The Best Survival Jobs

by | May 22, 2017 | Acting, Blog, Modeling, Theatre

Being an actor is one of the most expensive jobs in existence.  You step into the acting world and immediately get slammed with a check-list of things you need to do or purchase in order to become a professional:  Acting classes, a singing coach, dance lessons, headshots, printing your headshots, audition clothing, subscriptions to casting sites, gym memberships, union dues etc.  Because of these necessities and the limited amount of paid jobs, most actors need a survival job.  So what is a survival job? A survival job is any job outside of acting that you have to have in order to pay your bills.  While I’ve had some great survival jobs, I’ve had some not-so-great survival jobs.  Instead of trying it out for yourself, here is my list for the top 5 survival jobs for actors!


Dog Sitter/Walker

One of the best aspects of this survival job is that you really only need a few clients to make this a comfortable source of income.  For example, my friend lives in a condominium where almost every resident has one or more pets.  One of the residents offers a laundry list of services for the dogs & cats in the building and she makes a killing; everything from a 15 minute walk to staying in the owner’s place while they’re out of town.  That is her full-time gig and she doesn’t even have to leave her complex.  I dog sit for one individual when she goes out of town and she pays me $50/day.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an extra $500-$1000/year and I’m still able to audition/work – and I’m not even actively seeking the work!  If you have the ability to crash at another person’s house and hang out with their dogs on-call, it can be pretty lucrative.  (I also find that dog owners brag about how much they love their dog sitter/walker to other dog owners which can bring even more cash flow your way!)

FedEx Handler

This is one you probably haven’t heard of before but let me tell you, I LOVED working for FedEx (despite how much we all complained about it).  It was only part time but we were paid minimums – so if you only worked 12 hours that week you still got paid for 18 hours.  I usually worked 2am-8am which left days open for work/auditions, I had full health and retirement benefits and developed some serious biceps.  It’s a difficult job physically, and waking up at 1am to get to work was brutal, but I am forever grateful for that job because it enabled me to pursue my career while still having a guaranteed check every week and medical coverage.

Lyft/Uber Driver

I know, I know … driving for Lyft/Uber has become the new waiting tables joke of acting life.  And as a disclaimer, I’ve never actually driven for Uber or Lyft.  But what other job can you completely set your own hours and have guaranteed work?  I have several friends who drive full time and they don’t mind the work and love that they can hit any audition or work a job any day without worrying about requesting time off or being fired from their job.

Personal Assistant

Being a personal assistant can be an insanely hard job – especially if you’re working for a horrible person.  Unfortunately, that was my experience.  I was more a doormat than a personal assistant, but the job did enable me free time to go to school and they worked around my schedule.  The pay was pretty good as well!  If you are a reliable person and good at multi-tasking, this would be an awesome survival job for you.  (Hint: look for somebody who is interested in the arts.  They will be far more accommodating when it comes to your schedule and availability.  They will probably even be excited for you when they find out you’ve scored an audition.)

Registered Nurse (RN)

If this job didn’t stop you dead in your tracks, I’d be insanely surprised.  This may not be a practical, doable or even an appealing option for everyone, but please believe me when I tell you it is absolutely possible.  It is a ton of hard work, a huge sacrifice of time, and can definitely cut into your ability to pursue acting work while you’re in a nursing program.  But I can’t imagine a more rewarding survival job (or should I say career??).  Nursing isn’t for everyone, but there is no other job that provides flexibility in schedule, great pay, benefits, and the ability to work ANYWHERE.
At the end of the day, most professional actors are not going to make nearly enough money to pay their rent every month, let alone make enough to retire on.  The most important thing to remember, especially if you’re pursuing this without any financial assistance from family, is that 99% of actors are currently unemployed.  Acting is a BUSINESS, and a fickle one at that.  As a savvy business person, you need to protect yourself with a solid survival job/career that will provide for you financially.  Not only will it alleviate the stress of wondering where your next paycheck is coming from, but it will actually enable you to be more free in your acting work because it won’t be hindered by that stress.