What are some actor-friendly jobs?
June 27, 2013 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Hello, MetaFilter peeps! I am funemployed (mostly unemployed, maybe had too much fun and now not having much at all) and trying to find a job that is flexible enough for me to audition and take some classes. I feel like I am doing this wrong - how do I look for a job outside of my usual network of soul-crushing, time-sucking production gigs?

I am not opposed to waiting tables, but my food service experience is years in the past and not terribly impressive. Any food service gig I could find would have to be some sort of supplemental thing. I'm making enough money on unemployment that taking a $10/hour job is not worth it.

Also possibly not worth it while still collecting unemployment: Transcription. Done a fair bit of that, but it's not enough money to live on and would just eat away at my unemployment benefits for now.

I am hopeful that once TV shows start up again there will be some day-playing PA opportunities for me, but really, I just want to find a flexible, work from home admin WHATEVER thingy that I can do in addition to some freelance writing and maybe another part-time job. A lot of my actor friends who have "flexible" jobs audition hardly ever and feel trapped. That was me for the past couple of years, and I don't want to do that anymore. I'm not getting any younger.

I feel like I'm starting from scratch, but really, I shouldn't be. I have a couple years of administrative assistant work, I've done some research assistant gigs, and I have decent writing clips.

So far, I've been stalking several job-hunting websites, tracking down non-profits and other web-y things and applying for jobs advertised on their websites, and pulling my hair out. Pitched a few stories, haven't heard back on most, and at any rate, I do not expect to support myself with freelance journalism. Where do I look? What do I do? How do I market myself? What kind of job am I not considering but would work well for me?
posted by ablazingsaddle to Work & Money (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
So you want a flexible job that pays well, allows you to work from home, and does not require a hyper-specialized skill set?

Yeah. Me too.

The thing is though, most of this stuff works on a supply and demand curve. Most of the high-paying jobs pay well because only so many people can do the work (e.g. US-based lawyers fluent in mandarin; high-level software developers; doctors). Other jobs that pay pretty well do so because either the hours or the conditions suck (or both. see the North Dakota oil fields).

Generally, things you can easily do from home don't pay well because they don't suck much, like the transcription work you mention. Consider jobs that are more physically demanding, e.g. roofing, landscaping, etc., or jobs that require odd hours, e.g. a night cleaning crew. Consider whether you have a particularly rare skill that will let you work from home, but from your description I'm not seeing one jump out at me. Fact is, you want something that a LOT of people want as an employee, but it's not a job description that most employers get very excited about. That ups the competition dramatically for the few jobs that fit the bill.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: Anything that's flexible is a gig worth looking into.

You could start your own house-cleaning business. Call around to apartment complexes, or local landlords for move-in or move-out jobs.

Part of the problem is that so many of the flexible jobs are for young people who don't know any better.

You can consider stripping, or at least bartending in a strip club. That's high-paying and flexible.

Another option is to do some dominatrix stuff.

My sister did the PA thing and she substitute taught at a private school when she wasn't working on a film. The money is good and private schools don't need credentials.

Another thought is working as a PRN Admin at a hospital. Here's one at Cedars Sinai.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:44 PM on June 27, 2013

Response by poster: So you want a flexible job that pays well, allows you to work from home, and does not require a hyper-specialized skill set?

I just want to make more money than unemployment. But I hope you got snarky fun for the day, dude. Ruthless Bunny's answers are exactly what I'm looking for - I am not some princess asking to get paid for doing nothing, okay?

(I am considering stripping. I've heard you can work at a loss for a while before you start making any money and things are not desperate right now, though, so I think I'll wait a bit).
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:50 PM on June 27, 2013

Dog walking or pet sitting. Or learn web design or graphic design, or something you can do freelance. Also, consider that while unemployment pays more in the short term, it will run out, and you are not learning any new skills or growing or making any connections right now. Take any one of those flexible but low paying jobs today and hustle at it. Make yourself valuable, known and liked. You'll get paid better and be ona brighter path lickety split. There is no shortcut. You have to have a good attitude, don't act entitled, and hustle. Good luck.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:53 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Doing a paid medical research study might be something to look into, depending on how willing you are to put your health at risk. I did one 15 years or so ago in college one time when I was still young and invincible. I remember the money being quite good for the amount of time involved (and that I was broke and in college). Some quick googling seems to turn up a variety of options.

One drawback of that though is that (at least then, I assume it's the same), is that you can only do one and then there was a waiting period until you could sign up for another one so as to make sure your system was cleaned out (weeks or a month, I can't remember). So you'd probably need something else as well. Still, even though I did it one time there were definitely people there who signed up every chance they could (they had regular weekend jobs and signed up for these during midweek for instance).
posted by cali59 at 12:58 PM on June 27, 2013

Response by poster: There is no shortcut. You have to have a good attitude, don't act entitled, and hustle. Good luck.

Look, I know that I have no control over the sort of answers that I'm going to get, but I'm looking for specific suggestions. If you look through my AskMe history, you'll see that I've been poor and hustling for a long time. I dont need a lecture.

Thanks for the specific job ideas, as always, and I'm going to stop threadsitting.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

What about babysitting? We pay $15+ an hour for ours. We found her through care.com. As long as you don't bail last minute on your families they will be very flexible. Lots of weekend work should free up much of your days for auditions.

I think that the work for home admin type job you are looking for doesn't exist.
posted by saradarlin at 1:09 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: Something in sales.
posted by TheCavorter at 1:13 PM on June 27, 2013

Just so I understand, are you looking for work that can only be done from your home like medical transcriptions or freelance editing, or are you open to being a petsitter, bartender, babysitter, courier, housecleaner, etc?
posted by kinetic at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2013

Tutoring, assuming you have a decent academic pedigree that makes you marketable to upper middle class parents who pay for it. At first you'll work through an agency, but eventually if you build up a reputation you can strike out on your own and reclaim the portion of your hourly rate that the agency keeps for itself.

If you look through my AskMe history, you'll see that I've been poor and hustling for a long time.

You are also going to have to cut down on expenses rather than trying to support a lifestyle for yourself that you can't actually afford under the circumstances.
posted by deanc at 1:32 PM on June 27, 2013

I've known performers who temped between gigs, waited tables, or had some side money through a hobby - teaching voice, or photography.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 1:33 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and one more question: Is being a freelance make-up artist a thing? Do any Mefites have experience with that sort of gig? I know that it requires some initial investment, but I like make-up and people, so it might be a good fit.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:44 PM on June 27, 2013

Mod note: OP stop threadsitting and dial back the snark in any future comments please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:58 PM on June 27, 2013

Freelance makeup artist is a thing. Just as a reference: The one we hired for my friend's wedding did makeup for $75 per person ($90 per person for hair), with a $700 Saturday minimum. She traveled to the (kinda out-of-the-way) venue and provided all the makeup and fake lashes.
posted by purpleclover at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: Since you aren't opposed to restaurants, what about being a host/ hostess? I used to make $16/hr when I was young & cute and also doing the acting gigs. It was flexible because someone was always happy to pick up a shift for you & vice versa.
posted by MayNicholas at 3:17 PM on June 27, 2013

You're in LA, right? Because freelance makeup is definitely a thing, but it's also a thing where there are A LOT of really skilled and experienced hair and makeup people and a finite number of gigs. A lot of experienced hair and makeup freelancers also work at, like, the Nordstrom Clinique counter to make ends meet. So that might be a more long-term solution (which might be okay!).

Have you tried temping? What about becoming a messenger/courier? LA needs a ton of messengers. You could sign up to be a Task Rabbit? That would be super flexible.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:26 PM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I was running out of weeks on unemployment and STILL didn't have a job in LA, I applied at CB2. Like your food service experience, my retail experience was long in the past, and not terribly impressive. However, I threw in ANYTHING I could come up with from my life experience that related to either selling stuff or interior design. Art directed a short film? Put it down. Helped run an arts nonprofit for a while? Staffed a friend's farmer's market booth? Put that down. I also aced my interview by being able to talk fluently about my experience with artsy-designy stuff, which extended to such things as how Pinterest is fun and the fact that I collect ethnic textiles. I got the job, though thankfully I ended up not having to actually take it because something else came through just in the nick of time.

So based on that, I would say that, if you want to find a food service job, make a resume with all your old and unimpressive stuff on it. Then pad it out with, like, planning a wrap party at a local bar, or your stint as a set PA doing latte runs, or doing crafty for a student film, or a food blog, or ANYTHING that sounds even vaguely like you have a current interest in something related to that world. Then go into the interview and hustle HARD about how much you love food and hospitality and making guests feel excited to be in such a fun dining environment and other such bullshit.

I've also found that talking up my previous film production experience is always a good thing. Most service industry managers are looking for the same things a POC or AD is looking for in PAs. Talk about how hard-working and diligent and organized you are, and how you have so much passion for whatever the job is about. Even if, realistically, both you and the interviewer know it doesn't matter if you have a passion for great wines or fine dining or vegan baked goods or whatever it is.
posted by Sara C. at 3:43 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: A friend of mine used to do tons of studies as a "health normal" at the Monell Institute in Philadelphia. Sometimes she did more than one at a time (most of their studies were on skin products). Each one didn't pay much, but she was ALWAYS in a study, was a student, and could fit appointments around class. This is something you can start, stop, re-start in lean times.

There are medical schools and associated medical research institutes in LA, but it will take a little effort to get connected. LA medical schools might be able to give you a central contact, such as an Office of Clinical Trials (my academic medical school has one) so you wouldn't have to call around to dozens of researchers to find appropriate studies. People willing to do this need to be reliable, and if you are, you can use your original researcher as a reference for future studies. If you are unreliable, they will ban you forever. Researchers need every patient to show for every appointment and follow directions slavishly. Symptom diary needs to be filled out with every meal? You need to do it. Call on the 4th day after dosing to check in with the research coordinator? Do it. Their research and funding depend on completing the study. You will be a data point, and the data needs to be complete and reliable.

This isn't a huge career path, but the NIH, for example, has a huge study-industrial complex and uses many healthy normals. It's a requirement in phase 1 studies.
posted by citygirl at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2013

Oh, and some followup on other thoughts in the thread:

- Freelance makeup and hair is a thing. I know someone who does it and could maybe set you guys up to hang out or you could ask her questions about it via email or the like. I think her deal is that she actually wants to be a professional HMU person, though, so it might not be easy to use for extra side income.

- Dog walking seems like it would be ideal. I see lots of flyers at the dog park with the little slips of paper entirely gone.

- I used Task Rabbit a lot last summer to make extra cash. I find that the gigs in LA don't pay as well, but you should definitely sign up.
posted by Sara C. at 4:07 PM on June 27, 2013

I am not sure if this is a thing in your area, but I have done writing, research, and extra work for infomercial folk in my area. Such things as:

- Researching: foreclosures, gold buying, bartering, and yes, sometimes transcribing interviews related, and ghost book writing for same;
- Being an extra in commercials, like the electronic cigarettes -- kinda whacky but my son called me up and told me I was on TV, ha!
- Casting: finding people for the infomercials.
- Dressing up as a zombie for a TV pilot.
- Researching energy drinks (which are now sold in the area, so, cool!).

I also have done work transcribing phone interviews for non-profits, but big ones that paid twice as much as regular transcribing jobs. I found a lot of these on Twitter with local folks or just by knowing the local infomercial guys. I mean, it's not high art, but everyone has to make a living. They aren't all bad.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:06 PM on June 27, 2013

Yeah, you should definitely look into working as an extra. I don't know how reliable the money is out here, and my actor friends shun it, but it wouldn't hurt to put your headshot in.
posted by Sara C. at 6:38 PM on June 27, 2013

Depending on how creative you want to get:
-Post up on DogVacay and start boarding pups
-TaskRabbit (random around town stuff mostly, meeting people that can lead to other things)
-If you have a reliable car, apply to be a Lyft driver
-Start selling stuff
-Sell your eggs
-I don't know what you look like but if you considered stripping, you could consider boothbabe-ing for conventions
-Similarly, companies hire marketing reps all the time to hire attractive girls to wear their shirts and hand out their products
-Hell, you can get a costume and charge tourists at the Chinese Theater to take pictures with you

It is a supply and demand world. If you want to make money (particularly under the table) you are either going to have to contribute something that is low in supply or high in demand... (those could be things that are unpleasant or things that you are uniquely qualified to do).
posted by milqman at 6:45 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: I treaded water for a long time doing on-call Residential Counseling for a local group home agency. Here in Portland there's more than a few agencies and they're pretty much always looking for people who will answer their phone for last minute on-call work. I had no background in psychology when I was hired there, I could accept shifts at my convenience (although if you turn people down a lot they'll stop calling after a while), and the work was easy.
posted by ltisz at 6:59 PM on June 27, 2013

This might be out in left field, but what about teaching/working with kids? Can you teach an acting workshop for kids or work for a private drama school or something like that? It's not work-from-home, but it's fun and if you do private lessons (do they do that in acting?) you can decide on a fairly high hourly rate and kids' parents will pay for it.
posted by winterportage at 7:45 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: You could be a Run Around Betty.

Also seconding babysitting--there is always a need for sitters! If you start asking around, it seems like the going rate around here is $15/hr. If you want to get hooked up with an agency, you could try Sitter City.
posted by biscuits at 9:44 PM on June 27, 2013

Best answer: As an amateur actor but someone who takes the whole thing seriously, I've found that anything that involves using my voice is an opportunity.

I work as a relay officer for the deaf. People who have hearing and speech impairments and the Deaf need to make phone calls and in order to do so they often use a service where they type what they want to say and someone else reads it to the person they're calling. I'm limited in my intonations because I can't try to represent someone else's words in an unintended way, but I've found that I'm obliged to try and represent their words in an accurate way, not just in a monotone. I really enjoy it on many levels.

Before I found this job I did some telemarketing which is a particular kind of hell, but during the year or so that I did it it helped to approach it as an acting job. Often, you're reading a script and you have to sound authentic in order to be successful.

Call centre jobs might be something worth thinking about.
posted by h00py at 4:44 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and in order to the answer the question more successfully, my relay job involves lots of shift work because it is a 24 hour 7 days a week service and thankfully where I work shift swaps are encouraged. Hopefully, this is a usual thing.
posted by h00py at 5:09 AM on June 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for some of the out-of-the-box suggestions, guys. Really appreciate it. I have sent a few emails and applications already, and I'm feeling a little less "blugrhsdfj." MetaFilter is the damn best.

This post by Emily Gould is a good distillation of the art vs. job issue, and reading her blog has inspired me to learn a trade, something that I think might be hair or make-up, but that's more of a long-term plan. I am not an Emily Gould fangirl, but this is a good read if you are struggling with this shit in your own life.

To be honest, I've already done a lot of these jobs. I've been a working adult for a few years now, and I've been gigging around doing a mix of temp/background/whatever for a long time. I've been working full-time in TV for a few years, though, and I would like to find something that doesn't feel like I'm right back at Square 1 Circa 2009, but that might be the breaks for now. If anyone searching for "background work Los Angeles" or whatever finds this on Metafilter, feel free to memail me. It's a shitty gig and it's very difficult to get work, but if you need cash ASAP, it's not a bad way to do it.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:50 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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