Keeping Afloat as An Actor: Juggling Multiple Streams of Income
By Savannah Ayoade – Greaves
So, you’re a jobbing actor. Or, at least trying to be. That often means you have to undertake work and spend time doing things that aren’t directly related to acting just to pay the bills. Fortunately, there are ways to keep afloat as a creative that are also advantageous to your acting career, and will in turn, prep you to be the best actor you can possibly be.
Firstly, redefine your relationship with what you think being an ‘actor’ is:
It’s not uncommon for an actor to need a side-gig or day job to make it in this industry. Especially when a job ends. It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together, and it doesn’t make you any less successful when you do something that prevents you from being the true thespian you are 24/7.
The reality is that acting alone isn’t enough. You have to be a ‘Jack of all trades’, which can be fun if you know what you’re good at and what you like to do; even though these aren’t always synonymous *sigh*. However, we can’t wallow in the despair of financial instability forever, so use every tool available to thrive.
A lot of creatives tend to work in a theatre or bar. This sort of evening work allows you to keep your days free. You can catch cheap matinees, take classes and workshops, and schedule auditions without having to worry about interrupting your work schedule.
Theatre ushering or manning the box office also allows you to remain in the creative world, see free shows and potentially network with the actors and creatives who are involved with the shows that are on. This way, you can earn money whilst being in close proximity to what you love, which can keep your spirits high and motivate you to keep going.
Alternatively, daytime office work- although trickier at times- comes with its own advantages; especially if you temp or only work a few days a week. Join a recruitment agency that you can always rely on for short-term front-of-house or admin work, for when you’re in between acting jobs.
You can use your time there for creative research; a lot of the people you meet in the corporate world can serve as inspiration for characters you might encounter in scripts or that you might write about in your own work. Luckily you have a living, breathing person in front of you who you can use as a stimulus. It doesn’t hurt that they’re already a well-rounded character!
Also, when the day is going by slowly, being sat behind a desk is the best place you could be. Finally you can finish that short film you’ve been planning to write. Or you can keep up with industry news on The Stage. *Disclaimer* Obviously you should make sure that you can use your work computer in this manner. You don’t want to upset your manager for trying to be proactive!
Finally, doing something outside of the acting world can be a refreshing change of pace for some people. It can take your mind off that audition you’re waiting to hear back from and allow you to occupy your time in a more productive setting instead of just sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. So go and do something which both lines the pockets and expands the mind, but do remember to take it easy from time to time. We’re only human, after all.
If none of that sounds appealing to you in the slightest, you’ve got to think outside the box. Turn your current skills into income! Whether it be social media, personal fitness, singing, public-speaking or dancing, use whatever brings you a sense of joy and fulfilment to supplement your salary. Ultimately, you’ve got to know who and what you are as a product. The more skills you cultivate, the more marketable you are!
Remember to also invest in these skills and maintain them by taking classes, short courses, gigging etc. Like a well-oiled machine, you’ll be ready for whatever the industry throws at you and will always have something to fall back on when you’re not in a show.
It might seem counter-intuitive to stray away from acting into another creative medium instead of cramming your head full of monologues and filming self-tapes daily. But broadening your skill set will increase your acting range and open more doors for you. For example, when I was at university I had a radio show called ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Puns’ *bazinga*. At the time I considered it to be a hobby, because I had no interest in doing radio presenting as a career. However, I’ve found that it greatly prepared me for voice-over work in the real world, as the skills I gained from hosting a weekly radio show I regularly use now when I do get to do VO work. If I hadn’t branched out and tried something new, I wouldn’t have the same knack for it that I do now.
It goes without saying that you should write; even if it isn’t a play or film. If you aren’t getting the roles you want, then create them. Alternatively, write poetry, songs, spoken word, a think piece; anything that tells a story and gets the creative juices flowing. At the end of the day, we are all storytellers, and if you can tell a story, you should be able to write one.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
If all else fails, then find a community. You don’t have to do this journey alone. Listen and absorb as much as you can, but also take time to do fun things with others and delve into areas you’ve never been before. Investing in yourself as a business, and more importantly as a person, will pay dividends in the long run.
Savannah Ayoade-Greaves is a London-based actress. She studied English and Drama at Loughborough University and graduated with First Class honours. Whilst studying she was in Seussical the Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She then trained at Identity School of Acting and went on to appear in The Suppliant Women (2017) and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Twelfth Night (2018), both at the Young Vic. She also competed for the Norman Beaton Fellowship with BBC Radio, which gave her a taste for the voice over industry-and she has been in love with it ever since!