To Freelance or not to Freelance: That is the Question

Starting a career in theatre can be a little hard on the wallet (it doesn’t have to stay that way forever)! Whether you’re an actor or an administrator, you may find yourself considering freelance jobs, sometimes called contracts, gigs, etc. These are short term positions where you and your skills are hired for a specific task either once or for a window of time and then both parties move on. Freelance jobs are a great way to stay connected to your industry, continue practicing your skills, and fit a demanding schedule – but there are also downsides. Let’s consider the pros and cons of freelance work:

Pros

Scheduling
This is a MAJOR pro to freelancing – you build your own schedule! Your time is entirely yours to spend as a freelance professional. You can determine when your working hours start and end, and as your calendar fills, you can narrow your search for additional work to fill only the gaps of time that aren’t already taken. This is how actors can perform a show at night and start rehearsals for another in the day. Administrators can take jobs during the day and work box office shifts at night. The freedom you’ll feel as an independent contractor will allow you to make many connections and constantly be working on something new.

Content Choices
In tandem with scheduling, you also get to determine the kind of work you do. You build your own workload and have the power to take on projects that you find interesting. There is total flexibility in the kind of content you want to spend your time creating. Some people blend their interests and make money from many contracts at once, jumping from skill to skill. Others work solely with one specific skill, but they can be picky on the kind of contracts they accept. The work-load is yours to design.    

Capitalize on a specific skill set
People collect skills over time. Freelance gigs are a great way to use your unique skills to make some extra money. Whether you’re using the skills that also contribute to your full-time career or relying on hidden skills in your back-pocket, freelance work is a great way to stay sharp.

Cons

Taxes
If your freelance work brings in over a certain amount of money per year (the exact amount varies from state to state) you will receive a “1099” when it’s time to do your taxes. The sneaky thing about freelance work is that unlike a payroll position, taxes are not deducted for you. You’re paid the full amount, up front. This means you must keep track of what taxes you will eventually pay. Make sure you save a portion of each paycheck so you don’t get hit with a big tax bill without the funds to take care of it properly.

Hard to land a long-term contract
Freelance work can seem easy on the surface, but it’s hard to get started. You may find success in sporadic, small projects for a while, but odds are, those won’t pay your rent. It takes time, experience, and a reliable network to land a long-term contract. While you may be excited to start immediately, expect the process of your freelance work to move slowly, especially in the beginning.

No dependable income
Here’s the big one. While freelance jobs are great for extra cash and it can be enticing to design your own schedule and workload, your income is not dependable like a salary. You may experience some wildly successful months and other months only land one or two checks, if that. Freelancers must be good at budgeting, because even though your income is changing, your bills are not. Those big paychecks may need to be saved and slowly allocated to cover gaps in scarcer months. Freelance work isn’t for everyone. Before you quit your day job to become your own boss, make sure you’re armed with the right tools and expectations. Be prepared to start small and slow before making any giant changes. Whether contracts are supplemental or your whole income, you’ll definitely love the freedom to choose your own content and make your own schedule. If you have a skill to share, freelance work may be a great way to support yourself.