How to Profit From Your Creative Skills

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For the first seven years of my professional acting career I made about $20,000/year—including supplemental earnings from my survival jobs.

I was only able to live off that limited income by subletting my apartment every time I left town for a gig, subsisting on per diem while away, and banking the entirety of my salary to fund my living costs when contracts ended.

On Jan. 1, 2015, I challenged myself to change that paradigm and push past the ever-looming precipice of “broke” by increasing my earnings. More specifically, I resolved to triple my income.

In December, I celebrated the achievement of that goal. While reflecting on the changes that had made my income growth possible, I recognized two major mindset shifts that enabled the achievement of what I’d set out to accomplish.

First, creativity is hugely valuable…in markets with demand.

Actors generally apply their creativity within the context of creating a character in theater, film, or television. Unfortunately, the supply of talent in that market and medium is abundant, which is why securing a well-paying job can be such a challenge.

The same creativity applied beyond the narrow scope of a traditional acting role though can be hugely profitable. Many industries are desperate for creative, human ways to connect with people. I personally found enormous value in applying my creative skill set to the financial services industry. I’ve since met artists who’ve harnessed their creativity to do everything from start a successful tour company to develop a social media marketing strategy for Fortune 500 companies.

All of this is not to say that you should abandon your artistic pursuits. In fact, my tour guide friend and founder of Broadway Up Close, just finished up his run in the Off-Broadway production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” The challenge is to expand your thinking and experiment with your creativity in new formats and industries, in addition to your present pursuits.

The skill set of an actor is incredibly valuable. Put yourself in a position to be recognized and well compensated for that value.

My other big light bulb moment in 2015 was coming to the realization that I could create my own career opportunities. That might sound obvious, but in the context of a career where your professional destiny always seems to be in the hands of someone else—the casting director, the creative team, the producers, etc.—it’s easy to forget.

Thanks to technology, the resources and platforms to create, develop, and share work are accessible and inexpensive. You no longer need to wait for permission to make use of your skills and talents. Go out and start doing.

The willingness to apply your creativity beyond the narrow scope of traditional acting pursuit and the initiative to create your own career opportunities may not only enable exponential growth in your earnings in 2016, it may also introduce you to world of opportunity far beyond anything you once considered possible. It did for me and I’m grateful for it.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Stefanie O’Connell
Stefanie O’Connell is a millennial finance writer, author of “The Broke and Beautiful Life: Small Town Budget, Big City Dreams,” and founder of the blog, The Broke and Beautiful Life. Her work has been featured on Forbes, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, and Business Insider.
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