DJ Budgeting: How To Pay Yourself As A DJ


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This article is dedicated to my DJ peers but the same ideology can be applied to any other gig that doesn’t provide a steady income on a regular basis.

Today’s topic is something that I wish was shared to me when I was coming up as a DJ.  It wasn’t until years later when I finally figured it out.  It’s how to properly budget and manage money if you don’t have a steady check coming in.

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The Scenario

You’ve just wrapped up your epic of most epic gigs and the client hands you over a nice wad of cash for services rendered.  What to do, what to do? The easy option is to spend it on nice restaurants, fancy scotch, expensive Jordans, and  impressing that nice club whore with the pretty face.  Hang on there virgin.  Let’s not prematurely ejaculate that load of guap just yet.  There are quite a few things you need to consider like bills, living expenses, and, of course, the “incase sh*t happens” fund.

This is an observation that I’ve noticed with many DJ’s on the come-up.  They’ve been too blinded by the “prestige” and “limelight”.  Hey pal, you’re not making Tiesto or Vice money just yet.  It does help to be a little frugal.  Yes, I said frugal.  It means economical in your spending.

Chances are, you’re getting paid under the table.  This means when April 15th rolls along you really don’t know how much you’re truly making.  Now, let’s play the numbers game real quick.  I’m going to low ball you and say that you’re playing 2 nights a week.  Of those two nights you’re average $500 bucks.  That means you’re only making about $2k a month which equates to about $24,000 a year.  Holy sh*t superstar!  You’ll be rolling in that Bugatti in no time!

I’m not sure about you but a $24k a year salary does not look like a solid career choice. Here are some of my tips for how to manage your champagne taste on that beer budget.

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Step One: Live Within Your Means

I hope to God that you’ve heard of this idiom before. It’s a simple concept.  If you can’t afford it, then don’t buy it!

I would recommend that you find out what your “means” means!  Estimate your basic expenditures for the bare essentials.  This includes food, shelter, transportation and medical costs.  Be realistic about your estimates.  We need to find a solid benchmark.

A few notes on this point:

  • Food – I mean groceries because, the fact of the matter is, you’re learning how to cook and eat at home.  It’s cheaper! This doesn’t include business dinners and such.  That goes into another category called operational expenses.  We’ll go over that later.
  • Shelter – Think borderline poverty without the luxuries of heating and air conditioning.
  • Transportation – If you can, WALK or BIKE! Let’s face it, alcohol brings on the extra calories so you can use the exercise.  Public transportation also costs much less than a $5 gallon of gas.
  • Medical costs – It’s important to have some type of health insurance in case something happens.  Here’s an interesting factoid: the number one reason people go bankrupt is because of medical costs …your mind blown!

Once you’ve found out what your magic number is, find one of those online tax calculators to get a rough estimate of what you’ll owe in taxes.  The last thing you’d want to do is piss off Samuel, your uncle.

From here, you now know what you need to be averaging a month to survive. The number is kinda harsh isn’t it… still want to be a DJ?

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Step 2: Break Bread

Have you ever heard of the 50/20/30 rule?  It means to budget your expenditures by essentials, priorities, and lifestyle.

Now lets analyze how you’re going to pay yourself so you won’t be a joke. I broke it down in to 4 categories/accounts:

  1. Business Checking – This is where you deposit your newly earned income.  You pay yourself either once or twice a month from this account.  Also, keep in mind that you’re going to need this account for basic DJ operating expenses.  Like I discussed above, this is where you pay for those business meetings at restaurants, drinks for clients, and membership to your cool record pool.
  2. Personal Checking – Credit your newly acquired paycheck into this account.  I use this to pay for the basic necessities like food, bills, and lifestyle expenses.  I also put a little bit of this check into my personal savings. The key here is to make sure that you don’t spend more than what you put in.
  3. Business Savings – This is the account you place some of your funds in after paying yourself.  This is reserved for the big upgrades like a new laptop or new DJ equipment.
  4. Personal Savings – This is where you put your “in case sh*t happens” fund like big medical bills, major living expenses, and car repairs.

That’s it!  My conscience is now clear and I have granted you have a little more knowledge on how to survive in the real world.  Have any questions or comments about my methodology?  Leave them below or send them my way.  You know how to reach me.  Oh, and here are some other interesting do it yourself topics to get your mind further blown.

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