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Freelance Artist Gig Life: Do Something 

By Jill Wolins

Freelancers and artists speak a language that can be considered speaking in code because most “normal” or conventional people wouldn’t get it. Why? Because those with a more conventional lifestyle rely on schedules, systems, regularity,  and predictability.  I very much believe that there is no right or wrong in living an unconventional or conventional lifestyle. The most important question to ask oneself would be “What works for me?” 

In having a conversation with the right-hand-man of a major Grammy Award winning recording artist, songwriter, and producer, we were discussing life on the road. We were noticing that his wife being in the business as an artist and performer, although in a different capacity, helps in the success of his career and relationship. They lived the “gig life” together.

They learned as successful adult professionals that one can really never predict the future. We as artists have wish lists and dream jobs, but all you really can do is be prepared, and “put it out in the universe” in the form of auditioning, submitting for jobs and staying connected.

The couple said, “Always do SOMETHING.” Do something to propel you toward your goal.

If you do something, something will happen. It may not be in the form of what you originally intended, but something else will happen. This life presents the choices that shape our lives as artists, and move us forward in some capacity. Life as an artist rarely looks like the roadmap we originally drew for ourselves as students or young professionals; before we really understood what the unconventional lifestyle of an artist really meant.

How do you explain this life to friends, family, and significant others? How do you explain that your lifestyle includes rapidly changing circumstances, possible long stretches of unemployment coupled with periods of time when you are ridiculously busy and barely keeping your head above water with the long work hours? Hours that you love, of course.  Oh, and we can’t forget that those periods of time when you are not employed may be filled with hours and hours of hard work on your craft: learning new songs or monologues, taking dance technique classes, or learning new skills to make you more valuable in the arts and entertainment fields. Or better yet, how do you explain that your bout of unemployment is suddenly over, and you have to leave town for a month.  Or Year.

After spending my adult life in the arts and entertainment, a few things are certain.

Unpredictability is not for everyone, but it is never boring. Ever. New faces and new creative gigs keep your brain active and spirit alive.

Even if one is engaged in a long-term contract, performing or working on the same show for extended periods of time with repetition will most often find you in happening cities. Again, not exactly uninspiring.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that those that give everything up or make huge sacrifices to pursue their art form are better or truer artists, or “closer to God.”  Each to their own. I admire people who live safer and more traditional life paths. But there is something to be said for extraordinary individuals who, regardless of what it takes, wish to practice and pursue their craft. Individuals who will work survival jobs, move to new cities all alone, or find some way to do what their hearts dictate are remarkable. This creates a depth and integrity that only other artists truly “get,” hence the bonds of those in the theater. It’s the unspoken understanding and mutual respect that make our theater friends our family.

It’s always a good idea to ask yourself if you will have regrets. You may have regrets of doing nothing to move your life forward as an artist. You will never regret trying something new, meeting new people, or taking a risk. Soooo…. We had better get going and do something. Right?

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