Jobs For Actors : Flexible Money Makers That Work Around Your Auditions!
The Classic Struggling Actor Routine
I get pretty tired of being a struggling actor, and I'm betting you do too. If the long gaps between auditions and the constant inevitable rejections aren't enough to get you down; the constant struggle for money and to find employers that will understand the nature of your work definitely is.
The typical options for actors in other employment tend to be hospitality, bar tending, office work, and retail. But most of these workplaces can be less than accommodating when you tell them that you're not coming in tomorrow because you have a last minute audition, or that you can't work Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays for the next month because you have rehearsals.
I was working for an office a year or two ago for a few hours a day to supplement my income. My employer knew I was an actor and that I would occasionally need time off - but he was willing to work around me because my creative skills and outgoing personality were in part why he hired me. But very quickly I found myself turning down opportunities for fear of annoying him by asking for an hour off. The promised understanding and flexibility wasn't eventuating! After I was constructively dismissed from that job for taking a day off last-minute for a wardrobe fitting for a film I'd been cast in, I decided to stop working for inflexible employers.
Making It Work
I get it - a traditional employer, even a part time one, needs reliability. And I can't always give it. Because, what we really need in our line of work is additional income that can work around our auditions, rehearsals, and bookings - because they will always take priority!
I don't want to piss an employer off or interrupt their day-to-day business! But I also need the extra income at this stage of my career. I DO want to work for my money. But I need it to be OK to turn down a shift for rehearsals, or to take an hour off at lunch to attend an audition and make up the time later.
The answer for me has been creating a freelance lifestyle that works around my priorities; creating my own passive income streams; selling my services in creative ways; utilising my acting skills; contracting for multiple clients who when you say 'sorry, I can't do Friday', don't fire you, just find someone else to cover that job!
I think I've found some creative solutions to making money AND my acting career work for me, and I'm going to suggest a few of them that might work for you too!
1. Use Your Public Speaking Skills
Don't underestimate the skills you already have as an actor (other than your winning smile)!
There's no reason you need to be making coffees and mixing cocktails (unless that IS what you love to do!). You CAN utilise the skills you have as an actor to earn money in non-acting jobs!
For example, if you're an actor it's safe to say you're great at a few things:
- talking in front of strangers or a crowd confidently (no shaky knees for you!)
- projecting your voice or using a microphone
In short, you're great at public speaking! And acting isn't the only job that needs this skill! You can utilise your confidence and vocal abilities to make money in plenty of ways if you get a little creative!
Here are just a few job ideas where your public speaking skills could be helpful! Better yet, they're all freelance jobs where you can choose what jobs you do and don't take on! EVEN better - you might just enjoy them!
- Get your celebrants license
Love people? Love weddings and events? Love speaking? Look into getting your celebrants license and sell your services in your area. In most countries and states it's a fairly easy process!
- List yourself as an MC/Host for corporate events
Sure you have an acting agent, but did you know there are agencies for MCs and Hosts? And you don't need to be a famous personality to join (though you can charge more if you're a familiar face or name in your area). You can earn money by hosting corporate events, awards ceremonies, functions, etc. If you can't get an agent, then you can always advertise your services as an MC/Host for private events, weddings, award ceremonies, etc. on your local joblistings or social media sites.
- Become a quizmaster
Love a good pub quiz? Why not approach a company that runs trivia nights and pub quizzes in your area? They might know of a pub in your area that needs a weekly quiz host. Or you can go corporate and host quizzes for corporate events, fundraisers, and staff parties that buy their quiz packs. It's fun, easy, and pays pretty well!
- Get a voice agent
If your acting agent isn't also selling your voice acting abilities then you can also get a separate agent to handle voice over and voice acting requests. Record some samples of voices and accents you can do, or just of your natural voice talking about some products and get onto it!
2. Promo Work / Sell Your Good Looks
Are you passably attractive? If you're not above wearing a shirt with a brand name across your chest, then promo work is a great, well paying, flexible option for you!
Promo Models or Promo Girls (and guys) are often referred to as 'brand ambassadors' these days, so google 'promo girls', 'promotion' agencies, 'promo models', and 'brand ambassadors' in your area and see what companies you can sign up to.
The kind of work you'll be doing can vary hugely; in-supermarket demonstrations, spritzing perfume samples; standing at the races looking pretty; serving drinks; standing at awards ceremonies looking pretty; interacting with public at conventions; handing out flyers or free Coca-cola; standing at private events looking pretty... etc. You get the picture! You're being paid to work (or sometimes not)...and look good doing it.
The best part of promo work, however, is that it pays much better than hospitality and retail (even for similar work), and that your employers/client are paying you as a contractor. Since they have a team of contractors to call on for each job, they're not going to throw a fit if you can't be there on Sunday to be body painted at the Polo. They'll just get one of the other contractors to do it!
Are you an actor? How do you supplement your acting income?
3. Start a Small Service Business
Be your own boss...but without attempting to manage stocks, shares, investors, and other complex financial details.
Selling basic services in your area as a contractor is a great way to start a small business without any capital. Flexible - on your own time - and possibly even fun!
Make a Facebook page, list your services on a local website, post an ad in the supermarket...you know the drill! Here are a few easy services you could offer in your area:
People have dogs + you walk the dogs = cash in hand.
- House/Pet Sitting
People have houses/pets + people go away + you look after the house/pets = cash in hand
- CV Writing
People are terrible at selling themselves on paper/can't operate Microsoft Word + You write their CV for them = cash in hand
- Basic Clothes Mending
Turn your ability to stitch 1000 sequins onto a waistcoat, ribbons onto pointe shoes, and elastic into some jazz pants into cash! Many people don't know how to take up a hem or sew a button. Take advantage of their lack of basic sewing skills by selling yours!
- Tutoring (acting, English, instruments...anything you're good at!)
Kids/adults need help in xyz subject + you help them out = cash in hand
Just pretend you're 14 again.
- Home-cleaning/Lawn-mowing/General Handy Man Services
Anything that someone else might not want to/can't do for themselves!
A lot of the above options might already have a lot of competition in your area. Specialising is the best way to beat the riff-raff. Instead of offering home-cleaning, why not specialise in 'oven cleaning'? If you think creatively, you almost definitely have some skills you can turn into cash with just a little bit of creative marketing.
4. Get Crafty
I'm guessing you're a pretty creative person in general if you're an actor. If you're even passably good at drawing, gardening, graphic design, photoshop, writing, sewing, making jewellery or home decor, baking, building terrariums, scrapbooking, etc. then you can make some money from it! Heck, if you have a tonne of succulent plants in your garden, you could probably make a fortune snipping succulent trimmings and replanting them in vintage teacups or something.
Whether you start your own Etsy store for your 100% Vegan Organic Soy Earrings, or you drag yourself to the Saturday morning markets to sell your doodles, there are plenty of ways to monetise your crafts.
Here are a couple of ways you could monetise your crafty skills:
A classic option - set up a store at etsy.com and sell your hand-sewn aprons/organic candles/feather earrings
Fiverr is a site where you can buy just about any service for $5. (And the quality varies) I once got a graphic designer to make me a new logo for a project on this site and it was...passable. Hey, I paid $5. If you can doodle, edit, content write, design, do portraits, etc. then you can sell your services on Fiverr.
To supplement that Etsy store, it's probably helpful to cross-list your items! Get them up on your local auction websites and sell!
The age-old local market is a great place to sell your crafts. But if you're not making enough to warrant booking out an entire stall, why not consider sharing? If you know some local artists that make a complementary craft, then you could always ask them to include your goods at THEIR stall for a commission. That way you probably don't even have to personally BE at the market!
5. Sell Stock Imagery
This one isn't a huge earner off the bat, but it IS a nice way of developing passive income. Passive income is asset driven income where you continue to earn from a single source over time. Classic examples of passive asset are rental properties, shares and stocks, etc. But if you're not wealthy enough to invest in property, then you CAN earn passively from your intellectual property.
The great thing about passive income (like selling your images for stock imagery) is that it can, hypothetically, keep earning you money forever! Selling stock imagery involves uploading photos that you have taken (it must be YOU - since the person who took the photo technically owns it's rights) to a stock imagery site and earning every time a user purchases the rights to use that image.
The key here would be quantity, specificity, and key word selection. Take all those photos you've taken of your coffee/dinner/cat/local beach and get them onto a stock imagery website. Then go out and take a bunch more and list those ones too.
It might be dimes at a time, but over time that photo of your cat on the coffee table could earn you a lot of money!
PRO-TIP: Remember not to upload anything with YOUR face in it. Objects, views, vistas, places, and (permission-giving) faces are your best bet with stock imagery - but you already sell YOUR face via your acting agent! So leave it out frame.
The Old Favourites
There are some old favourites of 'flexible work' that we're all familiar with but adding a few of them to your work-life as a freelancer can help immensely too!
If you have office experience, you can utilise it without signing on for full-time hours. Flexible work that you can say yes or no to as it comes - AND it usually pays better than a regular office job. Google some 'Temporary Workers' agencies in your area and get on their books!
- Writing Online
Blogs, Content-Generating, Review Writing, Editing Articles, etc. If you can put a sentence together there is work for you online. It might not be GREAT pay, but over time you can increase your monthly income through ad revenue with some research, know how, patience, time, and SEO knowledge.
- Online Surveys
Again, this doesn't pay great. But it DOES pay. Just do a quick google search before you sign up to a site to make sure it is a) reputable and b) pays you via paypal or cheque and NOT 'giftcards'
- Amazon Mechanical Turk / Other Task Based Websites
You can make these websites work for you if you're savvy, but the work does often outweigh the reward. The basic premise of sites like Mechanical Turk is that you're paid (very small amounts) to complete basic online tasks for various companies who list jobs on the site. After you've done enough jobs you can 'cash out' via paypal.
Now Go Make It Work!
There you have it. These are just a few ways that you can make money around your acting career without getting in to hot water with inflexible employers! If you think creatively about your skills, abilities, and what you're willing to do for money, then I'm sure there are a tonne of other options that you could make work for you (and your acting career)!
I'm not saying that just one of these jobs is going to earn you a full income or that any will make you a millionaire. But if you utilise a few of them, they ARE ways that can help you get your bills paid on time AND get to your auditions.
My own money, at this stage of my career, comes from a lot of sources; acting; quizhosting; modelling; promo work; writing; temping; producing music videos; selling stock imagery; content/article editing; CV writing; and jewellery making/selling. It sounds like it would get confusing, but truthfully I'm much happier (and wealthier) making it work this way! This would definitely not be an ideal career for everyone! But for people like me (and possibly you!) who have to fit money around their true passion and priority of acting, it's ideal! It's flexible, profitable, and all on MY terms and time.
Plus, when that next big acting gig comes along, I can just take a break from all of these contracts and tasks so that I don't have to drop everything or lose my job to take it!
Let me know how YOU make money and your acting career work in the comments below!
And if any of these tips have been helpful to you, then make sure you remember to include me in your thank yous at the Oscars Ceremony when you're giving one of these....