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!
"Want to go hiking this weekend?" - every Angeleno ever.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I knew I would love hiking. But I didn't realize it would become my thing. As my manager said "Oh you can always expect Ansley to be walking up a mountain somewhere!" And it's true! Florida doesn't have these glorious mountains and escapes that LA does and for some reason they are crack for me (and thank goodness I am marrying a man who loves to hike too). I discovered the All Trails app (and website too) and I highly recommend it - it's like Yelp for trails. It tells you the difficulty of the trail, shows photos, gives parking information, ratings, etc. We find most of our hikes on All Trails.
Everyone has heard of Runyon Canyon and probably hiked it at least once. It's right in West Hollywood and it's the spot you take your cousin who is in town from Idaho who wants to feel like she's "really in LA." Don't get me wrong, I love a quick Runyon trip when you can't get away to another hike, but it's definitely not one of my favorites. Los Angeles and the surrounding areas are full of killer hikes - want to see a waterfall? No problem! Hike with an ocean view? Got you covered! So pack a sandwich, grab a water bottle, lather on the sun scree and let's go for a hike!
Solstice Canyon - a 6 mile hike featuring ocean views, ruins of old homes and (sometimes) waterfalls. This was one of the first big hikes I did in LA and it will forever be one of my favorites. The ruins of the old homes are really cool and you can walk through and explore some of them. For more info: Click Here.
Angeles National Forest
Angeles is my escape. Whenever my fiancé and I need to get away we pack a backpack full of sandwiches and water and go out to Angeles. There are a bajillion hiking trails and it's only about 20-30 minutes from LA depending on where you go. So I am going to break this one up into two groups: Medium and Hard
My favorite Easy/Medium hike in Angeles is the Millard Canyon Falls - this is one of the most stunning places I have ever been in my life.
My favorite Hard hike in Angeles is the Dawn Mine Trail Loop - it is the #2 out of #138 trails in Angeles on All Trails and has a well-earned hard rating. My fiancé and I discovered it when we wanted to go for a legit long hike on Valentines Day. The trail follows the old rail road track and has a stop at an old mine - We didn't make it that far, but we intend to go back! The loop is 5.1 miles, but make sure you stay on the trial - there is a side trail with raddle snakes.
"Oh my gosh. I could literally never date an actor." - so many actors I know.
Let me be the first to tell you - it's tough. But it's also magical. To be in a relationship with someone who gets it: the rejection, the dropping everything for an audition, the struggle, the dream.
I was one of those people who said I couldn't date an actor. I needed to be the star in the relationship - I know that about myself: I require a lot of attention. (As do most actors). So I thought that dating an actor would make me play second fiddle or (God forbid!) share the spotlight. And you know what? It did both of those things at times. As would dating literally any other human-being on the planet.
Sitting here, writing this post on the eve of our anniversary, engaged and happy as hell, I can tell you that dropping that wall and dating an actor has been one of the best things I have ever done. As with everything, it's not for everyone. But! Here is why I veer on the side of "give it a chance."
1. Actors are people who (usually) aren't afraid dive into the emotional stuff
"A lot of guys have muscles. A lot of strong men in this world. I think it's important to show that even under all this strength there's a fragile side, a side that can be affected." - Sylvester Stallone. Rocky comin' in hot with his self-actualization! In LA - lots and lots of guys have muscles. But most don't show their fragile side. I don't want to make this a generalized statement because of course there are those douchey actors who are "actors" and they have super abs that they love to take selifes of, but even they have a tendency to not be afraid of emotion as much as men who aren't getting up and crying in front of a class full of their peers three a week.
2. Actors are great communicators
I haven't met an actor that didn't like to talk. Even if they were talking just to talk. And if they didn't like to talk - they at least liked to be heard. They like to figure things out with words because that is what they do for their artistic expression. They work out imaginary problems with made-up words. When in a committed relationship, this is an amazing quality. My fiancé and I would sit at my kitchen table for hours when we first started dating and just talk. About the world. Politics. Religion. Artistic expression. Communication forms of animals (specifically my cat), the state of food sources, etc and I realized that was one of the reasons I loved him. He loved to communicate his thoughts on literally everything (sometimes too much so). But these conversations made me think about things in a deeper way and it made me grow as a result. That takes me to my next point....
3. Actors like to think
Do you remember dating those Small Town, USA guys who you really enjoyed but looking back see that there was some sort of impenetrable force around their emotional core that even a Lightsaber couldn't crack? Most actors I know aren't like that. They are very in touch with how they feel and what they think. They have to be in control over their instrument in order to do their job and so it comes second nature to them. They like to know what's going on in the world. They like to have an opinion on it. They like to talk about it. And for me, that is something I love.
*everything in this post is subjecting and not based on anything other than personal experience.
Side jobs suck. There's no way to dice it. They can drain your time and can make you feel like a sack of shit because you're tray passing tuna tartar to the girl who you tested against last season for the role in that hot new TV show. Now her dreams are all laid out in front of her and you're getting her another glass of the Chardonnay - "Make sure your tie is straight! We can't have our waitstaff looking sloppy." *insert eye roll here* It's the worst. Now, don't get me wrong: I am incredibly thankful for the money. It allows me to live in LA, take classes, go out with my friends (sometimes) and now, pay for a wedding. It just sucks when you are literally watching people who have exactly what you want and you are on the outside looking in thinking "why not me?" So how do you keep your motivation in those situations?
1. Remember why you're doing it
This is a big one for me. I am currently working a band ambassador (BA) job for a big corporate company and it's great pay but the hours are long, the job is located in high tourist areas and the people, frankly, suck. Yesterday - during a 13.5 hour shift, yep, 13.5 hrs - I lost it and started crying. Luckily I was working with a fellow actress who totally got it and she was so sweet. She herself was on the verge of tears and we asked ourselves multiple times "Why the hell are we doing this to ourselves?" and then remembered May and June are super slow for auditions. Pilot season is over and everyone is gearing up to go on vacation before episodic season starts. So why no stockpile some money why we have the time? I have a wedding to pay for and I want to get back into class (I've taken a two month hiatus). So working this job is fueling my dream. It is worth it. Even if it doesn't feel right.
2. Make sure you're spending your off-time working on your art, not slacking
It is so tempting to when you get home from a long shift or when you have a day off to nap, watch TV, or spend all day scrolling the different social media platforms. You feel that you've earned this because you don't have an audition today and you worked three doubles back to back, right? I'm not going to say "wrong" because you do need some down time, but if you spend it all just chillin' you won't get anything done with your art/career and when you have to go back to your shitty side job you'll feel even more drained and mad at yourself that this is becoming your life. So make sure to spend time working on the thing you want to be doing. For example: I am writing this post before I go work a 10 hour shift for this big corporate brand ambassador job. I'm going to feel better about dedicating my whole Sunday to corporate America's greed because I spent 20 minutes this morning working on my art. Creating. Doing what I NEED to do. It makes the side job just a touch more bearable.
3. Your side job is your JOB not your LIFE
When you're hustling everyday just to make enough money to live in a city like Los Angeles or New York, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. You get up, get ready, go to work, deal with dumb shit that is not what you want to be doing, head home, shower, make dinner, play with your cat for five minutes and then hit the hay because you are so tired. When did you have time for your art? You didn't and it feels like shit. When you feel like that it's important to remind yourself that this is you JOB not your LIFE. You are doing this job to fuel your life. Get up 20 minutes earlier and write a page or two (even if they suck, just get it out), draw for a second or look up casting news on Deadline - do something to remind yourself that you are working towards your dream and your job is just that: a job.
4. It's temporary.
"Everything comes to an end." - Apparently some ancient proverb. What you are doing right now will end. What you're feeling right now will end. This is something to keep in mind when you're working a soul-crushing side job (and there are ohhhhh so many of them in LA). But! Remember, it is temporary. This is a means to an end. This is not THE end.
5. At the end of the day, it fuels what you love.
Do you have those friends who live in wherever-you-came-from-small-town-USA who you know are working that job they HATE but have to do it because that's all that's available to them? Yeah? Well guess what - that's not you! You got out. You are living your dream. Your are pursuing what sets your soul on fire. You are doing it. So what if you have to bust your ass a little bit to make that dream happen? Everyone has to work hard in life (well, most everyone). So would you rather be doing it in Small Town, USA working in a desk job you hate but keep because it's comfortable? Or! Would you rather work nights and weekends so you get to pursue your dream? Thank goodness you have one! That is a gift! And you need to treat it that way. Because this side of the dream- while not glamorous and super hard - is temporary and you're doing great!
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!