I have tried various day jobs over the years, but have never found one that worked for me. The boring ones just make me feel low and the more interesting ones are usually less flexible, so when an audition does come up, I either have to turn it down or do so much wrangling to get time off that I can never prepare for it properly.
Occasionally, the only way to go for the casting is to quit, or get sacked from, the other job, which might be a great story for the autobiography, but is very rough on the finances.
I’ve just noticed that a natural foods warehouse, which has recently opened near me, is looking for overnight workers. I’ve always been a bit of a night owl anyway, so I’m wondering if this might be the perfect side job. I would not only have an income, but be completely free for any jobs that came up during the day. It sounds like a win-win situation – or am I missing something?
As a career adviser in the arts, I am always happy to provide advice and support to actors (and the occasional agent) on the ins and outs of representation, but one thing I never do is recommend a specific actor to a specific agency, or vice versa, no matter how high my regard is for either party.
As with any other kind of ‘matchmaking’, no matter how well meaning, it is not so much about how talented either partner is in their own right, but about how good they will be together. Sometimes that chemistry works, sometimes it fizzles out, and every so often it blows up in the faces of all concerned.
Matching actors to day jobs can be a similar challenge. Unless actors have a very supportive partner or family willing to subsidise all their endeavours over an extended period of time, most will need at least one side job to bring in enough income to cover day-to-day living expenses, while also being flexible enough to allow them to do the acting work the job is there to support in the first place.
Traditional actor day jobs available range from bar work to teaching assistant to call-centre roles. More bespoke types of second job I have come across have included a celebrant for wedding and funeral services, a fine art painter and a part-time ambulance driver.
I knew one person whose second job was as a flight attendant, which not only carried the perk of frequent overnight stays in sunny locations, but also allowed him to say truthfully that his career was hitting the heights. Though no matter how glamorous their sideline, given the choice, most actors would rather be acting.
In the final analysis, how well a particular job is going to work out will depend more on the personality of the actor doing it and the priorities they have for their career rather than on the job itself. Night work may suit you, but what you should bear in mind is that the extra time during the day for your acting shouldn’t be at the expense of proper sleep.
BECTU’s Eyes Half Shut campaign quite rightly highlights that the long hours worked by film and TV crews can have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health as well as general safety. If you don’t put a sensible sleep routine in place for catching up on lost shut-eye, the freedom to work during the day could very quickly be offset by a drop in the quality of that work, which is never good.
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne