How Do Actors Survive Financially?
Not much vamping needed here, friends…this is the million dollar (or far less dollar) question. How do actors survive financially? When our peers look down the barrel of their future lives and ask “How am I going to survive?” Either one or two things happen:
- They quit.
- They rush to get a job, sometimes full time, but “only temporarily” they tell themselves. Eventually, acting truly takes the backseat, which often leads to #1.
The younger the reader is, the more jealous I am of them. They have a real opportunity to circumvent this dilemma that will inevitably occur (at least for 98% of people entering this business). The further along one is in life the more challenging it is to take up the following suggestions if they are not already in place.
So, how do actors really survive financially?
Besides sound financial management (month to month budgeting, a savings strategy, investing in retirement ASAP, spending less than you earn, building an emergency fund) they must build a secondary income stream they have complete control over.
Still reading? Awesome, let’s see how long we can hold you.
I want to use our founder, Joshua Morgan, as an example (even though I may be scolded for it). Joshua, as a performer, has earned 6 figures annually for a number of years. Just to reiterate that is from acting and performing. And yet, he continues to tell me how he is far from “set.”
Much of that money goes back into his business. It has to, whether that’s actively cultivating his network, self producing various projects, investing in unique marketing opportunities or whatever else! How many people reach the upper echelons of our business only to be irrelevant a few months later? There’s no such thing as coasting, as being too big to fail; in fact the biggest celebrities in the world are constantly investing back into their businesses.
Also, we are constantly losing our jobs. This is a point we reiterate time and time again in our messaging. Yes, you book a big thing…but inevitably that big thing ends. Now, someone has to give you another job for you to keep paying your bills? Nuh-uh. That’s too risky of a proposition, even for incredibly business savvy folks like Joshua. So, how do we build something that can sustain us and provide security while ensuring that it leaves plenty of room to do what we love?
Building a secondary income.
Basically, what you need, in addition to running a solid business as an actor, is a secure secondary job, in which you have control over the following elements:
- Where you work (remote and therefore mobile)
- How much and when you work (can take on more or less hours as needed)
- How much money you bring in (see above)
- Something of interest to you (if you’re going to be building another business, it might as well be something you care about!)
Many jobs have one or two of these requirements, but very few have all four. With incredibly flexible gig jobs, normally you take what shifts are available…feast or famine. With sweet part-time remote jobs, you still are at the mercy of your employer who at the end of the day will be the final authority on when and how much you work.
In other words, we will have to build a secondary business venture from scratch. One where we have complete control over how and why we work. Where we are truly the boss.
Don’t get me wrong, you will still have to work your ass off. Especially in the beginning you may be putting in the equivalent of full-time hours into it. Remember, however, that you will be in complete control over how much and when you will work from the very beginning.
In other words, as you grow the business, its structure will not change; the freedom is there from its inception.
For the naysayers
We are well aware that this may be a controversial idea for some. The fact is many of us, including me, already have “survival jobs” that take time away from our arts career and personal lives…how can we be expected to build a business from nothing?
Well, where there’s a will there’s a way. Artist’s Strategy believes we have very little choice in this idea. Of course we want to be making all of our money from our art, but even if you are making great money why leave anything to chance? Are you comfortable staking your financial solvency on such a fickle and unstable business?
We want to be able to do this for the rest of our lives at a very high level. So we have to be sure that we have a say and clear expectation as to where our money comes from.
In regards to those who bemoan the amount of time it will take…do you have 15 min a day? 3 hours a week? Especially in this time of COVID and lack of social hanging, don’t you have even a little time to give?
Look, we are not saying it’s easy. We are not saying that sacrifices won’t be made, they definitely will. You may have to forgo your daily binge of whatever show you’re watching a few times a week, or even the time spent with loved ones. We may not like it, but our very lives and futures depend upon it!