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Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

Giving Up the Day Job

Miranda Debenham - 16 January 2017

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This session was called to get advice on giving up the day job, and to see if the problems I have encountered have been the same as other people.

As a group, we felt that the following were major barriers to us giving up the day job:

o Its hard to find a job which allows you to take block bookings for projects, or even to be flexible with working hours or holiday
o Do we get stick on amateur vs professional too much? This can be restrictive for people working part-time, and doesn’t seem to be true in other countries, where all creative practice is given equal footing
o It’s hard to talk about non-full-time productions in job applications – they don’t seem to be respected or taken seriously as experience
o Having money in the family is often the way to make the leap – if you don’t have that, you’re screwed.
o It’s a lot easier to do creative work in your spare time if you don’t work full-time on your day job, and this becomes a vicious cycle

We talked about the possible options for slowly transitioning to living without a day-job, or for staying with your day job but doing more of what you love:

o Having a day job and building a portfolio around that can be a good way to go – can you make this part time work an income stream?
o Freelancing is also an option if you have flexibility
o Working in fundraising and development can fund your own creative practice and give you valuable experience
o Moving abroad can be much more affordable for cost of living – you can commute back to the UK for project meetings etc if your work is producing or doesn’t require face to face contact
o Running workshops for business is a good way to fund freelance work – how do we utilise our skills in other sectors? How can we diversify so that we’re using our skills to make money without the arts?

We talked about things you should consider about what you really mean when you say giving up the day job – do you want to have an in-house salaried role, or do you want to take your independent career further? If the latter, we had the following ideas for ways to make that happen:

o Setting up your own funded work as the next step – enables you to do precisely what you want, in your own way
o Could you have a collective of artists whose funding applications employed each other to give more security/full-time work?
o We need an alliance of theatre makers – human beings are the resource we need

Most importantly, we talked about how to plan for giving up the day job, and the mindset you need:

o You should ask yourself “How long could I last without a stable income or small income?” and then give yourself that time.
o You should declare what failure would mean to you at the end of that time, or part way through it, and not be afraid of that
o Risk is an important motivator – being away from the day job creates the space to frame your project
o You can declare something a failure and move on without it being a failure forever – its not a one time chance
o Resilience is very important – being willing to fail and do it over again
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