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On Survival Jobs and Surviving

April 5, 2011

Survival jobs. We all have ’em. Or at least, most of us do. The kinds of jobs and where they fall on the detestable/soul-sucking <———> enjoyable/fulfilling spectrum vary widely, but almost every artist I know either has or has had one in some form or another.

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But here’s where I’m gonna share some tough love with you: if your survival job takes precedence in your life, then it’s no longer a “survival job.” The cold, hard truth is: if you aren’t making your showbiz pursuits your number one work priority, you aren’t taking this business seriously enough to make it.

If you turn down auditions because you can’t afford to not work that lunch shift today, if you’re not even submitting for plays because the rehearsal schedule would conflict with your night job, if your nannying gig is routinely leaving you too emotionally exhausted to deal with the stresses of your artistic profession, then the sad news is this: you’re not gonna get out of that survival job any time soon.

I say this with love because I’ve been there. I’ve worked jobs that left me too exhausted to audition; I’ve been in jobs that left me available, but too poor to pay my bills; and I know exactly how hard it is to find a balance between working a day job that brings in enough money and putting your heart, soul, and everything in between into your currently low-to-no-paying profession.

I think finding a truly great day job that has flexible hours, brings in enough money, and leaves you in a decent mood at the end of the day is crucial. That’s why I wrote that starting my own dog business has been the best thing I ever did for my acting career.

But after finding/creating a great (or at least, moderately good) survival job comes just that simple mindset shift of making your artistic pursuits important enough to always take precedence in your life. Yes, even if that means your ConEd payment is going to be late because you gave away that dinner shift.

How do you juggle your survival job and your artistic endeavors?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. practicalartist permalink
    April 6, 2011 8:13 pm

    I’ve learned that if you keep your survival job somehow in the entertainment industry (ushering, house management, teaching, etc) it could help with the feeling of being surrounded by the art, so your creativity is stimulated even while working. This could help you keep your dream alive.

  2. The Restless Dramaturg permalink
    April 10, 2011 11:30 am

    It’s taken me a long time to realize that “starving artist” isn’t just a saying… it’s a truth about our world. I have recently made the switch from financially stable to emotionally happy. Maybe someday we can get both, but for now I say happy comes first!

  3. April 5, 2012 12:47 pm

    Oh my, this just speaks from my heart! I’m just dealing with that problem. When I moved to London, my goal was to further my training, as I had ‘just’ some training from USA and 10 yrs of acting and writing experience from home (Czech Republic). But after a year of training, I realized I’m unable to move past that phase. Living in London is like living in NYC/L.A. – VERY expensive. So unless you have some really good savings on your account, rockstar materials (resume, showreel,…) and an agent constantly pitching you and you are constantly booking/working, you find yourself being stuck in your day job. I’m now on a level with my ‘acting in English’ career I only get to do unpaid student or indie films or fringe theatre. I mean, you gotta start somewhere, I just can’t afford to do it. So I decided to leave. I refuse to get myself stuck in a dayjob, not focusing on my acting career. As I’m holding a passport of a country that’s a member of EU, I can work anywhere in Europe. So I might be possibly pending between Prague, Berlin and occasionally even stopping by London/UK overall. I also want to return to USA at some point. I’m hoping that if I move to a bit smaller markets having experience from the bigger markets, it would make me a bigger fish and get me more work, also that cheaper living costs will allow me to focus more on acting, which I need so badly at this point. I can always come back.
    I wrote about it here (yes, I changed name and url for my blog 🙂 ) and I’m still due to write part 2 revealing my next steps once I’ll be making them, I’m in the middle of the auditions for drama schools.

    • April 9, 2012 7:19 pm

      It’s a tricky line to walk, Lenka, but we are all rooting for you! Keep us posted on your progress and plans 🙂

  4. April 9, 2012 7:10 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. If an actor wants to BE an actor, full throttle needs to be shifted towards acting. Have you heard of any legit work from home data entry jobs? Any friends with experience of searching for (and landing) stay at home jobs? I’ve been doing lots of research lately for stay at home work (especially focused on data entry because that is a huge strength of mine), and I want to see what has been working for others. Thanks a lot guys! 🙂

    • April 9, 2012 7:18 pm

      I know of someone who has a legit copy editing position that she does from home, but no one with a data entry job. But I do believe that they are out there! I’m guessing you can absolutely find yourself one of those, although you’ll probably kiss a few frogs at first. If you find something, please come back and report back — perhaps a guest blog post in the works? 🙂


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