Knowing when and if you should quit your day job is one of many things that runs through the minds of actors. As I was training some actors this weekend the question around quitting the day job cropped up. I realised that not only would this actor be worrying, but loads more of you would be too. So today I want to give you my honest opinion of when to quit your day job.
Before I dive in, I want to let you know that you are not alone when it comes to ruminating about work. Knowing when to quit your day job is a massive worry for every single actor at some point in their journey, and for good reason.
Lots of us feel a loyalty towards our day jobs because this job feeds and clothes us. Lots of actors feel guilty when they have to “pull a sicky” for an auditon. Guilt is an awful feeling to deal with even if we don’t necessarily like our day job, because many of us just aren’t comfortable with lying.
Here’s the problem
Quit – how do we financially survive? We have to have some form of income to be able to firstly, and most importantly, live. Putting food on the table is a top priority.
Stay – how do we juggle acting around our job, especially when we’re needed during working hours to shoot or to audition? Without attending auditions our acting career simply doesn’t survive.
So it’s all about survival – survival of our day to day lives and survival of acting career. As in the animal world, it literally is survival of the fittest.
Knowing when to quit your day job is a big decision because something is going to be affected. Whichever path you choose there will be change one way or another. If you have a family to feed then there is all the more pressure, especially if our partners/family don’t give their full support to our acting dreams. When we see it from their perspective; keeping a roof over your head, paying the bills it is understandable. But then they also need to see things from our perspective too – acting is the one thing you’re passionate about, the one thing that makes you truly happy and with hard work can have huge financial benefits.
What wins – money or happiness?
Tough question hey? And the obvious is money, but take the route of paying the bills and you literally drudge through life existing rather than living. On the other hand if you think by quitting your day job the acting work is going to flood in, you are mistaken.
Can you see how important it is not to take this decision lightly?
When to quit your day job
Quitting your day job is all about getting the timing right, but it’s also about knowing your financial responsibilities, because like it or lump it, the bills HAVE to be paid and you HAVE to eat!
Here are two examples of actors I have trained who faced this exact challenge.
Actor 1: Began taking acting training. This actor was VERY lucky in that they landed 3 consecutive PAID roles in a short space of time. Not bad! So what did she do? Quit her full time job.
Actor 2: Began taking their acting training and decided to work a flexible job. This actor knew she had choice over the hours she worked and could refuse shifts if she wanted. She didn’t particularly like the job, but kept at it so she could fund her training, marketing materials and lifestyle away from acting, but also have the freedom to go to auditions and work as an actor.
I bet you can guess the outcome…
Actor 1’s plan had backfired, she had no choice but to get another job. She kept flitting around from job to job and all the while she was doing this, her eye wasn’t on the acting ball. Quitting prematurely meant she had wasted valuable time.
Actor 2 continued to work in her flexible job. She built up trust from her bosses that she will do shifts when the acting front is quiet, but most importantly has gone onto work only in paid acting jobs and has built up a good reputation for herself as a reliable, trustworthy actress and reliable at work too.
Actor 1 is unhappy trying to make ends meet and actor 2 is happily climbing the career ladder making ends meet through both acting AND the day job.
Moral of the story
To prematurely quit your job is a foolish idea, as said earlier you have financial responsibility. To work around acting it is always better to firstly be aware of the financial responsibility you have. This way you can see where any cut backs can be made to make sacrifices for your acting career. Once you know your financial responsibility, it is then a good idea to find a job that is flexible that gives you the same money you need to survive, but also gives you the freedom and choice around auditions and filming/production dates.
This is a win, win situation because your bank balance stays relatively healthy, there is no guilt on your part for not working when you have an audition or acting job, if you have family responsibilities you keep them happy and you also keep yourself happy knowing you can realistically pursue your dreams.
Bear in mind that there will be times when you will be skint because you’ve paid out all your money on travelling to auditions or on headshots/marketing materials. When pursuing an acting career you can’t expect to live a life full of luxuries, unless you are in a good place financially in the first place.
So here’s my next piece of advice on when to quit your day job: don’t! Don’t quit it until acting is bringing in similar or more money than your day job and is giving you a lifestyle you are enjoying living. Until that time comes, keep it flexible.
What resonated with you? Let me know in the comments box below, or share with your acting friends, it could be just the thing they need!
Here’s to your success!
Don’t give up, just keep learning.
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Louise O’Leary is a professional actress, method acting coach and Artistic Director of StandBy Method Acting Studio. Her mission is to help as many actors as she can achieve their acting dreams and become the best actor they can be. Join the hundreds of actors around the world who have downloaded her eBook “Respect your craft, discover my top 45 method acting secrets to launch your career“. Download here and be on your way to acting success today!
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