Find meaningful sideline work

News from the Actors Fund

Volume 117, No. 5May, 2017

Alexandria Bellivan

The Actors Fund is your one-stop shop for almost any kind of service you can imagine. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, substance abuse, financial counseling, food stamps and more. The Actors Fund is open to musicians, actors and all entertainment professionals. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or or see

It is well known that the careers of performing arts and entertainment professionals are unpredictable. This is particularly true for musicians, whose work is generally periodic and episodic. Many musicians who participate in the Career Center of the Actors Fund report experiencing both financially successful years and unsuccessful years in the business.

During an economically challenging year, musicians might look for sideline work to ease the financial burden. However, choosing a sideline job that sucks your soul is not a desirable or advisable choice. At the Career Center, we believe that employment must be meaningful to a person. As we say around here, it’s just as difficult to get a bad job as a good job, so why not go for a good one?

The concept of a sideline or parallel career is becoming more widespread and no longer limited to performing artists. According to a recent study, 14.3 million Americans label themselves as “moonlighters” – professionals with a primary job who also do side freelance work. The two main reasons why workers reported they enjoy freelancing are financial gain and the flexibility it provides them. I think we’re onto something here!

But does it matter if the freelance work is meaningful? The answer is yes. We know that employers receive hundreds of applications per job posting, and the candidates who appear passionate about the work are most likely to receive an interview or job offer.

Anyone in any career may wake up one morning and want to do something different; it’s human nature. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that people born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.7 jobs from ages 18 to 48 (although for musicians having multiple gigs within a year is typical). As generations continue to move forward in the workforce, and the population of freelancers grows, the average number of jobs held will continue to rise. These statistics are not meant to discourage people from continuing to pursue their primary careers, but rather indicate that a want or need for a sideline or new career might present a healthy component to a fulfilling career trajectory.

At the Career Center, we strive to keep our participants apprised of developing employment trends and awareness of the competition. In our weekly job search seminar, we review each step a seeker encounters in a job search. Participants are prompted to examine why they are currently in a job search as well as define and discuss personal branding. They are taught online job application submission strategies as well as the latest interview trends. But the best part is the collaboration and networking that participants experience within their own arts community. During this course, participants listen to each other’s stories and make lasting connections.

Career Center participants who are targeting non-industry work as part of their career plan are invited to attend our job search intensive, a weekly group that holds its members accountable about what they’re doing to look for a job. Members of this group establish weekly goals and are encouraged to report on their progress. The group members also look out for each other by keeping their eyes and ears open for opportunities that might benefit their peers. In the last two years, I have witnessed participants connect their peers with informational interviews and volunteer opportunities, while providing ongoing moral support.

In all our programs, Career Center participants are given not only the tools and resources they need to be successful in their job search, but the staff also ensures that participants are focused and feel confident throughout their search.

If you would like to learn more about the Career Center’s services, you are welcome to attend our orientation sessions held every Monday at noon at the Actors Fund headquarters, 729 Seventh Avenue, on the 10th floor. In addition we facilitate a networking group for Local 802 members every third Wednesday from 2 p.m. No reservation is required. See the article below for more information.

Alexandria Bellivan is an employment specialist at the Actors Fund

Best way to succeed? Network!

For freelance artists, and especially musicians, networking  is the key to getting gigs. For the past two years, Local 802 has hosted a monthly networking group open to all professional musicians who want to share resources, address common concerns and build a supportive community. For the past year these meetings have been facilitated by Actors Fund career counselor Ell Miocene. After 12 years at the Actors Fund, Ell has retired and handed the baton to Actors Fund career counselor Patch Schwadron. Feedback from participants in the group has been enthusiastic. Pianist Michael Deep told Allegro, “Our Local 802 networking sessions are empowering, giving us tools with which to do our best as artists and business people. It all seems to start with the example we try to set for each other.” Veteran musical artist John Campo said, “This networking group is the most exciting thing I have seen in a union activity. The positive atmosphere to solve problems and misconceptions is what I get out of this. Being able to network and discuss work and our working conditions just never happens. It is the best. Any union would be envious of how the simple act of having a discussion without pretense of fear of retaliation can make a difference. “

The networking group meets on the third Wednesday of every month, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Local 802. Light refreshments are served. To reserve a spot, email Patch at The next meeting is Wednesday, May 17.