You want the dream job, but you need to make money in the interim. One of the tricks to finally landing a gig in production and film (or most creative fields) is to have wide open availability. If you need 100% availability, you cannot have a part-time job. Even waiting tables requires a set schedule and can be limiting.
A lot of people trying to get into a competitive industry means not everyone will make it– at least, not at first. It saddens me to receive messages that read, “I read your blog, followed your advice, and I’ve been trying to get jobs for months, and still nothing. I have to make money. Now what?”
I can’t give any kind of helpful answer other than one of sympathy. I don’t know why you aren’t getting hired, but it may be that you just need more time to meet the right people in the right situation. Looking back at my own long journey into the industry, trying to get a PA gig (and failing) for months wasn’t due to lack of effort at my part — there simply weren’t any gigs available. If that’s the case with your situation, this post is for you!
How to Make Money Without a Part-Time Job
Thanks to the internet and smartphones, there are a few solid options today for generating income in unique ways, and best of all, they don’t tie you down to a schedule.
I’m in a mid-market town and work will slow to a crawl, sometimes for 2-3 months. When this happens, I’ve been able to make money in other ways.
Perhaps the most flexible of all gigs! You set your own hours and turn on your app whenever you want to work. Do your research and make sure Lyft/Uber is offering a sizable signing bonus in your city.
If you have an older car that doesn’t fit the parameters for Lyft/Uber, try shuttling goods instead! Download the Favor or Postmates app, set your own hours, and pick up and deliver items on demand in exchange for a percentage and tips.
Work for Amazon Flex.
Amazon is slowly taking over the world, and with Prime Now delivery offered in several cities, they’re hiring even more employees to be delivery drivers. I don’t know the details about how many hours per week you have to work, or if you have to sign up for shifts — but it’s worth looking into.
For whatever reason, I was an Ebates contrarian for years. “Cash back while shopping online? Pffft,” I always thought when I saw the commercials. Recently, a colleague explained how it works, and explained I was very wrong. It’s amazing. The majority of places I shop online offer some sort of cash-back incentive. Most recently, I picked up a $38 oil change and tire rotation from Groupon, and since I used Ebates which offers 9% cash-back for Groupon purchases, $3.42 was added instantly to my Ebates balance. You won’t be able to retire from your Ebates checks, but you’ll save a few extra dollars every time you shop online — and that adds up.
Referral Bonus: Use this invite to get a bonus $10 for signing up!
Rent your spare bedroom on airbnb.
If you live in an enviable neighborhood (or close to a city) and have a bedroom to spare, airbnb can be a a FANTASTIC way to make an extra buck.
Rent your car using Turo.
This only makes sense if you have another working vehicle you can rent out. (And when you’re a PA, you need a car.) I haven’t used Turo yet, but it’s an interesting concept. I’d triple-check how insurance works before getting on board.
One sluggish winter, I raked in about $2k writing dozens of mindless articles (“How to Polish Silver in 10 Steps”, “Teach Your Cat to Walk on a Leash”, etc). There are other opportunities for gigs beyond writing– web research, data entry, graphic design, even very poorly paying video gigs. Be warned, it does take patience and persistence to find (and land) anything that pays more than $2/hour.
I’ve never used Fiverr — it’s a similar idea as Upwork, but each project usually pays $5 at the minimum (if you’re skilled at something, you can charge more).
Baby sit or pet sit.
If you’re a decent person with pet or child experience, Care.com has amassed a network of skilled individuals to meet these needs. (The major downside is this requires more of a scheduling commitment than any of the other options.)
House sit + sublet your place combo.
If you want to get creative about making a buck, look for free shot-term house sitting gigs in your city. Then, while you’re housesitting, you list your place on airbnb. However, if your housesitting gig cancels at the last minute and you’ve already rented your place out, you’ll be in a little bit of a pickle. (Also, don’t rent out the place you’re housesitting on airbnb. That is frowned upon, guys.)
Offer Lessons on Udemy.
If you have knowledge or experience that would be advantageous to someone else, you can design a course and sell it. Whether it’s web design, knowing a second language, academics, business, how to make a successful YouTube channel, or can advise others on test prep, etc, etc… you can create a Udemy course and get paid for every student that enrolls. It seems to be primarily video-driven courses, so it’s a good thing you’re pursuing a job in video production.
Flip furniture on Craigslist.
This requires effort, skill, and an investment on tools and/or paint, but acquiring free furniture, sanding it down, repainting it, and reselling it can be a fun weekend project AND a good way to make cash.
Work odd jobs.
I have a friend that works as a caretaker of properties, and this summer, I spent a couple of weeks working with him when I was in between production gigs. I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Even now, I’ll work with him on my days off just to stay in the loop.
Make and sell stuff on Etsy.
I’m not crafty at all so I’ve never entertained this, but if you’ve got a knack for crafting something unique — like making stained glass or decorating wine glasses or something — try opening an Etsy store. You have nothing to lose.
I say this with great hesitation because I can’t stand seeing this crap in my newsfeed, but MLM (multi-level marketing) might be an option if the product/company already aligns with the life you lead, OR if you came out of the womb with the ability to make a sale. (Don’t try to sell me ItWorks or Advocare products on Facebook when you have a beer gut.)
Keep Track of Your Expenses
When you’re freelance, in the eyes of the government and lovely IRS, you are a sole proprietor. If you get paid via W9, be prepared to pay around 30% of your gross income in taxes.
Even if you only make $10,000, having to cough up $3,000 come April is a HUGE hit. Keep track of your expenses — they may constitute as write-offs.
What are examples of write-offs when you work in film production? Here’s a quick list. (Please note, I am not an accountant. I highly recommend hiring an accountant to help with this as the taxation waters of self employment are murky.)
- Phone bill
- Electronics purchases, including cell phones, computers, camera gear, external hard drives, software, etc
- Health Insurance, plus any trips to the doctor/dentist that you have to pay for out of pocket
- Car Insurance
- Mileage incurred for business
- Student loan interest
- Meals (Can be written off as a business expense to some extent)
- Car rentals/flights/hotel stays (if traveling for business)
- StaffMeUp membership fee
Hang In There
Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas and will help pay the bills until you start working on sets full time.
The winter is notoriously slow in the film/television world. You may feel desperation settling in around mid-January, but you are NOT alone! It’s slow this time of year for most, even ones who’ve worked in the business for years.
I know what it’s like to cold call companies and be told no. I’ve said it elsewhere around here, but I graduated college in the spring of 2008. That autumn, the recession hit, and it hit hard. I had zero income from November of 2008 until February of 2009, and even then, it was extremely intermittent until July. I can’t remember the details, but I’m certain I was pulling in less than $500/month during that stretch.
Persistence, and following up with people who promised to “keep me in mind” is what ultimately led to the first job. (Busting my butt and trying to make myself indespensible is what led to a steady work stream after that.)
How do you make money aside from television/film gigs?