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Making Money by Singing--On the Side

Kimberly Palmer

As a training analyst for the government contractor CACI, Corinne Delaney, 33, doesn't often get to stretch her vocal chords during the day. But in the evenings and weekends, the Washington, D.C.-area native embraces a different identity: As a classically trained singer who performs at events ranging from weddings to embassy soirees.

Delaney, who's been singing since she was 15, started out as a vocal major at James Madison University, but soon switched to studying graphic design, which led to her current occupation as a training analyst who creates software simulations. As she puts it, she didn't want to be a "starving artist" or teach full-time. Working in a different field while singing on the side allows her to do pursue both her skill as a graphic designer with technical expertise as well as her passion for singing, all while supporting herself financially.

Delaney says she picks up most of her gigs through word of mouth, and in fact, her full-time job often helps her make those connections. Instead of hiding her talent, she includes it on her resume and says it has come up during job interviews. "I've had really positive feedback about it; people are happy to see that I'm artistic in all different areas," she says. Since her work requires discipline and attention to detail, her training as a singer further shows that she has those skills.

At an earlier job, when she interned at American Trucking Associations as a graphic designer, her colleagues asked her to perform "Danny Boy" at the president's birthday party--a performance that led to multiple emails and requests for additional performances.

That kind of word of mouth is how Delaney lands most of her gigs. "I've had various opportunities through coworkers, friends, church, and references," she says. Those opportunities include performing as a soloist at the French Embassy Fete de Musique last year and at the McLean Community Center for a charity event for the children of Darfur. She's also collaborated with renowned musicians, including the pianist Brian Ganz. (Delaney also maintains a website,, where visitors can hear recordings of her work.)

While she often donates her time and talent to friends and charity events, Delaney can earn several hundred dollars for paid performances, with the amount varying based on the length and location. While the money isn't her main motivator--she performs, she says, "for the sheer joy of it"--she says the extra cash is "definitely nice" and tucks most of it away into her bank account. She also supplements her income by offering occasional vocal lessons to students.

To manage both her job and her singing, Delaney maintains a meticulous schedule. "During work hours and the work week, [my job] is my top priority. Then I have plenty of time on the weekends to work on my singing," she says. Since most performances are in the evenings or on weekends, she doesn't usually face any conflicts with her full-time job.

Erin Murray, a teacher in Fairfax County, Va., asked Delaney, a long-time friend, to perform "Ave Maria" at her wedding after listening to a CD of her work. Murray says the performance "definitely brought a classier feel to the event." While no one complimented the DJ's mixing skills, she says several guests mentioned how much they enjoyed Delaney's performance.

Delaney plans to continue growing her business and creating recordings of her work, while continuing to build her career as a training analyst and graphic designer. "I really love what I do during the day, and I want to grow my business," she says. She continues to strive for that balance as she finds her version of side-gig success.

Twitter: @alphaconsumer

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