There are hundreds of alternatives to waiting tables when it comes to survival jobs for actors. Many professional actors have done multiple types of side gigs, including temp work, dog walking, and rideshare driving. Here’s a list of the 10 best temporary and freelance positions for actors that offer flexible schedules and fair pay.
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Unless you can find that dream full-time job with salary and benefits that allow you the chance to pursue acting, you have to be smart, resourceful, and flexible to create a steady income flow until you book that first national commercial or that first guest-starring role. What other skills do you have? Is there a job (or two or three) you can do that makes you happy (or at least that you can tolerate) while you are pursuing your dream? To achieve this might mean some creative thinking.
1. Temp work
If you are good with computers and can type fast, this is great. You work in an office environment (with very little responsibility), usually earn more than minimum wage, and have nights free. When auditions come up, you either leave your temp job for an hour or call out for the day. You can take jobs that are day to day or week to week and do theater at night—plus you work the same hours as most of your friends, allowing you to carve out a social life. There are tons of temp agencies in New York and in Los Angeles:
Some are even aimed specifically at actors.
2. Gig economy jobs
As discussed in Backstage’s in-depth guide to side hustles and survival jobs, freelance gig economy jobs allow you to make your own schedule on your own terms. Some of the most popular ones today include:
- Rideshare driver: Uber and Lyft are ideal for an actor who wants to make their own hours (and also owns a car). You must be at least 21 years old, have a smartphone, a working vehicle, personal auto insurance, and a commercial driver’s license. You must also be able to pass a background check and vehicle inspection.
- Delivery driver: Services such as Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart let you earn money by delivering food, drinks, and groceries to the hungry public.
- Creative freelancer: Upwork and Freelancer offer freelance services of practically every kind. Some commonly requested tasks include video editing, graphic design, writing, translation, social media, and photography—but don’t let that limit you!
- Dog walker: If you love dogs and being outside, this is a great option. Early morning, late evening, and weekend hours make it very easy to balance with auditions. Apps such as Rover and Wag! have made it much easier for people to find and hire dog walkers.
- Task completer: Whether you’re a jack of all trades or a master of one home service, you can find task-based jobs on platforms such as Fiverr, TaskRabbit, Angi, and Thumbtack.
3. Personal trainer, pilates teacher, or yoga instructor
If you are physically fit and interested in health and nutrition, this is a great option (with very flexible hours). You decide how hard you work, how many clients or classes you have, and how much money you make. You will need to get a certification, but some gyms even offer free membership to teachers and trainers, as well.
4. Nanny or babysitter
This gig can potentially be very lucrative if you are good with kids. You can work on your sides while they sleep. (Or if you’re lucky, they can run lines with you!)
5. Promo work or modeling
You can find these jobs on Craigslist or you can sign up with a promo company. They put out a “breakdown,” you send them your headshot, and they “cast” you. You might spend the day handing out flyers in Times Square or hosting a cocktail event at a restaurant.
6. Personal assistant
Many actors do this and find it very rewarding—if you are willing to set ego aside and be prepared to do someone else’s chores.
7. Real estate broker
Get your license and start looking to match potential renters with landlords. It’s a tough market, and you work on commission, but if you get your foot in the door, this can be a great side gig.
You’ve seen “Party Down,” right? Caterers are paid by the hour, plus tips, in new and exciting locations.
You can freelance or work for a staffing company, and they will match you up with parents looking for private tutors in specific subjects. Maybe that geometry class will come in handy, after all.
10. Video editor
Your friends are actors, right? Help them with their demo reels. If you have a Mac, go take a free iMovie seminar at the Apple store and become a master video editor. It will come in handy for the rest of your career, and someone always needs footage edited.
It’s all about finding what works for you, what makes you happy, and what you are willing to put up with while you pursue your dream. Until you land your first big job (and maybe even after), you’ll likely find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, day to day, scrambling around from survival job to survival job, memorizing lines, racing to student film auditions, looking for agents, doing free theater, and living a freelance lifestyle. But at the very least, you’ll be available and ready when that big opportunity presents itself.
Want to find a new side gig? Apply to these brand ambassador casting calls!
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