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GUEST POST BY STEFANIE: Trading for Training; The Barter System

June 4, 2013

Stefanie is a New York City based actress and author of the personal finance blog Please welcome her to the blog today!


As actors, we need to make constant investments in ourselves to keep our skills up to par, our bodies ready for the work, and our business network growing. We shell out for everything from dance classes to voice lessons to gym memberships to audition coachings to networking events, all in the hope that we’ll book a six week contract at $700/week.

With the exception of a nice, long run of a Broadway show, there seems to be a huge disparity between the amount invested to book the work and the amount paid when the work is booked.

Consider your undergraduate or conservatory training alone. How many years of acting work will it take you to make that investment pay off? And we all know training is not a “one and done” kind of deal. So how can we continue to hone our skills in classes without burning through the small stash of cash we get from each contract?

I propose a return to an older practice- bartering. Reach out to people you know (previous teachers, friends of friends, etc) who are offering what you want and figure out what needs you might be able to fulfill for them.

Yes, we all need cash, and sometimes you’re just gonna have to pay up. But maybe you can offer to babysit on date night in exchange for a coaching. Or maybe you can serve as a personal assistant in exchange for a discount on that super popular audition class.

Make a list of everything you have to offer. Babysitting and personal assisting are always good ones in high demand. But you could offer anything from help moving to pet sitting to cleaning to driving (if you have a car in the city).

Reach out. If you know your old college acting instructor teaches an awesome class every six weeks, contact him/her personally and let him/her know you’re interested. Explain your financial situation and offer any of the items from the list you just made. See if you can come up with some kind of work/study agreement.

Keep it person to person. A lot of classes are offered through studios and networks. Those studios and networks are getting a cut. By keeping transactions person to person you’ll avoid paying the overhead and you have room for negotiation. It’s going to be a lot harder to go up to the desk at “Steps” or “Actors Connection” and ask for a free class or discount in exchange for babysitting :).

Don’t let sky-high costs and low returns keep you from improving yourself and your craft. Sometimes you have to pay to play and sometimes you can collaborate to reach an outcome that works for everyone.

Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks, Stefanie! Check out her website, like the site on facebook, and follow her on twitter!

One Comment leave one →
  1. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    June 4, 2013 10:26 am

    My bank account and I like this idea!

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