Three Great Day Jobs for Actors
I recently did the keynote talk, “In Pursuit of Careers & Education,” at the joint SAG-Aftra/Actors Fund/SAG Foundation/Career Transitions for Dancers “Education Fest.” (That’s me being interviewed by SAG-Aftra Executive Director, Los Angeles, Ilyanne Morden Kichaven.) The objective of my talk was to convey the importance of seeking continuing education and other training in order to develop stable alternative sources of income, and to provide information on what jobs and career paths might be most compatible with acting.
With or without additional education, the key for many actors is staying with it long enough to get the right opportunity. For instance, after years of occasional small parts in movies and guest roles on series TV, “Parks and Recreation”’s Nick Offerman secured his breakthrough role of Ron Swanson at age 39. Up to that point, he had supported himself with Offerman Woodworkshop, a small business he still maintains. With a flexible source of income, he was able to audition, do the work that he landed, and develop his acting skills along with his IMDB page. (And – bonus! – the “Parks and Recreation” writers incorporated Offerman’s woodworking expertise into the character he portrays on the show.)
Are you interested in working in the entertainment industry? Check out “Breaking Into the Biz: The Insider’s Guide to Launching an Entertainment Industry Career” for step-by-step guidance on identifying, pursuing, and landing the right first job on the path to your chosen entertainment goal.
And though we always hope for the best and encourage people to follow their dreams, we know there are some people who will reach a point where they will choose to do something else entirely, after sometimes years of pursuing acting without a breakthrough or after a run of acting success peters out. That is why having a day job with growth potential – or even a parallel career path – in place before that decision needs to be made is so valuable. Best worst case scenario: when the acting work is too plentiful to do both, you let the alternative work lapse. And worst worst case scenario: If acting ever stops being a feasible or desirable career path, you have something you’re already doing which can be your full-time job.
In the meantime, we all know that having a reliable and satisfying side income allows the acting work to be more joyful and takes the desperation out of the pursuit. So with that in mind, here is my list of three jobs which can be done as day jobs or as alternative careers, or even developed into businesses.
In a nutshell: Bookkeepers do accounting projects and ongoing accounting tasks for small businesses and individuals. Everyone from your dentist to your therapist to your manager uses a bookkeeper. And with the nationwide boom in entrepreneurship and small business development, they are more in demand than ever.
Why it’s a good job for an actor: You can choose projects and clients that are flexible in terms of when you do the work. Sometimes you can even do it from home, such as with using Quickbooks Online application.
Requirements: Good computer equipment and software, specific training and/or experience in accounting itself and accounting applications (though some businesses will train you on their software)
Specifics: People hire bookkeepers to reconcile bank accounts , invoice clients, do payroll, tax preparation, and expense reports, and depending on their training and experience, can have them do more complicated accounting jobs, such as revenue projections, project cost reports, and quarterly and year-end close.
Pay: Bookkeeper pay in Los Angeles can range from $20/hour to $50/hour depending upon the job requirements and level of experience of the bookkeeper.
How to get hired: You can put the word out – or look for posted opportunities on Elance.com, Craigslist, and other job-related boards for your area. Also, post your services on social media and send out an email blast to all of your friends and professional contacts with a blurb on your qualifications and the services you offer. (Make it short and sweet and write it in such a way so it can be easily forwarded by the recipient to anyone they think would be interested in hiring you.)
1) Have a list of references ready to go for anyone who contacts you about a job or (better) have recommendations from previous employers on your Linked In profile page and your website, if you have one. If you haven’t been paid as a bookkeeper before, you might have to do some freebies for people you know in order to get some recommendations. It’s worth it to get started.
2) When working with a new client who needs someone for a large monthly time commitment or a large project, if they seem hesitant to commit, offer to do a “pilot” project, a few hours of work or a small part of the project, just so they can get confidence in your work in order to get the larger job.
3) Put it in writing. Even if it’s in an email chain, define the scope of the job, the pay, and the turnaround time. Also, if it’s a project where real-time communication is needed, define what hours you will be working in order to assure compatible and efficient collaboration.
4) Get paid half (or all) up front. At first, that might seem awkward but get comfortable with it, especially as you become more in demand. You don’t want to have to track people down for payment at the end of a job.
5) If you want to get serious about this, set up a website that includes information about your services and qualifications, and which includes ample (and effusive) testimonials from satisfied clients.
Cons of the job: Okay, you have to like getting numbers to add up and have some talent for it, plus you must be willing to get at least some training. But you figured that, right? Also, you’ll probably have to pay for your own medical benefits and possibly taxes unless you end up being a staff bookkeeper at a company that offers benefits and withholds taxes.
Growth opportunity: If you find you like bookkeeping, you can seek out more training and even complete an Associates or Bachelors accounting degree program that will give you the ability to do higher-level jobs. Basic bookkeeping can turn into small business accounting for the career version of this day job. And if you want to be a business owner, create a bookkeeping or small business accounting company and work with several clients and specialized accounting service providers.
In a nutshell: A Virtual Assistant is someone who does administrative work for, hire but is not in the same place as the employer, sometimes not in the same city. The work a Virtual Assistant does can be ongoing or project-based.
Why it’s a good job for an actor: Being a virtual assistant involves no commute and you can usually do the work on your own schedule, though there will be times when you will need to connect with your client in real-time so you will have to sync work schedules.
Requirements: Good computer equipment and software, administrative and other skills
Specifics: Jobs that people hire virtual assistants for include simple data entry, web research, large direct mailing projects, proofreading or editing, updating websites with new content, event planning, travel planning, scheduling appointments, relocation arrangements, customer service, and newsletter creation.
Pay: Some virtual assistants charge an hourly rate, usually between $10-$50 per hour depending on their experience or the work to be performed. Other virtual assistants work on retainer; they are paid in advance for ongoing projects or tasks that will be done on a monthly basis. Still others offer a flat rate per project and often have a “menu” of services provided.
How to get hired: You can put the word out – or look for posted opportunities – on Elance.com, Craigslist, and other job-related boards. Also, post your services on social media and send out an email blast to all of your friends and professional contacts. (See the Bookkeeper “How to Get Hired” section for details on the email.)
Best Practices: See Items 1- 5 in the Bookkeeper “Best Practices” section.
Cons of the job: Having to juggle multiple clients, their deadlines and requirements. Paying your own medical benefits and taxes.
Growth opportunity: The more skilled you are, the wider array of services you can provide. Conversely, the more training you get, the more you can charge within a specialized niche and the more you can target your marketing. And if you want to be a business owner, you can cater to a variety of clients and subcontract to VAs with diverse specialties.
Web Marketing/Social Media Consultant
In a nutshell: With the boom in entrepreneurship and small business creation mentioned-above, web marketing and social media help is in demand. These pros help develop and maintain a business’s online presence, grow reach, and, in general, help their clients get sales leads from the billions of people trolling the internet these days. (Yep, billions.)
Why it’s a good job for an actor: This is a job with flexibility that can often be done from home.
Requirements: A good computer and social media knowledge and savvy. If you have a proven track record with your own social media marketing or someone else’s, that helps, but taking reputable online or in-person web marketing and social media classes will help you land jobs and deliver results when you do.
Specifics: Jobs you might be hired to do include creating basic WordPress sites, uploading content to WordPress sites, creating and/or maintaining Facebook fan pages, Facebook outreach, creating and/or posting twitter updates, creating YouTube channels and/or uploading videos to YouTube, keyword research, researching and submission of articles to websites related to client’s market.
Pay: This varies greatly depending upon the job you are asked to do and your experience. It could be as little as $12/hour for scheduling social media posts when you just start out to getting paid $30/hour or more for managing the entire social media presence and/or web marketing for a company. Alternately, you can charge a flat rate for given levels of service.
How to get hired: If you’ve got the social media savvy to do the job, you probably have the social media savvy to get the job. Creating a basic website or even just a Linked In profile and Facebook page which promote your service is a great way to get started. Also, look on Elance.com, Craigslist, and other local job-related boards for opportunities. And of course, send out an email blast. (See the Bookkeeper “How to Get Hired” section for details on the email.)
Best Practices: See Items 1- 5 in the Bookkeeper “Best Practices” section.
Cons of the job: Might be a slow start with a lot of low-level work until you have the knowledge and experience to build a clientele.
Growth opportunity: As you develop your skills, knowledge, and collection of testimonials from satisfied clients, you automatically become more in demand. Keep track of your metrics (beginning and ending number of Facebook users on a page, number of Twitter followers, number of website subscribers, etc., for each client/project) in order to allow you to tout your results for future job opportunities, raising your cachet, your rates, and your client list. In order to make this a small business, develop a team of web marketing professionals and subcontract certain aspects of client projects. The sky is the limit with this particular business.
All three of these jobs can be done with low initial investments and with some skills you probably already have. You can attain more training as you go along, develop more expertise, and even use your creativity to market yourself, get clients, and even make a side job into a full-blown business if you ever have the desire.
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