Today’s blog comes to you from my 15 years of experience as an actor in Los Angeles. I hope that anyone in a creative field will find it helpful as well, especially since I came by this knowledge the hard way.
The advice is simple: get a job. A good job. I came to Los Angeles with stars in my tender little eyes and an idea of how this Hollywood thing worked: I’d struggle for a year working in a restaurant and then be discovered and spend the rest of my life on top.
Instead I waited tables for years, then left it all for the exciting world of temping and came back to restaurants, ascending to the incredibly prestigious level of manager. I know, I know. How cool.
But here’s why that was definitely not the way it should have been done:
You’ve seen my previous blogs about how we judge ourselves based on our jobs and why we shouldn’t do that. Well that’s easier said than done. Working in a low level hourly wage job puts you in a less successful mindset than a person who has a job that fulfills them creatively and that they feel makes them appear important in the eyes of others. In Europe being a waiter is a fine and acceptable career, but in America we view it differently and that makes it much harder for us to ‘fake it till we make it’.
Also, though we take these jobs for their flexibility we often find it difficult to balance the job and the auditions and you can forget about the times when we book work as actors. I once lost a waitressing job because I’d booked a voice over gig and couldn’t cover my shift. I chose to go to the voice over job and got fired from the restaurant. I still believe that was the right choice because I define myself as an actor and not as a waiter, but it was very stressful until I found a new job.
And we won’t even get into the financial hardship of hourly jobs. If you don’t work a shift you don’t get paid and the pay you get when you do work is often not enough to allow you to live above the level of struggling actor, especially if you like to socialize.
My advice, then, is this: learn a skill that you can use as a sideline career to make a good living. App development is a big way to get ahead. Website development or professional blogger are also good options. These are jobs where you can make good money, be your own boss and work the hours that are convenient for you. You can make enough money to buy a house and a nice car and, as a small business owner, you will naturally find yourself in the mindset of a successful person, thus making it easy to ‘fake it till you make it’.
Its not as easy to get these jobs as it is to find work in restaurants or with temp agencies, but the reward for your time and effort invested will be worth it. Find out what you’re good at (other than acting!) and do some research to find out if there’s a job that will make all your interim dreams come true.