Being an actor in LA is not always as glorious as people imagine it to be. If you go anywhere outside of LA you can triumphantly share that with anyone and you can see the spark of envy in their eyes. In LA, not so much. We've all had a friend or two who tried acting and possibly didn't do to well, or did well, but learned how though it is and how much work it requires. One thing for sure - the beginnings are the hardest and we can probably all attest to it. So how do we get by?
Many times, if you have few to no credits, people might be hesitant putting you in their films unless you can prove to them that you're worth it, but doing so will require forging great relationships which in itself takes time and effort. So you end up on the bottom of the ladder, where pay is minimal (if any) and the word "no" is 15 times more common than the word "yes". So what do you do?
It's a common stereotype that all of the waiters and bartenders in LA are actors. It's not a bad stereotype. It makes sense. Your schedule is flexible, you get to interact with people and possibly meet someone who can make a difference and the tips get you by enough so that you can continue improving your craft - so there's that. You can always check out indeed, simplyhired or snagajob for listings near you. But it's the XXI century, so... onward.
Ubering and Lyfting. That's right, I just spoke about it 2 weeks ago, but I'll bring it back around. It's not a terrible idea to get into that. You're your own boss, you can go to auditions whenever you want and in between, make a few dollars. If you decide to lease a Prius, they have special deals for lyft and uber drivers as well. So you get hooked up, drive an environmentally cleaner car, save on gas and get paid at the same time while you meet people. It's not the worst idea.
Extra work? No I meant it literally, working as an extra. Check out extras castings, central casting and other websites for background work. I strongly recommend this for people who know how to use their free time productively. Many times these places will pay you for a whole day and may not use you at all, so be prepared for it. Use your time wisely as you wait. Learn a new monologue. Work on your social networks. Connect with people online and people who are sitting next to you. It's not (only) what you know, it's who you know. Acting is harder when you're an introvert.
Here's some other ideas for you that can get you income while leaving you enough time to improve your craft: real estate agent (pays well, too); dog walking or baby sitting - don't be offended by me listing these together, responsibilities are the same; promo work or catering - these two usually go hand in hand, as it usually means you're attending a party and either help people with snacks or just stand there and look pretty.
Finally there are active jobs that can get you few extra bucks and keep you in shape, i.e.: a physical trainer or a yoga instructor. Gyms often look for instructors for spin, Zumba and kickboxing dance workout classes as well. If you're good on your feet, that might be an option. And of course, if you can dance, then being a dance instructor or even a choreographer would work as well. What do all of these have in common? You're interacting with people and making connections.
Some people also add temp work and personal assistant to this list, but I'd disagree here. As a personal assistant, your task list might be longer than you'd expect. You must then focus on your employer looking good and less on you working on your craft. If it's something you know you can handle, sure, go for it, but if you have any doubt in your mind, I suggest thinking of something else. Temp work is similar in the way that you can piss a lot of people off and burn a lot of bridges if you disappear for an hour here and there or don't show up to work for a whole day. People still have expectations even if they pay the minimum wage, so unless you've got nothing else going on, I suggest you stay away from that.
UPDATE: I recently attended a webinar where advice was given that if you don't want to be a waiter, you can try other things like being a DJ or a web designer. Wow. I strongly disagree. I think it's probably very offensive to all web designers and DJs out there (my DJ friends agree). It's actually like someone saying, well, I'm a web designer, but I'll do some gigs as an actor too, why not, it's just talking, right? Anybody can talk.
Web designing and DJing is an art-form of its own. If you have no experience in either, don't think you can just sit down and be good at it, or worse, get in a club and start making money spinning the records. It doesn't work that way. In fact, it might be harder than getting an acting gig, so please, don't listen to anyone who tries to steer you in that direction.
Tomasz M. Yes. I try to keep my ideas fresh. There's a lot of people out there that don't have a solid plan set in stone. This might come in handy.
Julie S. Where were you when I was starting out? Oh wait, they didn't have Uber then. <3
Tomasz M. Just made a quick update. Please don't try to supplement your acting career by being a DJ. Unless you're a skilled DJ and have some good connections at the clubs, that is. Please. It's not a good idea. Just talk to any DJ you know.
Julie S. Hahahha
career . thank you for given wonderful information about this I try to keep my ideas fresh. There's a lot of people out there that don't have a solid plan set in stone. This might come in handy.