Why Every Young Artist Needs a Day Job
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
This is going to be controversial—but I maintain that an artist cannot thrive if totally broke. When I say broke I mean broke to the point of suffering. If you can’t afford coaching, classes, a night out with the girls, or to go to the occasional Broadway show—you will suffer. Suffering in moderation is okay, but suffering for years is soul crushing.
I suffered and was broke for so long. I told myself self-defeating things like, “It’s okay to have a crappy apartment, I am an artist, artists are supposed to suffer!” I walked five blocks to do my laundry…for ten years. I lived half a mile from the nearest subway. I didn’t have air conditioning. I never went to shows or took voice lessons. I was jealous of all my friends with money. YIKES. I suffered and it crushed my spirit.
It took me 15 years to learn this valuable lesson: Find a way to pay for your life, so you are comfortable and can pursue your artistic endeavors without desperation. If you are making a comfortable living with your art, by all means, keep doing that! And I certainly don’t condone staying at a day job that you hate or one that makes your art suffer. No! What I am suggesting is that you think differently about day jobs. A steady day job can allow you to pursue your dreams more comfortably. Don’t think of getting a steady day job as selling out—think of it as a tool to aid you on your artistic path. Day jobs keep that path paved and livable.
Artists have tremendous skill sets that companies will pay a lot of money for: tenacity, discipline, creative problem solving, strong work ethic, attention to detail, superior communication skills, and so many more!
I once hired a young actress to work registration at a corporate event. She approached me after and said, “I am so burnt out on musical theater and not having any money. I admire what you do. If you could ever offer advice, or have a cup of coffee, I would appreciate it.” I was impressed. I went on to hire that performer as my assistant for the next big corporate event (paying her a few thousand dollars!) and now she is a full-time employee! Is this her dream job? No, but she did tell me that she is able to pay for voice lessons for the first time in years and that she has money to get her hair done and meet her friends for drinks after work. These are not small things. Having a life is not a small thing. Money allows you to have a life. Artists deserve to have lives!
Some other perks of my day job: my coworkers attend and promote my shows. My coworkers and clients refer me voice students. One of my clients sponsored my first album. I hired a client to be my marketing manager for my personal website and blog.
It’s a great big world out there. My advice to you is to think bigger about day jobs!
There are many artist-friendly day jobs.
Here are just some day jobs I have had and my experiences with them:
I made a lot of money.I got insurance (I worked for a corporate restaurant).I met a lot of young artist types (many are still friends today). I had my days off to audition. Schedule was mostly flexible.
Exhausting. Customers can be obnoxious and rude.You are on your feet for hours at a time. You often have to work holidays. Sometimes people stiff you on tips. You are up super late.
I had a steady salary. I had great benefits (insurance, 401K, paid vacation days). You have free time to surf the internet and do your own research. I could use the equipment after hours (scanner, printers).Holidays off. I had other benefits like corporate discounts to gyms etc. Not physically exhausting.
Early mornings (I had to be in by 9 am). Rush-hour commute. Inflexible schedules (9 am – 6 pm, no exception, and only 10 paid days off a year) Soul-crushing at times. Bosses can be mean and overly demanding. No daytime flexibility without prior notice.
Flexible schedule. Kids are cute (mostly).Freedom to do things around the city (museums, parks, etc.).Bonding with kids.
Kids aren’t cute (sometimes). Exhausting. Hard to get out of if any last minute auditions pop up. No benefits such as health insurance. Not steady.
Flexible hours—work when you want. Usually free time to surf the web. Some corporate perks. Learn new skills.Not physically draining.
Not stable. Hourly wages. No benefits. Can be boring.
A final note on day jobs: I now have two “day jobs” that have developed into
parallel careers. These are real-life careers that are very rewarding.
For me those jobs are:
- Voice teacher
- Corporate Event Director
I actually happened into both of them. I will write a whole separate blog post
on how I built these two careers. Both of them have been life-changing
for me. And now, I have multiple revenue streams, so I am not broke. I
repeat, I am not broke! I am not rich. But I live on Central Park on the Upper
West Side. I have a cleaning lady and I go out to nice dinners and shows quite a lot.
If I can do it, so can you.
My art has flourished as a result. I can give my art the energy that it deserves because I am actually happier, freer, and feel better. Now I don’t walk into a gig desperately thinking, “If this doesn’t work out I can’t pay the rent.”
Students and friends have had other day jobs that they have loved:
Hotel front desk agent
Graphic designer/website designer
Virtual travel agent
What are your thoughts? Do you feel like you are selling out if you have a day job?
What do you think about taking a day job that requires an actual skill set?
What are your day jobs?
Good luck to you all! With best wishes and happy money-making!
I believe in you.