An Actor’s Guide to Keeping Positive During Part Time Work
Katie Redford's tips for smashing that side gig.
It can be challenging to keep a positive mindset when splitting your time, something actor Katie Redford knows well - here are her top tips for keeping positive while you support your craft.
I personally love hearing about the part time jobs actors have on the side. I think there’s a lot to be said for someone doing a job they don’t necessarily want to do in order to pursue one they really do.
I remember when I landed my first acting job. My mum invited the grandparents round, put a buffet on and as she popped open the Prosecco, she toasted to the fact I’ll never have to pull a pint again. I didn't want to ruin the moment by telling her that that was not going to be the case and that 3 months later, I would be back in the pub pulling pints again, whilst explaining to loyal customer Big Dave that yes, I am still there, and no, I’ve not ‘tried’ EastEnders. No, I don’t have a plan B.
I personally love hearing about the part time jobs actors have on the side. I think there’s a lot to be said for someone doing a job they don’t necessarily want to do in order to pursue one they really do. When the careers advisor came to speak to us in Year 11, funnily enough, a children’s ‘Party Princess’ wasn't up there in my list of options, but then life’s full of surprises, isn’t it? Maintaining a healthy, positive mindset whilst chasing a career that at times seems impossible, and juggling part time work, is much easier said than done. So, here are a few positives that come from having part time work, to keep in mind as you juggle the dream with the reality…
A routine (but DON’T get swept up in it…)
The other day, a friend of mine (who was out of work) said they were struggling for cash but had decided not to get a part time job as they felt it would ‘distract them from their acting.’ I didn’t agree. Obviously it depends on the type of job you do, but if anything, having a job on the side that may take up a few days of your week will give you a sense of routine and with that, if you’re smart about it, will help improve your time management. As long as you set aside time for yourself and make sure the part time work doesn’t become more of a priority than your career, you’re fine. When I’m in part time work, I actually enjoy the routine of the job. It’s a luxury for actors to know where exactly they have to be, exactly what they have to do and exactly what time to clock off. Just be careful that you don’t get swept over to the dark side… having a glimpse into a life with routine, structure and regular income could easily be a temptation to quit the business altogether. Be savvy about it and just remember why you’re doing whatever job it is in the first place: it allows you to focus on a career you’re passionate about, and that my friend, is brilliant. Congrats on not taking the easy way out.
Part time work is a chance to be a part of something that has nothing to do with the career you’re chasing. It’s so easy to lose momentum if you’re having a quiet patch with acting and sometimes the quietness of it can seem deafening. So, enjoy the distraction of a different job when you can. I was speaking to a friend of mine who’s an actress and she’s recently started working in a cheese shop. Acting work was non-existent, and she was sick of not having any money, any routine and anything to really talk about when someone asked her how her day had been. So, with dread, she began working in a pop-up cheese shop and has now said she feels so much happier as a result. It doesn’t mean she’s focusing any less on the acting. If anything, she’s working harder towards it because she’s more aware of the limited time she has to do so. She also has some extra cash that has taken some of the pressure off. Don’t feel bad about drowning out the quietness of that job with another job.
A reminder of what you truly want to do
One of the worst jobs I ever had was knocking on doors, trying to sell organic vegetables. I was rubbish at it, and got sacked when one of the team leaders overheard me telling someone they’d be ‘better off just going to ASDA.’ I got doors slammed in my face, I was told to get a ‘real job’, gestures through the window…This industry is full of rejection as it is, I don't need my part time job to fill me with it too, ta very much! But the positives of me hating it was that after every shift, I’d go home feeling more inspired about what I really wanted to do.
I’m not saying do a job that you absolutely despise, but not enjoying every minute of it doesn’t necessarily have to be the worst thing. If your job doesn’t fulfil you, don’t just accept it. Let it drive you to bigger and better things. And talk about it! Talk to friends, like-minded people if possible, about how you’re feeling about it or if there’s something troubling you regarding it. When I’d had a bad day, I’d go home to my flatmate and tell them what had happened, and we’d end up laughing about it. So, don’t bottle it up. Keep your goals in mind and don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences. Talking through your goals aloud just keeps them that little bit more vivid.
A source of inspiration
For 3 years, I spent most weekends as a ‘Party Princess’. Squatting down behind a garden fence, dressed as Queen Elsa, waiting to pop up and belt out ‘Let It Go’ to a child far richer than me, was just the norm. Sounds fun, I hear you say? No. No it wasn’t. When I moved to London to become an actress, I thought my weekends would consist of drinking in beer gardens, browsing around cool markets, people watching in coffee shops. Not dressed up to the nines in glitter and a tiara and getting dodgy looks whenever I stopped for petrol. Ah well. I’ll always have good stories to tell the grandkids.
If you’re a writer, performer or have the slightest creative intuition, use the struggles and develop them into stories. Study the different characters you come across. Observe them. No amount of drama school training can give you an insight into the characters you’ll come across when doing random jobs. I remember one particularly awful shift where I got hit over the head with my balloon pump, a child weed on me, shortly followed by a herd of children hiding my magic kit whilst chanting “YOU’RE NOT REALLY ELSA”. Meanwhile, all my mates were at a beer festival. I was on the verge of tears for the entire party. That evening, when I got home, I decided that something creative had to come from this. I’ve now written a sitcom about it because I was slightly haunted by the ridiculousness of it all. Inspire yourself silly, jot it all down and make something of it. You’ll be thankful for it one day.
A new perspective
The other day, a friend of mine had an audition that went horribly. You know the sort where afterwards you can’t look yourself in the eye? That evening, he went to his volunteering shift at a local soup kitchen where he gained a huge dollop of perspective. There are certain things we do have to be selfish about within this industry and it’s extremely easy to get caught up in our own bubble with it all. And we shouldn't beat ourselves up about that. It’s understandable because we’re constantly striving for something, so we are naturally going to give our all to it. But sometimes, we need a gentle reminder that there’s more to life than auditions and ‘making it’. It’s easy to feel quite empty pursuing this line of work, especially when things aren’t going great and volunteering is a brilliant way of giving something back. You’ll also meet interesting people, you’ll experience a different view point and you’ll gain perspective – things aren’t always as rough as they seem.
Having a part time job shouldn’t have any reflection on your success as an actor whatsoever. Our mental health is far more important than any audition or job, therefore getting yourself into a positive mind set is vital. And believe me, rather than feeling negative about it all, it’s far less exhausting just simply finding and focusing on the positives when we can.
I’m actually looking for some part time work. I fancy a change, plus I’m writing a script, so I’m seeking some inspiration. If you know of anyone that needs a team player, give us a shout. Unless it’s anything to do with selling vegetables. Or dressing up as a princess. Probably best to just leave those ones alone.
Katie Redford is an actress & writer originally from Nottingham, and part of the BBC New Talent Hotlist 2017. She recently won BBC Comedy Writersroom and has also just joined the cast of Radio 4's The Archers. When she's not in work, you can find her in the soft play centre in Epsom where she takes the children she nannies for, so she doesn't have to do any actual work.