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Love Your Day Job (Or Get a New One)

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I joke that I have had just about every “day job” a person could possibly have, within reason. Everything from a slew of bartending jobs, to exhausted temp worker, to bikini waitress. (In case you’re curious, a bikini waitress is a waitress who serves your entire meal while wearing only a bikini… just imagine running hot food from a kitchen in your bikini. Still the hardest/worst job I ever had.)

There’s an old Hollywood joke that I still get a lot. You tell someone you’re an actress and they say, “oh, what restaurant do you work at?” Har-har. Look, I think if working in a restaurant makes you happy then you should go right ahead and keep doing that with pride. It did not make me happy, nor did any of the other aforementioned jobs. What they did make me feel was:

  • Like a stereotype of a failed actress.
  • Like there was absolutely no way I could make these jobs the potential lifelong income generators they might have needed to be. (I imagined myself trying to bikini waitress at 60, and it wasn’t pretty.)
  • Like I was wasting my intelligence and talent… which in turn put a lot more pressure on my acting career. I felt like every role I didn’t get wasn’t just disappointing for the obvious reasons, but also because I felt so much like I wasn’t contributing anything of value to the world.

I want to reiterate again that I don’t think that waitresses, bartenders, or temps aren’t contributing things to the world. Obviously that’s not true, but when I was doing those things this was the way I judged myself.

I thought about what I could do to change this. What kinds of skills did I have that I wasn’t using? I actually asked myself what I would like to do. This is an interesting thing to do, if you haven’t tried it. As actors (or as anyone pursuing a career that’s success-rate is low, or slow to come) we always want to say that we’d really just like to do that thing we’re most passionate about. Of course I want to be an actor. But what would I like to do that could allow me to continue pursuing acting?

From this, I rekindled a childhood web design interest and combined it with the social media and writing skills that I was already using within my acting career. I’ve been working from home as a social media consultant for about five years now. All of my clients know that I’m also an actress, and they could absolutely care less about the times that I need to run to an audition. I make a lot more money than I ever did in restaurants. Most importantly I actually really like the work I’m doing.

Weirdly, I look at social media as an extension of my acting skills. When you take on a new client, you’re helping to build a voice (kind of like building a character) for a brand. There’s a lot of listening, improv, and creative brainstorming involved. More than anything, it has changed my life because I know that I can keep doing it for as long as I need or want to, and still have the freedom to pursue acting and other creative projects.

So, if you’re stuck in a job that you hate, or even one that you’re just not thrilled about, I’d like to recommend a few things.

  • Write down your skills and think about what kind of jobs they might be a great fit for.
  • Think about what you’d like to do as a day job, and really mean it.
  • Search job sites like upwork.com and flexjobs.com for positions that are either very flexible or telecommute-based.

If you’re interested in telecommute work, I recently started a blog series about it at teleworkacademy.com—just some free advice on how to get started in the work from home world!

Laura Hunter Drago

About Laura Hunter Drago

Laura Hunter Drago is a producer, writer, and actress living in Los Angeles, California. When she’s not making art, she works in marketing & web design. Laura is a proud SAG-AFTRA member and guest speaker at the SAG Conservatory, is the assistant editor-in-chief of Ms. in the Biz, and is the co-founder of New Girl Pictures. She also likes baking, obsessing over Olympic ice dancers, and having long conversations with her dog Buffy. She dislikes being bored. Most recently, Laura is finishing up post-production on her first feature, To The New Girl and hosting a podcast about women in the entertainment industry called Creative Herstories.