How to earn money between jobs and be an auditioning actor | Surviving Actors column

The acting industry seems to be one of extremes.

On one hand, we see the A-list living lavish lifestyles and on another, a travel card to an audition and a dinner out can seem extravagant for the jobbing actor.

When I ask actors why they wanted to be an actor, they never say ‘for the money’. There is usually a pause, a smile and a simple ‘because I love it’ or ‘because I can’t imagine doing anything’.

When you speak to your corporate friends, the world of acting can be hard to define in terms of mainstream benefits.

Pay: Unpredictable and changeable.

Holidays: Book with caution (NB it is likely your dream job will be casting when you are away- how many times have you found that or had to fly back early!).

Hours: Long or sometimes incredibly short and irregular.

So with that in mind, how do you survive and exist in a world that thrives on consistent, regular payments.

What do you do when you are not acting? How do you find that job that is flexible so you can attend auditions?

The answer is: You create it.

I would like to share a five step exercise to help you create and design a job that will provide you with an income and lifestyle.

Step One: How much money do you need?

Take a piece of paper or create a spreadsheet and write down all your outgoings for the month so you have a breakdown of your financial commitments.

e.g. Rent/mortgage, utility bills, tax, food, travel, etc.

Do the sums, even if this feels scary or out of your comfort zone. Taking the time to do this now will give you more headspace and energy- you don’t ever want to take money worries into the casting room. Knowing your financial margins will allow you to make informed creative choices.

Step Two: What could you do?

What skills do you have? Apart from acting, what are you good at? What help or advice do others ask you for?

Start to brainstorm some ideas of potential ways to make money. Don’t edit or eliminate an idea too quickly- explore and see what you can discover.

How could you package these ideas to create a service that people pay for?

For example; if you are great at creating websites- what are your specialties? How can you market? What information do you know that others would love to?

Take action and develop the idea. Start some market research- who could be your customer? Perhaps you have a friend you could join forces with so you can share the load and double the productivity.

Step Three: Start as you mean to go on

Say you are an actor upfront. This is important when setting your boundaries for your own ventures but especially in a corporate scenario. Auditions are often very last minute and this may not be in keeping with the ‘month’s rota’. Explain in detail how the industry works, so you don’t have to have endless ‘dentist’ appointments.

Build a relationship with someone who has some authority, so you can go for last minute auditions or have some movement if a casting is overrunning. Gaining the support of those around you will ease the stress so you can quickly switch into ‘actor’ mode and ace the audition.

Step Four: Notice your spending and track it.

Many money books encourage you to eliminate your morning latte and notice the money you save. However life is too short. If you love your morning coffee, have your morning coffee.

I’m talking about the money decisions we all make when we haven’t planned ahead; picking up the expensive food on the way or getting a late fee on a missed payment. Start to turn up the volume on your awareness. Have a look at ways you could make decisions that are going to give you more options and don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Step Five. Reap what you sow

When you are not acting, it can get depressing and it can feel like everyone else is doing wonderful things.

But it’s crucial; you still notice the real world. Even in my most horrendous jobs (a crisp factory when I was 17 springs to mind- yep, you can imagine the smell and the hair net!) I still learnt a great deal about people and of course, it fuelled my passion all the more.

Over the years, I have met and observed some fantastic characters- the anecdotes still live on and I know they have enriched my acting and life experience.

Thank those around you for accommodating your acting requirements and repay the favour when you can. Be fully present when you are there.

Life presents unexpected opportunities and you never know where your next acting job will emerge from. The ‘right place, the right time’ has never been defined!

Now it’s time to take action. Email me: nicky@bereadycoaching and tell me what ‘non-acting’ jobs work for you. I am very happy to collate a list of the successful ones. 

If you have any questions you would like answered in future columns, email or tweet me #asknicky @nickyraby.