Background to my question: I want sound to be my career. I'm in the middle of an associates degree in digital audio. I have some limited experience in the field and a decent amount of coursework behind me.

But, we've gotten to the point where having only one truly significant income in my household (not mine) doesn't work. My health insurance expired, too. Money is, in short, an issue in my household.

So, I've had to take a full-time job far outside the field. While I have most of the important (that is, audio) courses in my associate's degree finished (and a bachelors in unrelated stuff long done), I still need to take a bunch of unrelated courses to finish the degree, which I'll have to slog through.

What I now have is a 9-5 (well, 10-6) job about an hour away from me. Health insurance will kick in at some point, and I'll be able to set aside some (but not much) money, for the first time in my life, pretty much.

I have some pretty decent equipment, though some is low-ish end, and a Windows computer with Pro Tools.

Obviously, I don't have the time to do a whole lot. Sound is still my thing and a career goal, though.

As the title gives away, my question is, what can I do, rather than just sit around and wait?

  • I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to wish you luck. Keep the fire burning! Feb 16, 2013 at 22:56

9 Answers 9


Who hasn't had to hold down a shit day job? I sure did - the year before I went to film school I spent a year working 11pm until 7am, 4 days on 4 days off at a 24 hour petrol station/video store... You might find this hard to believe but it is good for you - its character building and it will test your resolve.

The important thing is to find ways to make it work for you - during the dead hours of my shit job I watched movies - lots of them! I read manuals & I thought a lot about how I didn't want to be doing this job for the rest of my life... I remember one night about 4am someone came in and I had a (borrowed) Nagra, a razor blade and 1/4" tape spread all over the counter....

One thought: if you're commuting, like the others said it is an opportunity to be learning... And if your day job is working indoors, then maybe getting a field recording setup or at least a handheld recorder could be useful so you don't go from indoors at work to working indoors at home... I'd also suspect no matter what industry you day job is, there will be unique field recording opportunities come up...

Never. Stop. Learning.

  • Yeah, @Tim, I've been considering working on some field recording meanwhile. I've had an H4n for an eternity (along with Rode NTG3 and blimp), and a 702 is on the list of stuff to invest in. There are a few areas around my workplace that I've been thinking of. Plus, with the commute, I'm getting very acquainted with the sounds of my car on the highway.
    – Alex Cole
    Feb 18, 2013 at 4:17

Tough situation, but one we've all grabbled with at some point.

Use your downtime wisely,if you commute via public transport, read books, sound mags, get that knowledge in. If you drive, listen to podcasts, or even rip youtube videos and convert to audio. Like a language, if you don't immerse yourself in it, you'll lose your edge.

This doesn't get you a job, but it keeps you in the running.

  • Reminds me of what I was told when starting out: The other person that you're competing against for the gig eats, sleeps, and lives sound. Feb 16, 2013 at 20:56
  • I hadn't thought of ripping videos and listening to the audio on the commute. I'll have to try that.
    – Alex Cole
    Feb 18, 2013 at 4:17
  • Its like, practising etc, is all common sense stuff. But you need to immerse yourself in sound to stay sharp and stay on the ball. How many sound engineers have the time to read a huge sound book? Well if you commute via public transport, then YOU do. So it becomes an edge. Feb 18, 2013 at 12:50

Don't give up. And perhaps find a position at a sound facility that may not be sound related. You need to find a community or mentors. Even if you are a scheduler or a sales guy, you can make connections, learn, and show initiative while still paying the rent. I have even taught classes at the company gym just to have the freedom of an employee pass and the opportunity to be on peoples minds and in their lives. Warning: Befriend people you truly enjoy. While I never burn a bridge, you should never fake a friendship to get ahead. It is bad karma and never the path to true success.


Don't despair, we've all been there more or less. I had to work unrelated jobs for 6 years before I could build my own studio and transition to sound design. It has been crucial in my development as a person, and as Tim said, during these 6 years I found out that sound design is definitely the career I want for myself.


It depends how much time you have outside of the 9-5. I know what it's like though, getting home after said shift and you just feel like sitting down and relaxing after a long day.

Just try new things, or take up a small project for yourself to keep your hand in, or try and get some lo-no paid jobs from sites such as mandy.com, to get experience and even contacts. Some of these jobs can be very flexible as many people are in the same boat as you.

Even keeping your hand in something like a forum like this to get new tips and tricks or just refreshing your memory is good and you never know, you might just get chatting to someone who might have something for you!


Thanks everyone for the advice, help, and encouragement! I'll be around.


I'm in the same boat. I think we have to remember this isn't something that can happen overnight. It's a long process and as long as you're moving forward in some way, even small, you're getting closer to your goals. Try and find projects that you're excited about and work on them, probably for free. That's what I'm doing and I find it helps keep the passion alive.


'Ve been there too, still slowly leaving that world for the same reasons. It may suck (it sure does) but as said above, I really learned that I wanted to have a sound career, and that made me stronger and made me know myself better. It's important not to sit tired and get disappointed (at least too long), still make plans for sound tasks to do, something will come up. Define priorities - who knows if some part-time job arise would let you spend more time with sound works? Most of the times we would need to sacrifice fancy stuff to buy, but in a way it made me focus on the important things. And after all that and hard work and learning I finally have a great job in sound design - it did took a lot of time but it was worth it!

Good luck!


I don't understand what the question is. You need to earn a living some way. If you can't get it from a particular "dream job", then you have to make yourself useful in some other way. Simple as that. You can continue to pursue whatever you would like though during your leisure time, so what's the problem?

I think MixingManiac's suggestion is good though. It can be linear thinking to expect that the only way to artistry is to practice the art itself. But, what you actually need, to turn it to a job, is connections to people that would be interested in using your services or working with you. So trying to get a job in something that at least has media people, sound people etc. could be useful. Or then just use your downtime on networking activities.

  • Sometimes "getting a job in something related" is simply not an option. It can be extremely frustrating to have crappy jobs on a completely shifted area because you need to eat and have a bed to sleep, and it's sometimes very hard to keep the motivation on! Plus, you get deadly tired afterwords which makes it even harder to use the leisure time. It sure can be done, but can also break a person's spirit. I'm sorry for the down vote, but I've been there, and that kind of answer / advice to a question you say you don't even understand is the typical one which will push down a person even more. Feb 20, 2013 at 3:11
  • @Melissa Exactly. But that's life and thus it's difficult to understand why it's a problem. A job in art/media/entertainment is extremely privileged to start with, if you put it to the big picture... Feb 20, 2013 at 10:43
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    I am working (Thank the Lord) and feel very lucky. However, it never gets easy unless you stop advancing. For example, the last 2 months I worked triple shifts Tuesday and Wednesday as well as Thursday and Friday which meant I worked throughout the following days instead of slept those nights. It is just the nature of beast sometimes. I find those that flourish in this field push and feel honored to live off their creativity even though it can admittedly be hard and has the potential to break some. I am sorry to sound harsh. But, doing the seemly impossible is part of what we do at times. Feb 22, 2013 at 21:36

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