Every actor (and most non-actors) knows how difficult it can be to find good work. Add moving to a new city—New York in particular—on top of that? Even once you find your feet, it can take a while to get a paid gig, and you’ll probably want to eat (and pay rent, and maybe take a class) in the meantime.
What’s the solution? Your best bet is any artist’s oldest trade secret: get a (survival) job.
You know the staples: waiting tables, bartending, or working for a caterer short-term. The staples are staples for a reason, but if you’re starting from scratch, it can be helpful to consider your needs over your wants.
Here’s what to look for, generally ordered from most important to not quite necessary:
This should go without saying, but it wouldn’t be a survival job if you weren’t doing it just to survive. That means you should be making at least enough money to live, whatever that means for you. Food and rent, minimum, but if you’re paying off student loans, you may not want to risk digging yourself in too deep by getting behind in payments. The same is true for health insurance, car payments, and other regular bills. And who doesn’t consider going to see a show once in a while part of basic survival?
Consider: Survival jobs for actors! This actor-curated website lists the ideal survival jobs for every kind of actor, from entertainment options to temp work for someone with a little more time on their hands. SupportingCast also updates regularly with flexible jobs for actors.
Not quite as important as income, but flexibility is still essential for an auditioning actor. Last minute callbacks, midday cold reads, and evening dance classes can make holding down a regular 9-to-5 tricky at the very least. Opt for something with off-peak hours or a job that’ll let you change your schedule as needed. Freelancing, driving Lyft or Uber, teaching, or tutoring are some things to consider.
It’s always easier to start with a foot in the door. If you can get a job where you already know someone—or one where you’ll be able to meet new people in your field, you’ll be that much further along in the rest of your job hunting.
Consider: The Made In NY PA Training Program. Their mission? “Provide unemployed and low-income New York City residents with training and placement into entry-level positions in film and television production.”
(Both what you have and what you’ll get) Find a job that caters to your strengths, or a job where you can learn to hone them. If you’re hoping to build your resume while keeping your schedule open, teaching may be the way to go.
Consider: TakeLessons—want to keep your voice intact and in tune between auditions? You’ll get weekly practice setting up as a teacher for both in-person and online sessions.
Let’s face it: work is called work for a reason. Most jobs, especially survival jobs, aren’t going to have you exactly jumping out of the bed every day, even if that’s what you’re working toward. That said, if you find you can love your survival job as much as your dream job? Well, maybe you just found yourself a new dream job. Congrats!
Consider: Have a hobby you love? Turn it into something profitable! Photography, blogging, editing, or even opening an Etsy shop—take the creativity you’ve already got and make it do the work for you. It’s not easy, but neither is being a full-time actor.
Check out Backstage’s New York City audition listings!