The Freelancer with a Song

Crawford Smith went to college with politics in mind, but soon after majoring in political science and graduating – it was clear to him that was not the path he was meant for. With a degree in hand and a song in his heart, he decided music was what he wanted to do but found freelance writing paid his bills. Today he spends his time putting words down and marketing to fuel his real passion, music and his band, Notta Comet. Now we’ll get to learn more from a man who works in one field to earn his way in another.

Kendra: Was music something you’ve always wanted to do?

Crawford Smith: Music wasn’t my first creative pursuit. I was more inspired by visual art at first, and even applied to go to college for animation. However, I’ve been playing in bands since I was around 13, and music has slowly and surely become my primary creative outlet. It was only after I gave up on animation that I realized I wanted to do music seriously enough to play regular shows and tour.

Kendra: Do you have a lot of naysayers in your life who think you should put the music on hold and focus on a “normal” career?

Crawford: I am fortunate enough to have very supportive parents, so I don’t get a lot of career pressure from them. They do seem to worry that I’m desperately poor sometimes, but they’re on board with my choices. I hand out with a lot of other people who are trying to “make it” in some creative field, so I don’t really get pressure to settle down from them either.

Kendra: Freelance writing isn’t the easiest gig to maintain steady pay either. How do you go about keeping the rent paid?

Crawford: I’ve found that the easiest way to earn steady-ish money as a freelance writer is to do marketing work. It can get a little soul-crushing sometimes, but it pays regular money if you can stand to do it. I don’t really derive my creative satisfaction from writing, so I’m fine with taking utilitarian assignments if they pay enough. I probably couldn’t do the kind of writing I do now if I thought of myself as a “writer” in an artistic sense.

Kendra: Freelancing and music, both are far from the typical 9-5 situations. Do you ever think you’d fit inside a world like that?

Crawford: I could see myself settling into a 9-to-5 routine at some point. If I am able to get a writing gig that’s 9-to-5 that I find fulfilling, I’ll probably take it. I often don’t finish with my freelance work until 5 anyway!

Kendra: How much time do you spend on working vs. music?

Crawford: Right now I spend about equal time on each. If I woke up earlier, I would spend more time on music, but one of the best/worst parts about being a freelancer is that there are no consequences for waking up at noon!

Kendra: Have you given yourself a sort of time limit on being a musician, like I you’re not at a certain point with it by a certain age, that’s it?

Crawford: I gave myself a time limit on hanging out in the city I went to college in (Montreal) and trying to make things happen with my college band. Soon I will strike out for different pastures, but I will spend the same amount of time playing music wherever I go. I’m really excited about putting out more solo music and trying to promote it.

Kendra: I only ask because I am constantly reminded by SNL’s Leslie Jones when it comes to that idea of never giving up your dreams, no matter how old. She was well over 40 when she landed on SNL. Anyways, your thoughts on the matter of age and going after a career that makes you happy?

Crawford: There’s no reason you can’t pay rent and also do music seriously, so as long as that life is still making you happy, why not keep doing it? There are definitely sacrifices that need to be made to juggle money work and creative work, but if those sacrifices are worth it to you it doesn’t even really matter that much if you get a big break. Anyone who spends 20 or more hours a week on a creative “career” that doesn’t pay anything is putting in the time because they wouldn’t want to do anything else. So what if they’re living in a college-y apartment at age 60?

Kendra: What advice do you have for those chasing their dreams out there?

Crawford: I would say that people chasing their dreams should remind themselves that nobody owes them anything. I think that at root, it’s a teeny bit selfish to try to play guitar or write words for a living instead of doing something like teaching or community work, so starving artists really don’t have much right to complain about their life being hard. Sure, holding down a “real job” while pursuing an artistic career limits your free time, but that’s your choice. Only chase your dreams when doing anything else seems worse.


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