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A Look at Backup Plans in 2020

back up plans
By Melissa Bondar

Sorry. I needed a minute there. I laughed hysterically for like 5 minutes after writing that title.

Ok. Deep breath.

I am the queen of backup plans. Ever since switching my major to theater, I’ve quietly had strand after strand of backup plans in motion to build a whole web of them to keep from failing.

I listened while everyone I knew said theater was an insane thing to study and that I would never build a career in this field.

I also thought… you jerks do not understand at all how much of a personal challenge I take that as… but also, ok, the success rate is pretty low, so what can we do to make sure if everything goes south, there are some other options?

Strand 1 – I double majored in English. If the whole theater career didn’t work in about two years, I’d go back to school, get a teaching degree and go be a high school English teacher.

Fortunately (for everyone, probably) I never had to deploy that strand. And after so many years of stage managing, I’m not sure it’s even a valid strand anymore because I have zero desire to be a high school English teacher. That being said, the degree is still there. It would only take an extra year of study to become a teacher if the whole world was ending and I really had to.

I also have the right degree to teach Religion, which sort of makes me laugh, because the struggle would be real there. I haven’t really studied that in more than 10 years.

Side note, I think this is a bad backup plan now because I have seen that teaching is like a calling and I 100% do not have it for younger kids. I think implementing this strand would make my life and those kids’ lives kind of miserable, but, selfishly, especially mine.

Strand 2 – I got a job on cruise ships. Cruise ships, for Pete’s sake. They are real difficult to get your foot in the door, but once you’ve done a few contracts, it is super easy for the rest of your life to go work for another cruise line.

Unless, LOL, a plague sweeps the world and bankrupts most of the cruise lines and shuts them down indefinitely. LOL. How funny. HOW FUNNY.

Strand 3 – I got a master’s degree in theater because I am, technically, by the skin of my teeth, qualified to teach at a college level now. This is teaching I can get behind. I like theater. I like college aged young adults and older returning students. This is a good strand.

Unless, LOL, a plague sweeps the world and causes massive budget cuts at your institution and your budget line is cut. No more Visiting Instructors in Theatre Arts. And then, even more LOLing, all other universities are in the same boat and none are hiring. L.O.L.

Strand 4 – I got a job working for a massive, maybe evil corporation that owns tons and tons of shows. It was not enjoyable, but they own so many shows. They are always hiring. I left on good terms. What a great company to have as one of my backup plans.

Unless, LOL. Plague. No shows. You get the drift here.

Strand 5 – While still in college, I got a substitute teaching certificate, so when I’m between gigs, I can go substitute teach. I even lucked out that for years as my mom worked in the same office as the woman who organized the substitute teachers, so it was never any problem to not only get calls, but calls for classes where the kids weren’t totally psychopaths.

Unless, LOL, a plague ends in person school, so subs are no longer needed. Hilarious.


Alright. We get the gist. And as I wrote the first half of this post, I was kind of in the dark place.

Let’s look at the lighter place and some of the legit strands of backup plans I do still have in motion.

Strand 6 – I’ve been working on an accounting degree very part time for about two years. I can use what looks like a lot of free time I’ll have on my hands this year to finish up that degree. It will actually be cheaper to take a full semester of classes at once than the one at a time I’ve been doing – although it is still a substantial chunk of change during a time when I’m not expecting to make much money.

Strand 7 – This blog. It makes a little bit each month. I never know how much and it’s not a very high number, but to be honest, the blog has largely run on autopilot the last three years with me doing little to nothing to grow it and just concentrating on getting posts out on time. With what is likely to be a lot of time on my hands over the next years starting in June, I can work to build up some more of the business side of this blog and possibly increase the income from here.

Strand 8 – A robust emergency fund. Which, sadly, if you don’t have, you probably can’t achieve overnight, but let me tell you, it is literally the reason I have minimal stress during this pandemic. My routine has been entirely destroyed, but I have been super lucky that no one I’m close with has had a bad run with the virus. And while my job is ending at the end of the month with no real future work in sight other than possibly a very low paid adjuncting job this fall for one class, I know I can weather things for a while and have room to make careful decisions about what’s next rather than just having to take what I can to get by.

Strand 9 – I’m cool with taking a minimum wage job at Starbucks or a grocery store for a while if I really have to. I’d rather not, but if I have to, I can and will.

Strand 10 – An ability to move to wherever the work is happening, when it starts to happen again. A lot of people don’t have the ability to be that flexible (I don’t mean ability like them as humans, I mean as humans with varied life commitments even just beyond their work), but at this point in life, I still do.

Seriously, if anyone is hiring out there, have passport, will travel. :0)

Strand 11 – A list of weird ideas to pursue to possibly make money. This is the weakest strand because I just sit on most of these ideas forever and do nothing about them, but at one point, one of those ideas was this blog, so you never know. Sometimes I do act on them. I think the fact that I keep track of these potential money making ideas is a useful strand though.

Strand 12 – My pin money side hustles like UserTesting, voice work, Rev transcriptions, and the fact that I keep an eye out for little things that  can bring in money almost automatically.

What kind of webs are you trying to build for financial security? What are your backup plans? Especially if you work in a volatile industry like the arts. And how has the pandemic affected your safety net?

Also on by Melissa Bondar:

Useful Certifications to do as a Stage Manager During Social Distancing

Financial Stability in the Arts amidst the Coronavirus

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