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Leaving My Corporate Job to Pursue Music Full-Time

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Josh Kinn and Julie Kinn of Kinnfolk standing with an octave mandolin and a bodhran in front of the Wells Fargo building in Roanoke, Virginia

In August of 2022, I made the decision to leave my full-time job to pursue music. It was a tough decision, and it required a ton of planning and discussion. Julie and I came up with a plan and several just-in-case contingencies before I made the jump, and with the support of my family and coworkers, I finally left the job I had been in since 2016. After these six months, I thought it would be good to reflect on that decision as honestly as possible.

Chasing a dream has certainly been far from easy, and the ugly truth is the change in income is a scary thing to have to deal with. I made sure to have at least six months' savings on hand to act as a cushion when I left my job, and that took off a bit of the financial stress. I also took on some part-time work right out of the gate to supplement the income I earn through music. Nevertheless, and as much as I hate to admit it, I definitely have to think a lot more about money day-to-day now. Not only do I have to make sure I'm covering my half of the household expenses, but I also constantly think about ways to make more money through Kinnfolk.

When Julie and I aren't playing music, we are marketers, editors, web designers, salespeople, public relations, and customer service all at once. Unless you're signed with a label or can afford to outsource tasks to a team, you are solely responsible for every aspect of success and failure of your business.

Kinnfolk standing outside of Colonial Presbyterian Church after a performance

You're your own manager. The bad news about that is we are often our own worst managers...and I've realized that I need to readjust what success and progress look like to me. For example, I went to bed the first few months feeling like a complete failure because there was more and more work to do that I hadn't completed during the day. I was finally able to change that by having hard and honest conversations with myself and Julie about what a reasonable workday looks like, so I can pursue my dream without burning out. I figured out how to set reasonable goals that we both agree on, and setting those metrics helps the process seem less overwhelming. It took me six months, but I finally feel like I have some control over our long-term success as a band.

When I left the corporate world, I learned a couple of important things about myself. First, I feel more confident in my ability to walk away from things that don't enrich my life. There is a big difference between working at something difficult that is meaningful versus getting paid to do work that is no longer in line with your purpose. I now have a better idea of what I want out of life and what I'm not willing to tolerate, and that has already made me a far better negotiator for the future. I also feel more capable as a leader. Julie and I have a responsibility to create and present Celtic music to the world as authentically as possible, and we both have to be leaders to do that successfully. I have no doubt we will continue to make music together for as long as possible, and that gives me great peace and joy.

So with all of these new stressors and responsibilities, was it worth it? Absolutely. The problems I have now, I'll take them compared to where I was. There's no doubt it's an uphill battle with no guarantee of financial success. But playing Celtic music is what I was put on this world to do, and that's what I plan to do for the rest of my life. I believe what we're doing here is an important part of cultural preservation, and I love every chance we've had to perform onstage and meet all kinds of wonderful people. I am so grateful to everyone who supported that move, and I will repay that kindness by working every day to grow Kinnfolk as much as possible in the coming years. I just need to keep falling in love with the process, and I'm doing that a little more every day.


80 views2 comments


I’m really proud of you, as a man and a musician.


Stace Johnson
Stace Johnson
Feb 01, 2023

Your comments about your work being in line with your purpose are insightful and important, Josh. They're a good reminder to remain in integrity.

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