Career Shift Ideas
December 26, 2018 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Following (another) year of the highs being too high and the lows being VERY low, I'm doing my annual "time to quit the biz for real real". I have skills, but I don't have ideas of where those skills would translate best. I would love some brainstorm support.

The Biz is film/tv, and I've been in it for as long as I can remember. This makes shifting gears difficult, since it's so tied up in my sense of identity. BUT! The cons are starting to outweigh the pros, so I'd like to take a hard look at my options. (Part of this exercise is to silence the inner critic that tells me the skills I have are only applicable to the business I'm in.) Can you help me figure out career paths I maybe haven't considered? A lot of my go-to options are "freelance writing! freelance editing! freelance other stuff!" which doesn't address the uncertain nature of my current freelance employment style.

The skills & experience:
Problem solving - I am very good at putting out fires and managing people, coming up with creative solutions.

I learn fast, am pretty intuitive at picking up new computer stuff/workflows. The last time I had a regular 9-5 job a million years ago, I was writing a training manual for new hires within about six weeks. I memorize quickly.

I have great leadership and people skills, and I'm a strong communicator. Public speaking is a walk in the park. My background in improv and standup comedy mean I'm very relaxed in front of a crowd/leading a group.

I ran a functional fitness gym for a year (more teaching classes - think Crossfit but not quite - than the business part). None of my training certifications are up to date, however.

I'm also good at cooking for a big crowd full of dietary restrictions!

I've been an actor & writer for 20 years. I know my way around a set, mostly. I have been the boots-on-the-ground producer for a number of shoestring indie projects (shorts and digital series), so have experience budgeting, making complex schedules, and disseminating the necessary information. I have a passing knowledge of ACTRA and WGC union paperwork.

I've done a significant amount of freelance writing on UpWork, specifically study-based research writing for a fitness magazine (content for 4 issues, 10 articles each) as well as a nontrivial amount of garbage social media content generation. I like the research writing much more than the social media crap. I'm considering revamping my UpWork profile to veer more towards specialized skills (screenplay/film related) to see if I can bring my hourly rate up to something I can live with.

I've developed two television series from concept to pitch package, with more in the pipe.

I've directed one short film.

I type fast, and have conversational (rusty) French.

I have excellent spelling and grammar, and proofread quickly.

The interests:
As corny as it sounds, I'd like to contribute to the world in some meaningful way.

Obviously, I like film & tv, and storytelling. I just can't live with that much income/schedule volatility.

I love to cook, but have no credentials in than area.

I am a fitness/nutrition nerd.

The limits:
I have two school-age kids, and I like being around them. I'm also their primary caregiver and I'd like to retain as much of that as possible. Unfortunately, this removes a lot of the film-related jobs I've considered as those hours are just insane.

I live in Toronto, so the cost of living is high, as is the cost of childcare. I need scheduling flexibility to accommodate their (many) PA days and summer vacation. Putting them in some summer camps is ok, putting them in camps ALL summer is not ok, nor is it financially feasible.

The no-thank-yous:

Working entirely alone.

Sales/service industry. I know this is the go-to for performers. I just really really don't want to.

Any business I have to start from 0 and build. I don't have the time, money, or energy to do that.
posted by lizifer to Work & Money (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You could be a great asset for a nonprofit that needs help with storytelling. I'm not familiar with which organizations are based in your area, but in my area, the large nonprofits have many communications jobs.
posted by pinochiette at 2:31 PM on December 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

A lot of my go-to options are "freelance writing! freelance editing! freelance other stuff!"

I learn fast, am pretty intuitive at picking up new computer stuff/workflows. The last time I had a regular 9-5 job a million years ago, I was writing a training manual for new hires within about six weeks. I memorize quickly.

So you might want to consider tech writing in particular, partly because it sounds like you'd be good at it, and partly because it's one of relatively few kinds of writing where genuine long-term full-time W2 jobs aren't unicorns. Given your grammar and proofreading skills, you could also be a tech editor, though there are many fewer jobs doing that — it takes a large software company to hire enough tech writers that a full-time editorial team makes sense. (But good grammar and good proofreading skills will be an asset in tech writing too.)

Most of the tech writers and editors I know got into it either by freelancing or by getting W2 writing jobs on topics where they're subject matter experts. Your dream career transition might be something like "Get a tech writing job for a company that makes gear or software used in the film business."

Some tech writers also end up writing marketing copy aimed at a technical audience — which it sounds like could be another thing your experience will help with.

I don't know if this will feel like a meaningful contribution to the world to you or not. I edit and I think of it as promoting the virtue of clarity, which is something meaningful to me. But I think lots of people would think that was a really weird perspective and would find writing and editing to be pretty tedious. Your call.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:36 PM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

The poster is in Canada, so "W2" might not mean anything to them. The Canadian equivalent is T4.
posted by soelo at 2:52 PM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you have a really strong background in "anything could happen today, and I need to be someone who can put out whatever fire needs extinguishing, and communicating with a really wide range of people about how that can happen — within our budget." What about live events / events management stuff? The cover-letter paragraph that explains how you're someone who truly understands the phrase "the show must go on" could be a good way to frame your previous experience...

In terms of meaningful contribution, lots of worthy causes and organizations have large-scale events.
posted by Charity Garfein at 5:21 PM on December 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

My organization has recently paid big bucks to freelance event planners/organizers with similar skill sets to yours. The good ones are hard to find and in high demand. You could start by contacting some of the established names in your city with your c.v. and seeing if they need surge capacity. That would give you a chance to see if you like it.

On preview, more or less what Charity Garfein said.
posted by rpfields at 7:13 PM on December 26, 2018

Came here to say tech writer - and basically nebulawindphone already said it all. You could look for techwriting gigs where you’re ostensibly helping people do good things, like at (rather than
posted by greermahoney at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2018

I’m an advertising creative about to get back into it. Although I worked in all sorts of media, towards the end the bulk of it was tv. When I got married because I had so much on, I hired a wedding planner. I was struck by how similar planning a wedding was to producing a tv ad (or film production.)

You have to manage a budget, keep the client happy, organise costumes, location and cast (wedding party) catering, script (readings) for the wedding, rehearsals, the list goes on. There’s lots of moving parts. If you can produce film, you can almost certainly become a wedding planner, it utilises the same skills.

If you didn’t want to start your own business, you could probably work for a company. I don’t know if this sends you running for the hills but it’s something to consider.
posted by Jubey at 12:03 AM on December 27, 2018

If you know your way around a camera and can write a script, the world of marketing would love to have you. Virtually every company is "pivoting to video" right now. I've met many people in the field who've wrangled that particular skillset to great success working either for themselves or for others.
posted by coffeeand at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

This sounds like event planning / management to me as well. A company like Freeman puts on events all over the place, often including creating the keynote presentations and whatnot.
posted by Bron at 9:23 AM on December 27, 2018

I am part of the communications department at a public agency--many of my coworkers, including my boss are escapees from print, radio, and television jobs. We have a former news camera person who does our videos, a former radio person who does our podcast, two former print journalists who handle our Twitter/Facebook posting, and our boss who was a Television segment producer and then a communications manager for a state politician. I come from a marketing writing background and do a lot of the basic writing/print production/project management stuff here. We have way more staff that other local agencies, but the trend is to have multiple ways to communicate with customers. We are all full-time, with benefits, etc.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:22 AM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a scientist at a non-profit research institute and you sound like a perfect fit for our communications/public relations team.
posted by emd3737 at 12:19 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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