The majority of creative people I coach start their careers or businesses while working a second “survival” job. A survival job helps pay the bills as you work on developing your acting, singing, or another creative career. Honestly, I prefer the term “freedom job” because when you find the right one, that’s what it provides: the freedom to fulfill your creative function on this planet. However, if your job is inflexible, financially incompatible, or sucking all your energy, something’s gotta give.
It’s possible to take giant steps toward your creativity and your career while working a freedom job, so it’s worth spending the time to find a good one and work with your employer to make it the best it can be. Remember, your experience coming up as a creative person has trained you to be both personable and professional, making you a great catch for any employer.
You can thrive at your survival job. Here’s how.
1. Communicate with your boss.
If you’re unhappy at your money gig, take a moment to get really clear about what is dragging you down. First, determine which sucky issue you’re dealing with and then simply go to your boss and ask if there’s any way to address it. You must do a clear-headed, mature, searching, and fearless inventory of your “work-self” before making this ask. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your answers: Are you good at your job? Are you always on time? Do you uplift the energy? Do you contribute to the efficiency by creating an atmosphere of problem-solving? Do you make your boss’s life easier? If you answered yes to all of these, it’s a done deal. Go make the ask!
If your boss is open to getting creative to make your work, well, work then fantastic! Get specific about how you’ll be able to serve her better when the job better serves your life. If she says no, also fantastic. You have the answer you need. Now you have to get serious and emotionally sober with yourself and decide your next move.
2. Your freedom job probably won’t be in your chosen creative field and that’s totally OK.
Don’t feel bad if your freedom job is in a different field. These jobs take all kinds of forms. You need to earn a living. Financial security breeds spacious, creative thinking and allows you to show up for classes, interviews, auditions, and writing sessions feeling confident, stimulated, and inspired.
3. Start measuring success with a new quotient that’s not financial.
You’re probably already doing this! Remember that independent film you produced just for the experience? If that very same unpaid student film got into the Tribeca Film Festival, I think you’d be pretty fulfilled regardless of the fact that you didn’t make a dime. You need to be aware of your finances, but don’t let money blind you to other successes.
4. Don’t let your freedom job consume you.
If you can get it together to clock-in on time and smell good for your Saturday night bartending shift, then you can work on your web series or creative portfolio for three hours on your day off. Don’t forget why you decided to take this job in the first place!
Find yourself a freedom job—or celebrate the one you’ve got—that allows you to make some money, stay focused, and pursue your calling. Honor the very human desire to pay your rent each month and take the occasional vacation!
*This post was originally published on April 9, 2019. It has since been updated.
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