How to Become a Professional Songwriter Without Giving Up Your Day Job
Based on some of the content of Episode 5, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence
Many non-professional songwriters believe songwriting happens when inspiration strikes. The problem with this belief is that you may only write 4 songs a year – not really enough for a songwriting career.
Take a professional songwriter’s approach to songwriting without giving up your day job with these simple tips laid out below.
This blog is based on some of the podcast audio from Episode 5 of “The Magic of Songwriting” called “Rediscovering the Magic of Songwriting and Starting a Global Revolution”. In this 15 minute podcast episode, IHSC founder Francesca de Valence shares how she went from struggling to write four songs a year to becoming a prolific award-winning songwriter and inspiring a global community to write over 25,000 songs and counting.
How Non Professional Songwriters Approach Songwriting
- An idea ‘drops in’ or there’s a feeling of inspiration to create.
- Either the idea can arrive fully formed with just a bit of tweaking, or the idea partially comes and then it stops.
- This results in the song being left unfinished and the songwriter walking away to return at a later date.
- The song might be finished at a later date, or before then another idea can drop in and the cycle repeats itself.
- Often this process is done in isolation.
This songwriter will get to the end of the year with a book filled with partial song ideas and about 4 finished songs.
There are good intentions to go back and finish them, but the reality is most of these songs stay unfinished.
This presents some songwriting blocks
There are three obvious songwriting blocks in this process. Waiting for inspiration to strike, walking away from the song idea and writing in isolation.
Many songwriters believe that creativity is something that ‘should’ be done when they feel inspired. However, this ‘waiting’ can go on for months, even years, leading to less songs, songwriting doubts, decrease in skills and unrealised potential.
The reasons for walking away from the writing are varied. But often it’s self-judgment that creates a block and kills the creative process. And this perfectionism is an unachievable endeavour. At some point, these songwriters feel despondent about writing or give up songwriting altogether.
Writing in isolation is very common for most non-professional songwriters as they often don’t have a songwriting community and don’t have a plan for their songwriting, which includes collaboration.
But what if you could simply learn some tools from professional songwriters that you can bring into your life that would help you write your best songs yet – without giving up anything?
A Professional Songwriter’s Approach to Writing Songs
Professional or songwriters who are serious about improving and writing their best songs often take a ‘do the work’ approach to songwriting. Here are some of the ways you can work like a professional songwriter:
1. Have a songwriting work schedule that is realistic
Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike or until you feel like writing, put aside time to write and sit down to work.
Whilst many professional songwriters might have a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm work schedule, you don’t need to quit your dayjob to be a serious songwriter. In fact, that might just add financial pressure to your life.
Simply allocate some time in your week to write. Put it in your calendar and treat it like you’re showing up for work. Be on time and be ready to work.
The next tip will offer you ways to integrate songwriting into your life right now.
2. Limitations can assist songwriting productivity
Most people are super busy, so it’s often not realistic that you can put aside a whole day a week to write, as much as you might desire that.
If you can only put aside 1 or 2 hours a week to songwrite that’s going to still be beneficial to you. It’s better than putting off writing for months til it’s the ‘right time’ or you have a spare day.
The time limit also puts a useful cap on that creative energy that can completely take you off track from other important and practical things that really need to be done in your week.
In the Club, we suggest limitations that can assist productivity. We give our members a theme to write to, which gives you a starting point, and a one-hour time limit. Believe it or not, one hour is enough time to focus to write a finished song without getting too caught up in perfectionism.
Thousands of songwriters have achieved incredible work by writing songs every week in just 1 hour. Check out some songs and stories here.
3. Build your songwriting toolkit to be able to work past creative blocks
Even professional songwriters hit creative blocks. But instead of walking away and coming back at another time, they have tools to work past those blocks.
The number of tools available is only limited by your imagination, your curiosity and your willingness to access and use tools.
Some of Francesca’s favourite tools to working past block are:
- Be child-like in the songwriting process. What would your younger self do? For example, they might sing without playing an instrument, and would likely be doing another activity at the same time (walking, dancing, cleaning, driving).
- Ask questions. Simple ask curious questions like ‘What would happen if I did this? Or this?” There are no limits to these questions. For example, you could question the chord structure, the melody, the rhythm, the lyric, the rhyme… What would happen if I cut out 2 beats of the bar? What would happen if I repeated the first 2 bars again?
- Write on an instrument you have little experience on, so you are bound by limitation of skill which can open up other creative avenues.
The goal for this is to find ways to work past any blocks so that you can finish the song. It’s only a draft, but at this point you can step away and get some perspective on it.
4. Get feedback on your songs
Once you have a draft of the finished song – meaning melody, lyrics, structure, chords are complete but still open to editing – it’s a great idea to take some time away and listen to your song with ‘fresh ears’.
Professional songwriters have a handful of trusted people they share their songs with for feedback. Perhaps their songwriting community, a songwriting mentor, or a publisher.
These peers are much more objective about the song than the songwriter. They can offer critique on what works and what doesn’t with attachment. They are also often songwriters themselves, and so they can hear the potential of this song.
Peer feedback is also really helpful in lessening our own criticism and judgment on our song.
5. Choose the songs to edit
Not every song needs to live on! It is said that 90% of the songs written are never heard. What a humbling and healthy perspective to come from when choosing songs to edit.
Based on the feedback you get from your peers, mentors and industry, choose the songs to develop that you feel will either fit the projects you are writing for, or will give you a great opportunity to arrive at your best work.
6. Have co-writing partners
There is a wealth of learning and opportunity that can open up to songwriters by co-writing with other songwriters and artists. Some opportunities might include having your song recorded by another artist, learning to be more detached to ideas and trying new things, building your songwriting network, and writing songs you’d never dreamed of writing! Plus it can be really fun!
Don’t know where to begin with co-writing? Join our next co-writing course.
The benefits of this songwriting practice
As most non-professional songwriters have dozens of unfinished ideas and about 4 finished songs a year, it’s worth taking a good look at what this method reinforces. It reinforces two things: starting a song based on inspiration, and abandoning song ideas. It also doesn’t offer much opportunity to develop songwriting skill.
When you write songs every week like a professional songwriter, this practice reinforces:
- Starting a song based on showing up to work – which means you can be in control of when you write
- Developing songwriting tools – which means you’re upskilling consistently and your songs are developing in diverse ways
- Openness to receive feedback and collaborate – so that you can write without attachment, build resilience around your writing and use feedback to improve your songs
- Building network with other writers – so that you aren’t feeling so isolated and open up to more opportunities.
- Finished songs – which means lots of iterations at honing and refining your skills, better songs plus a lot more songs to use for your career.
In fact, if you write a song a week, when you get to the end of year you’ll have written 52 songs. And that’s a much better position to be in than that songwriter who struggles to write 4 songs a year.
How this songwriting practice can lead to magic
In the podcast audio, Francesca dives deeper into how this songwriting process becomes something much more magical. She likens this practice to turning on a tap to access creative energy for life.
“At first, this tap might feel hard to turn on. But over time it starts to turn on without so much effort, then there’s a point where the tap is easy to turn, then it’s just always on. There is no off when you’re writing all the time. There is just creative energy flowing through you at every moment of every day.”
She also mentions that this creative energy has a similar vibrational frequency to joy. And writing songs every week for many years, opens her up to a constant state of joy.
We invite you to listen to the podcast audio to learn the most amazing magical transformative experience that songwriting can offer to humans. There’s a special vibrational frequency in the delivery of this audio and we don’t want you to miss out on that!
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
Want more for your songwriting but don’t know where to go from here? Take the I Heart Songwriting Club Quiz to discover your next steps and inspire your way to writing better songs.
Get songwriting insights from I Heart Songwriting Club:
Be inspired by Francesca on socials:
Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
If you love this episode, please subscribe, leave a review and tell everyone you know about The Magic of Songwriting.