We all know the cliche of moving to LA and becoming a server/actor. That's the dream right? Waiting tables and someone spots you and tells you that you have the perfect look for their major new blockbuster feature they are producing and want to pay you a bajillion dollars to star in it? (I'm looking at you Ellen Pompeo.)
But for the majority of us, that is not how it works. So how do you make sure you've got enough money to pay for rent, food, classes, coffee dates with your more successful friend, yoga and/or a gym memberships as well as at least one article of clothing that is on-trend that season and enough to self-submit on LA Casting for the indie feature you are totally right for? It's tough. I am coming up on 3 years in LA and it has been interesting to see how my artist friends and I piece together a livable income.
Before I moved to Los Angeles, I did SO much research on the best survival jobs for actors. The best ways to not be broke as an artist, how to make side income in Los Angeles. I read every penny hoarding article I could find and nothing gave specifics. I am here (to hopefully) change that.
Flexibility is the dream, right? But so is financial security - no one wants to not go to a friend's birthday because they legitimately do not have enough money to buy anything extra?
So - here we go. I am going to list jobs I have done or my friends have done (I'll denote the difference), tell you the pro/cons and if it really would work to pay your bills!
Ready? Let's go!
Okay, lets say your base sum total of bills is $1,800 (rent is $1,000, groceries are $400, gas is $150, car insurance is $150, phone bill is $50, internet is $50) - these are all ballpark numbers (and don't include gym, social events, health insurance or anything extra) - let's see how each survival job adds up!
The most "popular" job for actors in Los Angeles, right? To be honest, I can't think of anyone off of the top of my head who has a legitimate serving job. One where you go to a restaurant and work set hours. Apparently it's hard to get a restaurant job because everyone wants one. There are a lot of options when it comes to restaurants in LA and you can go anywhere from the family ramen place in the Valley to the sanky Beverly Hills hotspot. My advice is look up restaurants in your area - if you live in Silver Lake you might not want a serving job in Beverly Hills. And then apply to them all. Go in person and ask if they are hiring. Don't just fill out an application - drop off your resume. Show you have your shit together.
Pros: Set hours with a base pay, Part-time, W2 employment
Cons: Hard to get in with a good restaurant, hard to get shifts switched, set hours
Can you pay your bills? Probably. But at a cost and it might take time to get in with a good restaurant.
Where to look for jobs: Yelp. Look up restaurants in your area and start there!
One of my best friends has been a bartender at the same restaurant in the Valley since he moved to LA 5+ years ago and he loves it. His hours are flexible and he mainly works nights and weekends so it doesn't get in the way of acting. He makes enough to pays his bills and then some. I have other friends who swear by bartending. If you have the ability - I say go for it. It is hard to get into a bar in LA (I'm sure you can guess why), so maybe start out in a restaurant or in catering. Catering companies are always looking for bartenders.
Pros: Set hours with a base pay, great tips, part-time, W2 employment
Cons: Can be hard to get in with a good restaurant/bar, late hours, specific lifestyle
Can you pay your bills? Most likely, yes.
Where to look for jobs: Do the same thing you would as a restaurant server. You might have to start at a catering company.
Social Media Manager
This has been my bread and butter since I moved to Los Angeles. I mostly work for Tracey Mallett and her teacher training program bootybarre but I have gone onto the good 'ole Craigslist and found other clients. I worked for a watch company for a holiday season doing their product photography and social media work from October - February. It is a LOT OF WORK but it pays the bills and can be pretty flexible.
Pros: great pay, flexible hours, flexible work location
Cons: on-call a lot of the time, pressure because you are a brand's online voice, clients want you available/ready to work whenever - even if you are at an audition, potentially not W-2 (can fuck you during tax season)
Can you pay your bills? Yes, if you're willing to dedicate the time and juggle multiple clients to keep yourself freelance
Where to look for jobs: Friend referrals, Craigslist (just do you research on the company/person before you meet them).
Real Estate Assistant
For my second year in Los Angeles this is what I did. 7 days a week.... I don't recommend it and I'll tell you why. I was "salary" ($1600 a month) with bonuses (if a house closed under a million I got a $500 bonus and if it was over a million, I got a $1000 bonus). It sounds great. And at first I thought it was. But it worked out to be on-call all of the time which messed with my head. I would wake up daily with "to dos" and texts on Saturday's at 8am saying "can you work now" with what I needed to get done that day. I'd be sitting at an audition and my boss would text me with what needed to get done right then and there because I could just do it from my phone.... and then I wouldn't perform well when I got in the room.
Pros: good pay (if taxes are taken out - if not, you'll be hit with a HUGE tax bill), flexible hours, income you can count on
Cons: Time consuming, mind consuming, life consuming. I didn't have a weekend off (other than when I went to see my family) for a year and 4 months. You are someones assistant and they basically own you.
Can you pay your bills? Yes. But you pay in time and mental space too.
Where to look for work: There are 90 Bajillion realtors in Los Angeles - google companies (the big ones are Rodeo Real Estate, John Aaroe Group, Coldwell Banker, Sotheby's) and look up their different offices with their different agents - email them and sell yourself. It could be worth it.
I am new to the catering world, but my fiancé has made a living doing it since he moved to LA (he has since transitioned to other work). We've all seen Party Down, right? I was just working a job for a Baywatch screening and upon arriving to the paramount lot I noticed that our catering company was legitimately full of insanely beautiful artist. It sucked to be so loudly in a "haves" and "have-nots" situation (and clearly being a have-not side), but I appreciated being in it with a bunch of like-minded people. Artists who want to talk about classes, auditions, that student film they just did and can't wait to see the footage from. It's not a forever job, but I love it as a temporary placeholder to pay for car insurance.
Pros: solid pay, flexible hours, lots of companies to work with, most gigs are at night so your days are free, lots of actors do this so there can be a supportive community
Cons: mundane work, sometimes dealing with awful people
Can you pay your bills? Yep, you just have to get established with enough companies
Where to look for work: I'd start here. Go to their websites and apply. And ask around for referrals. (Some companies base their pay on your experience, so keep that in mind).
Brand Ambassador Work
These are my favorite jobs to work. They are usually events and they can sometimes give you great swag (I worked for an event for an athletic brand and got to keep my whole outfit!) They are usually one day events and good pay.
Pros: good money, gigs can be fun, most people you work with are artists
Cons: irregular jobs, hard to get established with enough companies
Can you pay your bills? Probably not, but it's a nice supplemental income.
Where to look for work? I have gotten all of my BA work through referrals and stalking on Instagram. It took a bit but I am now with a few companies I love. Here is one that is always down to meet with potential new people! When you work a BA job ask around - what other companies do people work with?
This is a hit-or-miss for me. I have a family that I have nannied for since I got to Los Angeles and I love them. They have become my family.
Pros: Surplus of work, you can make amazing connections with families, no education needed, kids are a great source of exercise
Cons: Not super flexible because families depend on you
Can you pay your bills? Yep! If they need you for enough hours
Where to look for jobs: Care.com y'all! I found the family I have nannied for for years (they are the flower girl and ring bearer for our wedding) on Care.com.
I'm throwing this one on here because it is always an option in Los Angeles. There are shops everywhere in LA and they need staff (especially during the holidays) and while the work might not be great at least you can pay your bills while looking for something better.
Pros: steady income, familiarity of workplace, W2 income
Cons: not much flexibility, not great pay (most are minimum wage - $10.50 an hour), can be demanding.
Where to look for work: The Grove(West Hollywood), The Americana (Glendale), 3rd Street Promenade (Santa Monica) or check out boutiques in your area!
Oh hey there
Thank you for stopping by. My name is Ansley and I am a creative being. With not much to show for it. Feel the same?! Welcome! For all of you artists out there who are just hanging in there - this is for you!