When you make the decision to become a professional DJ, you already know it is going to be a long hard uphill slog. In fact it can be such a day to day struggle
that you hardly notice that you’re moving up in the world. Instead of having a couple DJ gigs each week, you’re now working 5 days a week, some weeks even more than that. You operate like a well-oiled machine, packing your DJ equipment up and setting it up inside the DJ booth with ease.
But you still feel as though you’re not “there” yet. Why? Part of it is that there is no specific pinnacle like winning Wimbledon or an Oscar or leading men’s group topics to cement your status as an awesome DJ. But there are some signs you can look to that will tell you—without a doubt—that you’re on the fast track to DJ success.
One of first things that will give you a clue that you are quickly becoming a popular pro DJ is your schedule. Most of us start our DJ careers as a hobby with a (fingers crossed) hope that it can become more. I mean, we all want to be full time DJs but many people don’t know if they have what it takes until they take that leap and do it.
But if your hobby turns into a steady stream of DJ gigs and income that you can’t pass up, you are on the right track. This doesn’t guarantee DJ superstardom, but it does mean that you can do what you love as a sustainable career.
When you need help—of an assistant or girlfriend or manager—to keep your schedule straight, that is a good sign for your DJ career.
Ask any DJ what was the worst part of the early days in their career and they will tell you it’s all the crap they had to deal with from club managers, promoters and sometimes other DJs. The truth is we all have to deal with it at some point in time and often we handle it badly. Really badly.
But when you’ve been doing this for a while you’ll realize how to deal with it without losing your sh*t. A manager or promoter is trying to stiff you on your fee? You’ll handle it without choking anyone out or you’ll phone up your manager and have him take care of it for you.
This crap is all part of the package, which means eventually you will learn how to handle it.
If you’ve been DJing long enough and frequently enough to have a reputation then your DJ career is on the right track. Now, that reputation may be good or bad but…you have one.
If you have a reputation for being friendly and hardworking, that will serve you well for booking regular gigs and spreading word of mouth recommendations for your services. Now if you have a bad reputation that’s not great, but you can be known as a d-bag and still have people love your DJ skills.
But people prefer to hire people they like so…work on that.
For me, one of the ways I really knew that I was a full-fledged professional DJ was when I started getting emails and phone calls from complete strangers looking to book me for a gig. That is a feeling you will remember forever and it will help you in those rare times when gigs dry up.
You network like crazy so you expect to book gigs that way. But when your reputation has become so impressive that people you haven’t gotten around to reaching out to yet are calling you for gigs, your career is headed right where you want it to go.
I don’t mean therapy, but hey that’s up to you. When you need help with your gig schedule, handling the logistics of getting to gigs, accommodations, photo shoots and interviews, your DJ career has reached the point where you need ‘people’.
This is a very good sign for your career because it means you are no longer a one man operation. Even if you loved learning every aspect of the business, you’ll soon realize that playing manager, assistant, pit bull and accountant is having a negative impact on your music and your performances.
When you need to hire someone to help you manage your career, you can pat yourself on the back and crack open the bubbly, because you are officially a successful professional DJ.
Once you realize you’ve done what you’ve set out to do, don’t stop. Keep going because it was your hard work and diligence that got you here. Imagine how far you could go in another year or two!