even if you don’t want to go that path, having a few tracks in libraries will generate an extra stream of revenue that will be very welcome when projects are sparse.
Another thing that is important is to be as widely spread as possible with your clients. Don’t just rely on a few clients that bring you in big jobs but once they break away for whatever reason you will be having big troubles compensating for it. So even when your current project situation looks good, there might be a need to look for new contacts in order to have more security later on. Also, don’t think that just because you’re having a phase where you can turn down projects because you can’t handle them all, it will stay like this forever. The golden rule here as usual of course is also: save as much money as you can for worse times.
The bottom line here is that you will never be able to eliminate all risks that self employment brings with itself. It gets a bit easier to live with that after a few years but if you need the predictability of a 9 to 5 job for your own personal wellbeing, you might want to reconsider if that career path is really the best way for you.