The Catch-22 Situation
A lot of actors complain how hard it is to be fully committed to an acting career, which means you spend every day working on your craft and have to be available for last second auditions 24/7, but at the same time you need to make an income to survive and pay the bills. And on top of that you also want to be able to afford all these classes, workshops, subscription plans, new headshots, business cards, acting books and maybe even a small camera to self-tape your auditions or make short movies. You wonder, “how is this possible?!” I agree, it does seem a little like a catch-22 situation. But you can do it, have a look at the job list below.
Important: The first part of this article is for Actors that are NOT on a visa, anyone that either owns a Green Card, is an American Citizen or can work legally in the US without any restrictions.
Now, here are the 12 best job ideas you could take on, next to being an aspiring actor:
- Uber or Lyft Driver: Ideal for people that like to have their own schedule, don’t mind driving for hours and have a car with good fuel economy, such as a Toyota Prius or Corolla. www.idrivewithuber.com
- Character Performer at Kids Parties: Requires high energy and you must be very good and patient with kids. Works every Saturday and Sunday, pays around $50 per hour plus tips. I worked for the company Inkabink Entertainment: www.inkabink.com – contact the CEO Alexx Calise and let her know you found out about this job through me.
- Bartending, Waiting Tables, Catering (late shift): Any job that works mostly in the evening or at night, is better for actors than a day job, since most auditions take place during the day. My success rate of getting hired was always highest when I walked into the place with my resume in hand, rather than emailing or mailing. On www.simplyhired.com you can find and apply for various positions in the Food & Drinks Industry.
- Babysitter or Nanny (late shift): Again if you can nanny at night it will be much easier for you, since taking care of a baby is something you can’t leave for any appointment. But it sure is good for evenings and nights, especially when they’re asleep and you can work on your script or read. www.care.com has a lot of options and you can make a profile for free.
- Dog sitter/ Dog walker: Very flexible, you can make a profile on www.dogvacay.com and offer your own place for other dogs to “stay over”. Or you could be a simple dog walker only.
- Background Artist on set: That one is of course very popular because you can be on an actual film set and get paid, even though your part is literally just background. Also great to meet new people, mingle or for the waiting times to read a play. You can sign up with www.centralcasting.com and they will hopefully send you out on many BG gigs.
- Production Assistant on set: Again you can be on a film set but behind the scenes, which can be a very interesting new point of view, guaranteed. Hours will be long and you probably won’t get paid much, more like minimum wage around $9 per hour, but great networking opportunities! www.entertainmentcareers.net is a page with all kind of jobs in that field.
- Modeling/ Promo work: Let’s be honest, if you’re good looking and like taking photos, or walk the runway and possibly have a model agent, I’d say do it! It’s good money and easy work. www.modelmayhem.com is a good website to start off with a profile incl. your portfolio and you can message photographers or Casting people. But watch out for scams! Promo work is similar, they need good looking guys and girls to promote their products.
- Personal trainer/ Yoga Teacher: If you like working out and are healthy lifestyle, you might want to get a license to be a personal trainer or take part in a yoga teacher training to eventually teach your own classes. This wonderful Yoga Studio in Sherman Oaks offers all kind of classes and trainings: www.blackdogyoga.com – This is a good option for fit and health conscious people plus it’s good money and flexible.
- Tutoring (any subject): I’m sure you had a strength in one of those subjects back in High School – some were good in math and physics (not me), others more in languages or music. Try www.greataupair.com for various types of jobs in families within your area.
- Reel Editor: Everybody is looking for an editor at some point in their acting career, either for their demo reel, or a short film they made. Learn how to do it! It’s not that hard, trust me I taught myself Premiere Pro and I’m pretty good at it by now. Watch YouTube Tutorials and edit all your actor friends’ reels. Do it in your own schedule and time plus choose whatever price you want to charge. Check out this article: mashable.com/2013/07/24/best-video-editing-software
- Personal Assistant: Anybody in L.A. who is (or thinks they are) a little higher up there, will want/need a personal assistant. To do all the stuff they don’t have time for. Get coffee, organize paperwork, book flights, organize trips or events or message their mom, who knows. You can find those type of jobs on www.entertainmentcareers.net or of course www.losangeles.craigslist.org/ where anything and everything listed, as long as you’re careful and not too naïve, you can be very lucky!
Now the second part of this article is for anyone on an 01 ARTIST VISA. Of course this list will be much shorter, since you can only work legally in the field of “Entertainment”.
So here are the 5 top job ideas you could take on, while being on the 01 Artist Visa (some are of course repetitive from above):
- Featured Extra or Background Artist: Not all Background Agencies accept 01 visas, f.ex. Central casting does NOT. But you can still submit yourself on all the casting pages such as www.lacasting.com for extra work, since most of those still count as normal “acting” work. You’re on an actual film set and get paid, even though your part is literally just background. Also great to meet new people, mingle or for the waiting times to read a play.
- Stand-in or Body Double: Similar to Extra work, but at the same time you are much more important and specific for the film team. Every big actor and actress needs a stand-in or body double to substitute them before filming, for technical purposes such as lighting and camera setup. You can see the breakdowns for stand-ins on lacasting.com as well.
- Character Performer at Kids Parties: This is in the category “Entertainment” and “Performing”, which is for 01 Artists. It requires high energy and you must be very good and patient with kids. Works every weekend, pays around $50 per hour plus tips. You could work between 3 and 8 hours per weekend. Inkabink Entertainment f.ex. is a good company: www.inkabink.com – contact the CEO Alexx Calise and let her know you found out about this job through me.
- Modeling/ Promo work: A lot of 01 immigrants have their visa in acting AND modeling (ask your lawyer for details). So if you’re tall, good looking and photogenic or have a good runway walk, do it. www.modelmayhem.com is a good website to start off with a profile incl. your portfolio and you can message photographers or Casting people. But watch out for scams! Promo work is similar and goes under “Modeling” as well, they need fresh faced guys and girls to promote their products.
- Commercials: This one is of course the jackpot to making a high salary for a one day shoot that might support you for the next few months or year. Even though it’s not what most of us Artists really want to do (much rather Feature Films and TV shows), but getting the part for a big commercial can really help (Residuals are every struggling Actor’s dream)! Some say it’s super hard to book a national commercial, others say it’s a lot of luck. My advice is, give your best to sign with a commercial agent and getting sent out to as many commercial auditions as possible. You can find Casting Director and Agent workshops on www.actorskey.com they cost between $15 and $65 depending on who the person is.
Be Careful With…
One last tip, more for the ladies regarding what job NOT to do: I’ve heard of some international actresses and models that work in Korea-Town’s Karaoke Bars as for-hire party girls at night. Trust me, this is as close as you can get to prostitution and not something I would recommend doing. You get dragged into this hole of corruption and without knowing you support dirty money, a black market, drugs and the mistreating of women. Here’s an article on it for the ones interested: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ktown-nightlife-20151130-story.html
Hopefully at least one of the above mentioned job ideas speaks to you. These are of course just options for the often “rough” beginning period of everyone’s acting career over here in L.A. For most of these positions, you can find companies or agencies online to sign up with, so they can contact you for possible matches or you make a profile on their website and submit yourself. For the freelance options, you could create your own business cards/ flyers and hand those out to people to promote your work! Again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me and we can potentially set up a Skype Counseling Session to help guide you on your journey!
My next blog post will go more into detail on how you know which acting schools are the best in L.A., what kind of training you need and ultimately how to choose the education that is right for you.