Reflections on Independence. A Note of Caution (And Hope.)

Have you ever wondered what your life would look like if you could make a living doing something you love whilst being beholden to no-one but yourself?

Well, wonder no more.  I have been happily making a living as an independent artist for quite a while now and in this post I am going to take you behind the curtain.

I’m not only going to show you how this rabbit-in-a-hat-trick is done, I’m going to share with you exactly what it takes to pull it off.  Some of it is good.  Some of it is not-so-good.  Nothing will be withheld.  Expect no pulled punches.

Ready?

Reflections
My Office.

First things first.  When I talk about an ‘Independent’, I am referring to anyone who is: doing their thing professionally, whilst operating outside of the traditional support structures of business.  Put simply, anyone who is making a living off their own back; whether that be as: a musician, a self employed bricklayer, or a runaway freelance ninja.

I have been doing this for some time now (musician, not ninja).  At the moment, the lions share of my working day consists of: writing and recording music in my home studio, making various other pieces of art, and talking to the people who, collectively, form my audience.

The main thing that being independent means is: I have total freedom and complete control of all I do.  I select the projects, I set the parameters, and I am in complete control of their outcomes.  I: schedule my own time, decide where I go, what I do and with whom I do it.  If I need a nap in the middle of the day I am free to take it and then work later into the night.  I have worked entire days in the studio in my sweatpants or PJ’s.

Sounds good, right?

Well, I’m not going to lie to you.  It totally is.  ;-)  Those aspects of being independent are awesome.  They make each day a joy.

But there is a flipside.

Along with the total freedom comes: Absolute Responsibility, (Duh duh DUH!).  It is true that you are in a position to do anything you want but the payoff for that is: if anything needs to be done you are the one who has to do it.  The buck well and truly stops with you.  When you are independent there is no security save that which you build yourself.  Nothing moves except by your own effort.

Reduced to the simplest equation: if you slack off, you don’t eat.

I mean, sure, that cubicle 9-5 seems like slow grey death on a stick.  But cubicle monkey knows that she is (in all likelihood) getting a regular paycheck at the end of each month.  Even if she is: tired, hates her job, only does the minimum to get by, and splits most of her time between the company coffee machine and fetish websites specializing in photoshopped pictures of kittens brandishing machine guns.  Even in this (totally realistic) scenario, the job will still affords her, as recompense, some small sweet measure of security.

What is most important to note is that: both paths contain stress, just in different flavours.

Being independent can be amazing.  It can also be very challenging.  You have to be able to hustle, or find people to hustle for you.  You have to be (or learn how to be) comfortable with risk and uncertainty.  And you have to have a foundation of deep trust, and great faith in yourself.

I am mere data point of one and, right now, my audience is (relatively) small.  But the fact remains that: people who love what I do do exist, that they are growing in number, and that they are fierce in their support. ;-)

Last week something happened which really brought this home to me:

The real question is not whether you can do your thing independently or not.  Anyone can, (as long as they are: creating something of value, and have the right tactics.)  The real question is: whether this way of doing things is right for you.  Because if you are thinking about it, then you are setting yourself up to fail if you head blindly into the fray.  You cannot have the freedom that independence provides without the responsibility it demands – they are a boxed set and cannot be separated.  But forewarned is forearmed as my Granny used to say.  And there is real power available when you enter a situation with a realistic blueprint.

For me, personally, Independence is the best fit right now.  That’s not to say that it wont change in the future.  It may, or it may not.  Either way, I have to be honest: right now, I am enjoying the fuck out of being able to record in my PJ’s ;-)

I wish you well

-J


My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

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And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

64 Replies to “Reflections on Independence. A Note of Caution (And Hope.)”

  1. LOVE this. So true. Recently heard this quote, “Choose your shit sandwich.” For me, the choice is obvious. I’d rather eat a sandwich of uncertainty and self-driven hustle than a 9-5 slog job. ;) thank you for your art.

    Like

  2. Hi James! I really liked your post! It really pushes towards pursuing one’s own dreams while keeping a realistic attitude at the same time! Anybody who wishes to create something new should have a bit of that mindset: Create without getting lost in day dreaming! Loved it!

    Like

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