Monday, March 15, 2010

Making a living

I need to be better about money. I used to be, but with the move to Chicago, starting over again making connections and learning a new city I gave myself a break. A recent conversation with my best friend (and money maven) reminded me that it's time for both of us to get back on the bandwagon. She told me to check out as a daily motivator, and one of the first articles I read was about an artist who quit her job and went's a sign.
One of the quotes from that article was from a book called The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money by Chris Guillebeau. "Here's a shocking idea: artists are not destined to be poor. If you're an artist, you can actually make money from your art, feel good about it, and build up a following to support your independent career. Seriously."
I have to remind myself that just becuase I'm making art and doing what I love, doesn't mean I don't have the right to make a living. I may never make bank executive money, but my parents never made a ton of money either and have been able to save, spend wisely and provide my brothers and me with a solid middle class upbringing.
Doing what I do, I am never going to have a traditional IRA, so I set up my own Roth IRA and I put money into it every month, I have a life insurance policy that I pay into every month and I pay my student loans every month. My income may not be as regular as most people, but my bills are just as regular and that means I need to set up a budget and stick to it. We all know people who have "done the theatre thing" for several years out of college and then realized that it was time to get a real job to support a real life and a family. I know I am still young, the burnout might still be on the horizon, but I am proposing that it is possible to live as an artist and support a family if you plan ahead, live within your means, and take work that pays like work and not like a hobby.
(my apologies to actors, I know that it is a LOT harder for you, but I also think that there is a slippery slope of too many actors willing to work for too little that is driving down the value of your work, which I think you deserve to be paid well for)


  1. "Too many actors are willing to work for too little"

    I have to disagree with you there. It's just a fact of life when you are an actor that you compete a buyers' market. There are SO MANY actors, that if you hold out for that show that pays out big time, you may have YEARS between gigs (and then what kind of actor are you?). Now if companies starting putting aside more of the budget to employ actors, that would be the bees' knees, but let's face it, why would they do that when they can pay us $50 (or less) for an entire production? They operate by the business/profit model.

    As someone who has worked both as and actor and as a designer, it's harder to hire tech staff because there aren't nearly as many of those folks in the world. If you want a good designer, you have to compete for it using your wallet.

    I think part of actor the problem is that every tom dick and harriet thinks they can be an actor. Starting back with Lana Turner and those folks- it became everyone's dream to be discovered at the soda fountain and suddenly be a star. But you and me both know that ain't how it works. And futhermore, acting, honest to goodness acting is HARD WORK. I wish there was a way to screen out those mother-f*ckers who just think acting is a vehicle to fame. Then MAYBE I could get paid for all my hard work too.

  2. I totally agree with you, and I think you just described my slippery slope. I don't know if it's anything that any individual actor can fix, but what I see is the work of actors being undervalued becuase there are so many "fame seekers" at the bottom that it's hard to discern the hard working talented professionals. You get used to a low pay scale and it moves up the ladder. The companies can pay less, so they do. It has gotten to the point that (or so I've heard) even some of the top companies in the city don't have to pay their actors a good wage.

  3. If you're looking for a good money management resource, I recommend

    Pretty fantastic free service that tracks your personal spending, budgets, debt, IRA's, etc. in a way that some of us less money-minded folks can handle. It doesn't dumb it down, but just presents it in a readable fashion.

    I always find it almost ironic that as a Props person, I can handle multiple show budgets at one time, plan ahead, and track hundreds of purchases and receipts. Yet I cannot handle my personal finances nearly so well. Ah, well.