A Performers guide to surviving the in-between: How to ‘Werk it’ when you’re not working. 

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“Mum, Dad, I wanna be an actor.”

Once upon a time you made a decision to be part of this circus we call showbuisness. One day you decided you were gonna start taking yourself serious, real serious. Whether you’re an actor, singer, dancer or lion tamer you made an announcement that took you from Sunday league to premiere overnight. Some people say it chose them, but the reality is you chose each other. Like a good old fashioned consensual 21st century marriage. So you owe it to eachother to do everything you can to keep those vows.

Living an eternity in matrimony means sometimes you and acting are shacked up in wedded bliss; walking the red carpet and receiving Chelsea flower show displays on opening night. Sometimes you and acting are refreshing the coleslaw trough every 4-6 hours in Pizza Hut *other fast food chain coleslaw refreshing is available*

So you’ve got two choices: you file for a divorce and resign to being a muggle after all, begin applying for one of them there stable jobs where you don’t have to feign a urinary tract infection every time you have an audition. Or, you can go to couples counseling and start trying to make you and your beloved acting the real deal.

Here’s 7 ways you and your Showbiz Marriage can make it to your Ruby Anniversay:

  1. Get another job

This is not a trick answer. It’s actually the most valuable thing you can learn as a performer. I know how much you love performing but you are gonna HAVE to find something else that you enjoy almost as much. It’s hard to hear this as performers but YOU ARE NOT YOUR JOB. You are lots of other things too. Dig deep. Have a think. Start a business. Cut hair. Teach. Paint houses. It’s the only way to have longevity in this business. Because well, what are the other options? You leave the business and find something else to do anyway? You do jobs you hate whilst desperately waiting for a job to come along to “take you away from this Goblin City”? Or you do something alongside, something that you love nearly or just as much. No brainer really isn’t it.

2. Book a holiday


“Once I get a job I’ll go away”, “I can’t go away in case an audition comes in”, “I couldn’t possibly go on holiday when I’m not working.”

These are the 3 deadliest sins. Putting your life on hold like this is telling yourself that you are not really living unless you are performing. And holidays are living. They are SO important. See the world, get out there. You gain a whole new perspective and fresh start every time you go away and come back. Book one!

Work 10 extra coleslaw slopping shifts to pay for it but, book one!

3. Go to class

If you’re having trouble getting paid to perform at the moment you might have to pay to do it. And I don’t mean work for free, I mean train those skills of yours and get your fix at the same time by taking class. NB: Going to class when you are also working is an absolute must. You will take the confidence of being employed to class; and this business is 90% confidence 10% talent after all. Plus it’s important to not get complacent, using your skills differently to your current performing job is only going to be a good idea. You learn, you perform, you get better. Stop procrastinating and set aside some time to go.

4. Make your own stuff

If you’ve always wanted to play a ‘impotent dwarf with one arm on the wrong side of his Body Mass Index’ but there are just no roles like that out there….then write it yourself. Write a play, song, film, TV series. There’s plenty of platforms out there to help people to publish their own work. When I first graduated the internet was a slow duh-duh-duh-duh-dial-up and you could only play snake on your Nokia3410. You now have the ability to get your work into millions of homes at the click of a button. Do you know how lucky you are? Make some work for yourself for goodness sake. You’re an artist. Do art.

5. See your friends


It’s very easy when you’re trying to juggle lots of bitty work to forget about your mates and just concentrate on paying the bills and where your next bit of work is coming from. I promise you, you will have even less time when you get a performing job. One of the BEST bits about being out of work is seeing your friends. It doesn’t have to cost money to hang, they’re not a bungee jump (sorry, Bad Dad Bants). It’s about adding up all the happy stuff and squishing it into your life to help you remember that singing a song or reading a scene are not the only things on the planet that make your heart sing.

6. Know your worth 

Knowing how to set your own limits when you’re out of work as a performer, is a very powerful way of feeling like “you got this”. How much do you want to work this week? Knowing how many shifts/teaching/promo you are willing to take on means you won’t get overloaded and therefore hacked off at how you spend all this time NOT doing the job you want. What’s the minimum amount you’re willing to be paid per hour? Don’t go below it. It will make you seek out different employment opportunities. I told a friend once to not work for less than £25 p/hour as she was worth more than that. She had to start looking elsewhere for work and ended up working less hours AND earning more money. Know your worth and set your limits.

7. Improve your skills.

It’s very important to feel like you’re not wasting your life away when you’re not working. You want to make sure you make the absolute MOST of these moments in-between. Learning a new language, taking a course, doing some home improvements are the sorts of things that can take precedence at this point. You especially need these things if you’re doing a soul-sucking-stop-gap gig. It’s absolutely vital to make your life about more than about your job.

It’s all about getting inventive and always looking for the next happy project around the corner. You gotta work hard on your attitude at all times when you’re out of work. Just as hard as you’re working to get those jobs your REALLY want. Everyone can have Happiness, you just gotta be willing to ‘Werk it’.

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Post Author: The Happy Performer

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