As professional performers, getting what we in the biz call a "survival job" is common to help make ends meet between contracts or as you transition from one city to another. And it’s nothing to beat yourself up about. It’s easy to judge yourself (or let others judge you) for not risking 150% to making sure your sole income comes from dance. That’s not realistic or smart for most of us who may not have a pile of money to fall back on. Being financially stable is something many artists struggle with and it’s important to our mental health that our finances are ok.
With that being said, we don’t have to settle for a job that makes us completely miserable. This is still your life, so you should still be as picky as you can be. Here are some ideas about which survival jobs are best for dancers and my experience getting my current survival job as I'm transitioning from cruise ship dancer to a diversified land-dweller.
Survival Job Ideas for Dancers
Getting certified in yoga, barre workouts, Pilates, and other fitness crazes are a great alternative to dancing full-time. Many working dancers teach on the side even with active contracts because they find it’s a great way to stay in shape while making extra cash. Check out some local studios and find what you like. Then see if you can get certified and start teaching.
There are plenty of creative careers outside of performing. Find other ways to release that creativity and make money from it. I like to write stuff, clearly. And I'm working on creating an income from this. But maybe you like to draw, design interior spaces, or perhaps you’re interested in something else entirely. There are huge amounts of creativity involved in problem solving so follow that and see where it might lead.
Depending on your skills, you could work on freelance projects for money anywhere in the world. With services like Upwork and the power of the internet, it’s worth looking into any freelance jobs you can get your hands on.
Teaching Your Craft
The saying goes, "Those who can’t do, teach." But hey, if you like it, teach it! Many people feel like this is a last resort option for them. To be honest, I’m one of those people. But really, there are worse things than teaching the wide-eyed, hungry youth the ins and outs of what you’re passionate about. Don’t get caught up in your pride. This industry is tough enough so it’s pointless to make your life harder unnecessarily.
Options to Transfer
When choosing a survival job, working for a big corporation might not be all that bad. I’ve considered getting a job at Starbucks or Lululemon because they have locations all over the world. If you decide to work in food service or retail, you might as well have options to transfer so that you have your side job ready to go if you need to move cities.
For many of us, theaters are our sanctuary and we couldn't imagine our lives without show business. Maybe you'd like to go into stage management, choreography, or casting down the road. Start seeking out internships in production or directing. You could make a little bit of money while you continue to pursue your performance career but you'll also be building your resume in other ways so that when you do want to stop performing, you have exciting options.
My Current Survival Job
While living at home, I got a job at a fitness club about three minutes from my house. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere with nice people and it works for now. It helped with some of my anxiety that my money was dwindling away and it gave me a reason to get out of the house. It’s definitely transitional as I don’t want to be rooted in south Florida, but it’s what I needed to do.
I've also been writing freelance assignments to improve my portfolio and to gain confidence in my writing and I’m applying to jobs in marketing and PR again so we’ll see how that goes.
Don’t be ashamed that you’re not working professionally in your craft. Keep auditioning and keep pursuing it. But be honest with yourself and look at things realistically. You need to make money and there are other things to do for money. And it’s ok. We all do it…
And don't get me wrong, I have emotional breakdowns about these things. It's an identity crisis in a sense and it's extremely uncomfortable. But if you have to get a survival job, it might as well be doing something that you wouldn't mind transitioning into if the time comes. Remember, everything you do matters. Don't get stuck if you can help it! Aim high! (This is a reminder to myself...)
What survival jobs do you have? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Let me know in the comments!