The “survival job”. A phrase we are all too familiar with. Every time I meet an actor, I prepare myself to be asked the question, “So, what’s your survival job?” We have trained ourselves to believe that it is normal to hate any job that doesn’t put you on stage. A long list of terrible survival jobs is a right of passage to the young actor, and that’s just how it has to be, right?
My answer to the survival job question is never what people expect. I run a photography business, which I absolutely love. The side hustle that started as my “survival job” is now my only source of income, plus the thing that gives me insane amounts of joy and creative stimulation. It is also what has allowed me to continue working towards my goals as an actor without burning out.
I feel like I hit the “survival job” jackpot, since I actually enjoy spending my time and energy working on my business. But, it has been a long journey to get to the point where I am actually making a meaningful income. Here are a few key steps that have allowed me to build a career for myself that supports my pursuit of acting.
PURSUE WHAT YOU ALREADY LOVE TO DO
If you love what you are doing, you will work twice as hard. Think about the things you naturally spend your time researching and practicing. One of my best friends recently began working as a makeup artist. She was miserable in her survival job, but didn’t feel like she had a skill she could use to make money. But, she is incredible with makeup, spending significant amounts of time researching techniques and products. To her that was just normal, but to me it was an obvious side business that could be both fun and lucrative.
Building a business takes a different kind of mental and emotional energy than clocking into a “survival job” you don’t care about. There is, of course, the exciting potential for SO much more fulfilment, but it can also carry a different kind of weight. So, choose wisely, making sure you LOVE whatever it is you want to do.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…AND THEN…PRACTICE SOME MORE.
The best jobs require a good amount of skill, which takes time and practice! Just as you apply yourself to learning and growing as a performer, you have to be willing to do the same for any skill you want to monetize.
The good news is that we naturally practice the things we love doing. I want to constantly push myself to improve as a photographer. I want to spend long hours researching new lighting setups and posing techniques. Building a career that supports the life you want takes a lot of time, and most importantly a teachable attitude. This phase can feel frustrating, because this skill probably isn’t earning you money yet, but it will set you up to create something you are proud of and confident in.
So, maybe you have figured out that other skill you love doing and you have spent hours brainstorming and developing that skill. Now, you need to begin networking and spreading the word about what you do. The word network used to terrify me, bringing to mind visions of awkward meet and greets, climbing corporate ladders, or uncharacteristically working a system for my personal benefit.
But, the good news, is that it doesn’t have to be like that.
Rather than thinking of networking as this specific task that is necessary in getting ahead, I focus on simply integrating conversations about my passion for photography into my everyday life. I don’t go to auditions or classes to network for my photography business, yet it naturally flows into my conversations, because it is a passion. When asked about my “survival job”, I can’t help but explain how passionate I am about photographing fellow actors and helping them market and present themselves well. I truly believe that I offer a product that serves my fellow actors well, and I want to share that with them.
This new outlook changed networking and marketing for me, because when you love what you do, you want to share it with others.
WORK HARD AND BE KIND
It’s always a good idea to work hard and to be kind, but when you are starting a new business it is absolutely necessary. When you are creating something new, every referral matters and every relationship could be a game changer. Since moving to this city, I have been so blessed by older and wiser photographers who were willing to let me intern or assist them. It is my goal to always be present and hard working, and in turn I have been surrounded by people to look up to and learn from.
People will be so much more willing to take a chance on you, if you are kind and hard working.
I’m still figuring out so many things, but I’m committed to constantly improving my craft and working hard. The best part is that the more I dive into photography, the more creatively stimulated I am as an actor. Of course, it is hard work, but if you love anything enough to put the work in, it is totally worth it.
Sydney is a singer, actress, and dancer and photographer with a passion for creating art. SydneyRGoodwin.com @SydneyGoodwinPhotography