Unpaid work. It sounds like an oxymoron, right?
For aspiring actors, it’s rare that you’ll see a big paycheck, before having hustled your way across the industry, taking gigs for little or no compensation. However, I’m here to tell you that working for “free” is not a bad thing!
True story: the first time I ever received a paycheck from acting in my mailbox I crumpled it up. I laughed at the check, assuming it was a fake, and tossed it in the garbage. Luckily, before I ripped it up, I realised it was legitimate and why wouldn’t it be? When you’re professionally doing something, like in any other industry, you are generally compensated professionally.
The confusion stemmed from my adolescent years working on various shows and gigs solely for the love of it. When I did get paid when I was younger, my parents handled that, putting the money away in the bank for me. By the time I was old enough to start handling my own finances, it still baffled me that I got to be funded for doing something I loved so much. Due to this engrained disbelief, I now approach every project I take on by weighing the passion over the money: it’s a philosophy that’s never steered me wrong.
Following your bliss over your monetary needs, will reward you far more in the long run. Of course, as with anything in life, it’s subjective and dependent on an actor’s situation. However, if you can do the work for “free,” and you think it will advance your career (or at least resume), then you should do it! Here’s why:
1. You build your resume and connections.
First of all, if you’re willing to sign on to a project for no compensation, make sure to do your research to see if it’s worth your time. Check out what kinds of productions they do and audiences they attract.
Maybe the director of the play is extremely accomplished and working with that person is worth it in itself? Perhaps, the production is comprised of professionals brimming with golden nuggets of advice? Or maybe you’ve just been offered a dream role that will shine on your resume? Whatever the reason, it has to be worth it to you. Just because you’re going to be working for “free,” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have standards.
Keep in mind, that you never know what connections you will make or what you will learn along the journey.
2. It’s like taking a free class.
When you’re doing something for “free” the goal must always be to grow. You grow your craft, your love for it and your network, among various things. No matter what the compensation, work is still work! And there’s no better way to learn something than to actually get out there and do it. Unpaid gigs are not only like free classes, depending on the project, they can be like internships for actors!
No matter what the productions is, every time you are a part of a process you learn something new about the business and cultivating a career. So, although you’re donating your time, always remember that you’re gaining knowledge!
3. It keeps you in it for the right reasons.
You may have noticed that throughout this article I’ve put the word “free” in quotations, when referring to an actor working. This is because an actor never truly works for “free.” An actor tirelessly gives their time, their craft and their entire being to every role, not to mention paying for travel, etc. So, if you can do all of that for no pay, then you know you are on the right journey.
Acting is such a wild ride, and if you’re in it solely for the money – trust me, it’s easier to choose a different career path. At the end of the day, you must be doing it because you can’t do anything else. After all, if you’re not willing to act for “free” – than do you really love it?