Sounds simple, right?
And it is simple, but it’s not easy.
Step 1 takes money (or a generous friend with the right equipment); steps 2-4 take incredible amounts of dedication and perseverance.
Anyone can be a DJ. It’s easy. Becoming a successful DJ is much harder. If you’re willing to put in the work, these steps will get you there:
Like Reading? Here’s more…
Some people want to get started on something right away; others (like me, unfortunately) prefer to read more and put off getting to work. For those people, I’ve written everything below. But know this: every important piece of information on this page is also repeated in one of the 4 steps. You should really just get started….
So you’ve chosen to read more…I’ll start by repeating this: becoming a DJ is easy; becoming a professional DJ who earns enough to live comfortably is monumentally difficult. You’ll start out working a lot of crappy gigs for very little money, if you get paid at all. Or even work at all.
If you don’t absolutely love what you do, it is highly unlikely you’ll have the drive to continue doing it through the hard times. But if you love it, DJing is the greatest job in the world.
Follow this 4-step guide on how to become a DJ and put in the work and you will become one of those lucky few who make a living doing what they love.
You can’t be a DJ without the proper equipment. Unfortunately, that equipment is expensive, which is why I recommend you hold off on purchasing anything until you absolutely have to.
If you have access to DJ equipment to use for practice, take advantage. I’ve seen too many people run out and blow a ton of cash on gear only to discover a few weeks later that DJing isn’t really for them. Then they end up selling their equipment at a huge loss.
Whether you don’t have access to DJ equipment or you’ve been practicing for a while and you know without a doubt you’re ready to buy your own, eventually the time comes where you need to spend some money. Some of you may already know exactly what you want and need, but if you don’t, I break down the best setup for beginners on my equipment page.
If you know an established DJ who is willing to take you under their wing, then you’re set; that’s the best way to learn. Attending a DJ school can also get you access to a professional, but schools aren’t cheap. Most aspiring DJs will have to learn on their own.
I taught myself, as did probably the majority of professional DJs. And many of them will insist it’s the only way to become a DJ. I’m not personally opposed to paying someone to teach you, but not everyone can afford it—I certainly couldn’t when I was starting out.
If you plan on learning on your own, you’re actually much better off than most current DJs were five or ten years ago: these days, there are a large number of resources available to help you speed up the learning process considerably.
This is great news, if you want to start playing gigs as soon as possible. Of course, most of the best online lessons and resources will cost some money, but they cost far less than traditional lessons and there are actually some really good resources available for free as well.
The page on learning how to DJ lists some of the better resources and lessons available online, both free and paid.
So you’ve got your equipment and you’ve learned how to use it. You’ve been practicing every day and your mixes sound great. You’ve even played your cousin’s 8th birthday party and totally stole the show from Binky the clown.
Unfortunately, that is currently the highlight of your DJ career. You need some real gigs—preferably ones that give you money because I’m guessing you enjoy eating several times a day and sleeping indoors.
If you follow the simple step-by-step guide in this section, you will get that all-important first booking. The guide is simple in that the steps are easy to follow; it’s not simple in terms of work. It will require a lot of hustling.
You’re going to have to market yourself and you’ll need to do some networking. There’s no way around this unless you already know the right people. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is lying or already knew the right people when they were getting started. You’ll also want to create your own DJ website. Follow the steps here and that becomes surprisingly easy.
If you hate the idea of promoting yourself and just want to play your music, that’s fine. Do it as a hobby. If you want to become a professional DJ, you absolutely have to market yourself.
In fact, you’ll have to spend more time on that than on actually playing music. That’s just the way it is. I don’t like it either, but it beats the alternative: a real job. So read the guide and start implementing the steps!
Now that you’ve gotten over the hump and have played that all-important first gig, it’s time to think about your long-term career. That’s right, the hard work is far from over; it’s only just begun. Getting more gigs, and then larger ones, will involve a lot of marketing and I know how much most of us hate marketing.
Unfortunately, marketing is absolutely vital. All the top DJs are on top because they know how to sell themselves. You need to sell yourself, too. If you follow my tips in this section and put in the necessary work—hard work and a lot of it—you, too, will become a DJ. A successful one!