OK, so you've made the commitment to your performing career, and you're getting out now and then on auditions and gigs. You're officially in the gray area where things are moving in the right direction but you're not making enough money yet to fully support your living expenses. Congratulations! The gray area is a great place to be, it's a place that many people don't ever get to! However, it is a challenge in that you can no longer "fall back" on a full time day job. You need the flexibility to be able to take last minute auditions and work around an odd performance schedule. From this point forward, you will probably need to piece together 1-3 other sources of income in order to make the rent. Ironically, performers are notorious for their tendency toward right-brained thinking (a.k.a. "disorganization"), so in order to keep 1-3 jobs in good standing you'll need to pull from deep inside yourself and find some left-brain organizational skills to keep things on track. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Waiting tables: I bet you're shocked to see this on the list :) Honestly though, there are many good reasons this is a fail safe - you can get work quickly no matter what city you're in, the hours are flexible and usually don't affect your job status if you unexpectedly take days off for auditions, it is a low responsibility job that won't affect your career focus, and best of all, it offers you constant opportunities to "practice" your acting skills in how you interact with restaurant customers. You can have fun trying on different characters, accents, and improvisation techniques, all without them knowing!
Teaching: although it takes more effort to arrange than waiting tables, teaching will give back significantly more to your craft and will create a great synergistic relationship that connects all the work you're doing. It allows you to stay within the theater community, network for potential performing opportunities, it will position you as somewhat of an "expert" in your field which never hurts, and best of all, the old saying is absolutely true: the best way to learn a skill is to teach it. When I started teaching voice, I saw my performance abilities skyrocket in ways that I didn't expect, which I attribute to the fact that I was spending several hours a day accompanying, demonstrating singing, talking about the intricacies of singing, and choosing repertoire. It was like practice time that I was getting paid for! Awesome. There are several types of teaching jobs, which are explained in our other post: Teaching as a supplemental income for musical theater performers.
Starting an online business: entrepreneurship usually comes easily to performers, since we're used to selling ourselves, thinking creatively, self-motivating, and creating job opportunities in out-of-the-box ways. Although any type of entrepreneurship can potentially work as a side income, I recommend online business first and foremost because it is the most flexible and usually requires low fixed expenses when you're first getting started. Although any type of business will work, I recommend choosing an idea that is closely related to musical theater, because like teaching, it will keep you more closely connected to the theater world and will give back to your performing career in the connections you'll make and the opportunities that will arise from it. Starting a business can be challenging, so check out my other post on entrepreneurship for musical theater performers.
Sales: remember all those personality traits that make you a great performer, like charisma, ability to get up in front of people, ability to speak to strangers, persuasion, and self-motivation? Those are the same skills that make successful salespeople. Sales can be a great gig if you want to keep your options open with one foot in the corporate world because it is one of the only corporate jobs that allows flexible scheduling. In fact, with all the technology we have available to us to communicate, many sales positions can even be based from your home. Sales jobs vary widely in regards to salary structures and schedules, but usually they are very results oriented so if you can work odd hours around your performing career, your boss will usually be fine with it as long as you're making your sales quotas.
Temp work: if you're reasonably computer savvy, temp work can be a fabulous solution, since jobs are almost always 8am-5pm with nights free, you'll have very little responsibility (your focus can stay on performances), and you can take jobs that are day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month, depending on how long of a gap you have until your next performing job. Simply google "temp agency" in your city to get started.
Personal trainer or fitness instructor: as a performer you are probably health conscious and spend some time at the gym as it is, so you might as well make some money while you're at it. Personal training or teaching aerobics, pilates or yoga can be a great way to make a higher hourly wage than temping or restaurant work, with very flexible hours. Usually these jobs require certifications that can take a significant amount of studying, so consider whether that's a commitment you want to make.
Real estate agent: it's a competitive field and you'll usually work on commission only, but if that doesn't bother you this can be a great job because you'll make your own hours and the sky's the limit as far as the money you'll make (same with sales jobs). Again, this career path requires certification and study.
Nanny or babysitter: if you like kids, you can make a great hourly wage and potentially have some little people to run lines with :)
The best solution: just keep auditioning like crazy! If none of the above jobs appeal to you, the best thing you can do is keep auditioning for everything that comes your way, so that you are less likely to find yourself unemployed. Read our audition success guide eBook, so that you can start booking more of those roles.
There are many other flexible gigs that performers have found to make ends meet. If you have a great idea that isn't listed here, leave us a comment!
Like what you read here? Get the best posts sent directly to your email.