Posted by Jackie Jorgenson

Frankly, most of my life has been spent telling myself that I could never quit a survival job to become a working actor. I knew the statistics. I’ve read the data on how many aspiring actors there are. I knew it was not possible for me to be one of the lucky few who could make a living off of the craft. So, I decided long ago that I would find satisfaction in doing what I love after survival job hours. And for many years I did just that.

But recently, I found momentum. I discovered new ways to earn a living freelance writing and acting from right here in Michigan. So, I took the plunge. I quit my survival job and have spent the past few weeks earning a living off of my unique abilities. There may be a time when I take on a more full-time survival job again, but for now, I’m open to whatever opportunity comes my way.

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  WriterJackie Jorgenson holding a Tascam audio recorder.


The Day to Day

First of all, I’ve found what I consider a flexible filler job. I transcribe audio between creative paying projects. So, while it helps me survive, it’s not like many survival jobs I’ve had where I must adhere to a particular schedule and work according to their terms. I’ve been very lucky to find something that allows me to work at any hour of the day and take breaks whenever I please. I can start a transcription job and set it down the second another creative job rolls in.

At some point in each day, I take the time to submit, submit, submit applications. I’ve found this to be a crucial part in building a more stable income thus far. You know, trying not to put your eggs in a single basket and all that. This also helps me to strike a nice balance between immediate needs and future possibilities.

Plus, there are so many places to find long-term employment as well as small projects. Places like:

*Obviously there are so many more great sites you can use. So share some of your favourites in the comments.

 

The Portfolio

So, how did I get here? It took a lot of work, dedication, and focus to get to where I am. Years of work, in fact. It was time spent positioning myself as the best option for the types of characters I play and it’s helped my expand my job opportunities.

 

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  WriterScreenshot of editing an acting reel in Adobe Premiere.

A demo reel is important, but I also wanted to build a writing portfolio full of content I could perform in. Again, I feel more comfortable when I extend my chances for an opportunity to arise. So, I started writing content that highlights my brand. In return, I ended up being able to create a competitive reel that not only highlights my emotional range, but also the types of characters I play.

This may sound quick and simple, but I began this process in 2014, and now, four years later, I finally have a reel that fits my original vision. I’m also two feature film scripts away from having a completed writing portfolio. I’ve viewed living in Michigan as a metaphorical cottage away from the major market which has helped me focus on getting these projects completed.

Now that my portfolio is full of on-brand samples, I’ve been able to use them in countless applications. It not only opened me up for those future opportunities that I was originally envisioning but I soon came to realize that it also made it possible to work remotely. See, I now have the experience, I now have the necessary tools, and I now have the proof of my capabilities.

 

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  WriterScreenshot from a self-produced short film, Outcome Not So Good.


The Business Side

Understanding how to market myself ended up being just as important as developing my craft. You have to both think like an artist and an entrepreneur. Stats and data about success can be grim. However, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to preparation for an opportunity. If you want to increase your chances of success, learn how to run your business like a professional.

When I created projects, I would submit them to applicable festivals. When I was working, I shared behind the scenes peeks. When projects went online, I promoted them. When my work was recognized, I set myself up with media coverage. I got new, high-quality headshots that now allow me to be competitive on a global scale as well as highlight my brand. I even developed multiple reels focussing on the various genres I play in so I can better adjust my application to the individual role.


The Training

When you don’t live in a major market, high-level acting classes are virtually impossible to find and attend. However, there are other ways to continue training anywhereL
Bonnie Gillespie’s Self Management For Actors free boot camp: Get in Gear
The Lucid Body’s Online Course
Stage 32 Education
MasterClass Acting Courses

Get certified in topics related to your brand. For example, I took courses on Shakespeare and Greek theater to better understand the classics:
EdX
Udemy
Coursera


The Awards

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  WriterFrom left to right: Andrea Holz, Hayley Simpson, & Jackie Jorgenson at The Broad Humor Film Festival with their respective awards.


I decided that if I was going to be making content, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to create unbiased confirmation of my skill through awards. Of course, there are a lot of awards I submitted to and didn’t win, however, it has still impacted my career in a very positive way. Winning a few awards not only allowed me to make a great first impression on my cover letter, but it’s also allowed me to quickly demonstrate the value I offer in my first impression.

Again, this took time to build. It required me to write new scripts, produce my own work, and budget for submission fees. However, for me, it’s worth it when you can set yourself out from the crowd with that unbiased confirmation and showing people the value you offer their team. Plus, it makes for a nice confidence booster.


Balancing the Short and Long Term

Financials
By spreading yourself out across types of work, you also increase your financial security off the top. In the future, I can always narrow my job focus down. However, for now, it provides me with more security and opportunity. Also, sort out your freelancer taxes asap and speak to professionals about your options there.


Broadening Horizons
Part of my means of making money as an actor has been to expand my idea of what kind of mediums I would approach. After I got my on-screen reels into a place I was satisfied with, I opened myself back up to theater work and voice acting. Obviously, this expands my realm of opportunity, but it also means I now need to work on my voice acting samples and reels.

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  WriterTales From The Aether official promo and profile picture.


That’s why I began to develop my podcast, Tales From The Aether. This podcast is so new that the first season hasn’t been written yet. However, in early 2019 it will be, and then it will move into pre-production. Each season is an original fairy tale designed to offer relatable lessons for young adults. Of course, there’s a business advantage to this project too. It’s a project which will give me juicy clips for my voice reel and it’s a way to work on accents.

Projects can offer creative satisfaction and business development opportunity at the same time. You’re not stunting your craft by seeing an entrepreneurial advantage. Actually, in my case, I’ve found that I’ve given myself a laser focus on what needs to be improved upon next. It’s been a driving force in my success.


Completing The Writing Portfolio

As I mentioned, I have two more pieces left to work on to have that “complete” writing portfolio I envisioned in 2014. So, moving forward, spare time will be allocated to complete those scripts. To me, these scripts signify the end of a journey of sorts. These scripts offer me juicy roles, but they also allow me to share samples of my writing experience for a number of different jobs. These scripts were a strong factor in my being able to freelance full-time.

 

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  WriterScreenshot from an award-winning Beatrice monologue performance from Much Ado About Nothing.


TLDR: What Have I Learned So Far?

|Don’t be precious with yourself. Strive for authenticity, not perfection. Allow yourself to learn and put the effort into believing in yourself. Then, take leaps of faith. You’re running a small business, so, promote your work online, submit it, or yourself, to festivals, and share the things you feel most vulnerable about.

Even if you’re somewhat (or a lot) disappointed in your latest performance, script, or production, just promote it, submit it, and be proud of yourself despite it all. The fact that you did something is an accomplishment, so be kind to yourself. Stand in your own corner even when you’re scared, tired, and disappointed. You did your best. And sometimes, your best is more authentic, powerful, and brave than you’re willing to give yourself credit for.

 

After the Plunge A New Life as a Freelance Actor  Writer
Jackie Jorgenson is a 5x award-winning actor, 3x award-winning writer, and award-winning filmmaker. Her work has screened at film festivals internationally including ArtPrize, the biggest public art event in the world. You can find her on IMDb, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Other Stage 32 posts by Jackie:
A Guide to Elevating Your Acting Career By Attending Film Festivals

 

 

 


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Like this blog post? Please share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email etc) by using social media buttons at the top of the blog. Or post to your personal blog and anywhere else you feel appropriate. Thank you.

As always, we welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the Comments section below...

 

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