If you’re a working or aspiring actor, then you know how unstable it can be as a career when you’re just starting out.
Gigs are often few and far between, and a huge portion of your time is spent applying for roles and attending auditions and callbacks.
So, how do you make sure you’ve got a steady flow of income to support yourself while pursuing your dream?
Well, your best option is to pick up a side hustle or two– or what the acting industry calls a survival job (more on this term in a bit).
Keep reading to find out what a survival job is, why you need it, and what the best side hustles are for actors!
Looking to make money fast? Checkout:
- DoorDash – Gat paid $23 per hour while out on deliveries as a DoorDash courier!
- Instacart – Make money delivering groceries to people as an Instacart Shopper!
What Is A Survival Job?
The term “survival job” has historically been used in the acting industry to refer to the jobs you pick up on top of acting to help pay the bills.
While a cushy 9-5 comes with job security and benefits, it also takes up vital time in the day you can spend attending auditions and callbacks.
So, the appeal of survival jobs is that they often have flexible hours, or at least operate outside of regular business hours.
Ideally, a survival job pays enough to sustain your lifestyle and keeps you from being broke without draining too much of your time so you can pursue your acting career.
Why Actors Sometimes Need Survival Jobs
Chances are, if you’re trying to break into the acting world, you’re living in a metropolitan area where the film and commercial industry is booming.
The downside to this?
Rent isn’t cheap.
I mean, take the cost of living in New York as an example, where a one bedroom apartment costs nearly $2,000; almost 25% more than a city like Boston.
You’ve also got to feed yourself daily, pay for a gym membership, transportation, acting classes, and maybe voice or dance lessons–it all adds up.
Odds are if you’ve found this article, the acting gigs aren’t covering all of your expenses.
That’s where the survival job saves the day.
Finding a survival job that you can do on your own time, or in the early morning/evening when you won’t have auditions to attend, is the best way to have your cake and eat it too.
Time to jump into the best survival jobs for actors you can use to make ends meet!
The Best Side Hustles For Actors
If you’re ready to boost your income and while still having time to focus on your passion, then keep reading as we breakdown the best side jobs for actors.
1. Delivery Driver
In the world of gig apps, one of the most popular options is to work for various food delivery apps.
There are tons of ways to get paid to drive for various fast food and grocery delivery services.
Some of the most popular delivery apps include:
- DoorDash – Get paid $23 per hour on average while out on deliveries. You can read our post is DoorDash worth it for more info!
- Uber Eats – Earn an average of $15 per hour! Check out our post on how to make money with Uber Eats or our post on Uber Eats driver tips!
- Instacart – Earn between $10 and $20+ per hour! Check out our post is Instacart worth it for more info!
Jobs like Instacart require a car since you’re shopping for groceries and delivering it to people’s homes.
But, jobs like DoorDash or Uber Eats also let you deliver via bike or scooter in many markets, so this is a great survival job for actors if you don’t have a vehicle.
Plus, if you’re on a bike, this is basically getting paid to workout as you make deliveries, so that’s a win-win.
How much you can make really depends on the app you’re using and when/how often you’re driving.
Additionally, you typically get more orders during the dinner rush or weekends, so focus on driving at the best times.
Ultimately, if you want a straightforward side hustle for actors that’s proven to pay, it’s hard to beat food delivery gigs.
Extra Reading – How Much Can You Make A Week With Instacart?
DoorDash Disclaimer: Actual earnings may differ and depend on factors like number of deliveries completed, time of day, location, and expenses. Hourly pay is calculated using average Dasher payouts while on a delivery (from the time you accept an order until the time you drop it off) over a 90 day period and includes compensation from peak pay, tips, and other incentives.
2. Online Freelancer
If you have skills you can sell online, why not go the freelancer route for your next actor survival job?
Websites like Upwork and Fiverr have tons of freelance job opportunities for gigs like:
- Freelance writing
- Creative writing
- Graphic design
- Web design and programming
- Video editing
- Voice over work
Some of these gigs, like voice over work, lend themselves well to pursuing your acting career, so this is potentially relevant way to make money online with freelancing.
Different industries and skills pay different amounts, so it’s impossible to give an exact number here.
For example, freelance writers typically get paid per word, which can vary anywhere from $0.03 – $0.10 for beginners and goes all the way up to $0.50 or even $1 for extremely technical articles with interviews.
Similarly, you might charge $50 for a freelance graphic design or $1,000 depending on your skills, project length, and what’s involved.
The key is to build a portfolio of your work over time.
Once you get a few jobs and clients, you can build your reputation and start charging more for your work!
3. Personal Trainer
One of the best-fitting survival jobs for actors is to become a personal trainer.
If you love fitness or even need to be in shape for a particular role or your general character type, this is also a great idea.
Granted, you usually have to become certified to be a personal trainer at most gyms, so this costs money upfront.
Additionally, many gyms take a percentage of how much personal trainers charge, and it can take time to find your first clients, so this is another thing to consider.
However, if you live in a city with a high cost of living and work at a high-end gym, you can charge some pretty high hourly rates.
According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for personal trainers is $62,665.
Again, building a client list can take time, but once you have a few good relationships established, it’s easy to get more clients through referrals.
The bottom line is that if you need to stay in shape and enjoy fitness, this is one of the best side hustles for actors there is.
If you’re trying to get yourself on the big screen, odds are you’ve got a look made for print as well.
Modeling is a great side gig for actors, especially since you’ll be making more connections in the industry and building your portfolio.
There are different niches you can focus on, including runway, lingerie, swimsuits, plus-size fashion, and even hand modeling.
Find the one that best suits you and start growing your network. You can Google modeling agencies in your city and start making some calls to get started.
According to Indeed, models earn around $21 per hour on average.
However, commercial and advertising models can make an average of $200 an hour for one campaign.
Smaller brands will have smaller budgets, so this isn’t a guaranteed rate you should expect, but it’s something to aspire for.
Additionally, your state and city also influence how much money you can make with modeling alongside your talents and looks.
New York and California are known for having the most available modeling jobs as well as some of the highest rates, so if you live there you should definitely consider it.
Just be cautious of modelling agencies that charge an arm and a leg for getting started since this isn’t ideal if you’re looking for a survival job and don’t have money to spend on your first photos.
5. Online Tutoring
Another category of good part time jobs for actors is online tutoring; especially when you look at teaching English online.
There are plenty of tutoring companies that hire online English tutors to teach English to students in a virtual classroom.
Many of these companies are based in China, so this is a perfect survival job for actors since your class times are either early in the morning or late at night to accommodate your student’s timezone.
Two popular ESL companies are VIPKid and QKids.
You need to have a degree and complete some TEFL certification to teach for either company, but both companies can pay upwards of $22 per hour!
Of course, English is just one subject you can consider.
You can teach other subjects, like math or SAT preparation, with companies like PrepNow Tutoring.
Alternatively, if you want to work on your own, you can provide private tutoring through Zoom or in-person to students in your city!
You can post your tutoring services on marketplaces like Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace to find clients.
All of these options can take time, but if you got good grades and want an online side hustle for actors, tutoring could be it!
6. Serving Jobs
Serving and bartending are two of the classic survival jobs for actors.
Thanks to friendly tippers, this is also an effective way to make the equivalent of a full-time job if you work the right hours and at the right venue.
Minimum wage for tipped employees is currently at $7.25, but with the additional tips you make during a shift, you can make at least $20 an hour or even more if you get lucky and it’s a good night.
Of course, how much you make in tips depends on how much you’re working, the type of restaurant or bar you’re working at, and whether or not you’re working during busy hours– so expect that amount to vary based on these factors.
But, serving ables or bartending has many other benefits, especially for aspiring actors.
Not only will you be getting tons of steps in, but you also learn to think on the spot and you have to put on a bit of a show in order to bring in the tips.
You can think of it as improv practice and skill building for your future career!
7. Temp Agencies
Some temp jobs are 9-5, but there are also so many positions that work in shifts or offer night and early-morning shifts that won’t get in the way of your acting.
If you work with an agency you can give your availability and focus on roles that work with your schedule.
You can even pick up jobs in other cities if you have to travel for gigs and have some free time while you’re there.
The only downside is the inconsistency involved with working for different companies, doing different roles, and accepting different levels of pay everywhere you go.
However, if you work a role you enjoy and do a good job, there’s a good chance that company will request you back for another job.
You also make more money depending on the complexities of the skills you have.
For example, IT and Data Analysis will have higher pay rates than working as a car park attendant at a concert.
Depending on the role, you can make anywhere from $12-17/hr. Anything more technical can earn you $20 or more an hour.
Temp agencies are always looking for people, and if you need to make money as an actor and are in a pinch, this is probably one of the faster options there is.
Extra Reading – How To Make $1,000 In A Day.
8. Virtual Assistant
If you enjoy working online and have a high level of attention to detail, becoming a virtual assisstant is one of the best survival jobs for actors.
Typically, virtual assistants help their clients with tasks like:
- Appointment scheduling
- Calling clients
- Data entry
- Handling emails
- Making travel reservations
- Social media marketing tasks
Beginner virtual assistants generally earn around $10 to $15 per hour, but according to Indeed, the average weekly pay for a virtual assistant in the U.S. is roughly $1,000 per week.
Expert virtual assistant you can make $50+ per hour however or even build out their own team of VAs that they then manage and outsource work to, so there’s a lot of potential here.
9. Customer Service Agent
Many customer service agent roles can be done virtually, especially with more companies embracing the remote work lifestyle.
Plus, many customer service roles require night or weekend shifts in order to offer their customers round the clock service– which is ideal if you need to keep your weekdays free for auditions!
You can expect to make anywhere from $11-$20 an hour, depending on the company and the technicality of the role.
There are so many job postings available for these types of roles, so you’re bound to find something that suits your schedule and interests.
Extra Reading – Get Paid To Give Advice.
10. Party Character
Another one of the best side hustles for actors is being a party character.
This is probably one of the most classic survival jobs for actors as well, and hey, this job actually involves acting!
In large cities, there are plenty of companies that hire entertainers to perform at events like birthday parties, work gatherings, or other events.
Birthday parties are definitely a common one however, so you might be able to make money by dressing up as a Disney character, clown, mascot, pirate, or anything else you can think of!
You can even work for yourself and advertise your services online, as long as you have your own costumes to use.
You can earn about $10-20 an hour starting out and you’ll usually receive a pretty good tip with each gig as well.
Extra Reading – How To Make $50 A Day.
Tips For Finding An Acting Survival Job
Now that you know the best side jobs for actors you can use to get by, here are a few tips to actually land those jobs!
- Spruce Up Your Resume. Applying for jobs is a job itself, but having an up-to-date resume is important. So, tailor your resume slightly with skills to match the job you’re applying to, and be sure to write a cover letter if the job looks like it needs one.
- Turn To Your Network. If you’re in a pinch, it’s a good idea to turn to your network to look for survival jobs. A lot of companies hire internally or through word of mouth, so you might not even see job postings before positions get filled.
- Keep It Simple. If you need a simple, reliable way to make extra cash, gigs like driving for DoorDash or other food delivery apps is a solid bet. Similarly, you can try working for temp agencies or picking up a serving job. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel here, and a lot of survival jobs for actors are always hiring.
And, above all else, don’t give up!
Even if you have to take a break from your acting career and spend more time on a survival job, it’s okay to take time to focus on your finances and to build up a cash reserve before you focus more on acting.
Extra Reading – How To Make $1,000 Extra Per Month.
It may take some time to get your big break as an actor, so finding a good side hustle for actors is necessary if you want to make some money while still having time to pursue your dreams.
And, I hope this list of the best survival jobs for actors at least sets you off on the right path.
Additionally, remember that you can play some financial defence as well; learning to save more money and living more frugally can go a long way in helping you make ends meet while you focus on your acting gigs.
Best of luck in your acting endeavors!
Looking for other money-making ideas? Checkout:
Selena Fulham knows how valuable having a side hustle can be. She’s a freelance content writer with a focus on SaaS, B2B technology, social media, and the art of making money online. Currently based in Montreal, Quebec, Selena can usually be found either drinking coffee, hiking up a mountain, or snowboarding down it.