How Being An Actor Turned Me Into An Entrepreneur
"There had to be a better way of surviving in the industry..."
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
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Entrepreneurship found its way to my doorstep due to past economic conditions, industry woes and personal lifestyle needs. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I am glad I made that first step, and have not looked back since. My first company, 180 Degrees Tutoring, LLC, was birthed out of the 2007–2008 infamous Writer’s Strike. Although my company was started two years after the strike, not working at all and funds being scarce to non-existent made me believe that there had to be a better way of surviving in the industry when something of that magnitude occurred. Also, it is very common for actors in major cities to live two to three people in a studio or one bedroom apartment, but that was not my ideal living arrangement. In order for me to be able to be present whenever my agent booked me an audition or meeting, have money to travel around the city to film and shoot, or to be able to afford new headshots, pay for IMDBpro, LA Casting, Actor’s Access, etc., something had to be done! That’s when the above quote came into play. Entrepreneurship seemed to be the most logical decision, but also, perhaps the most challenging.
Successfully owning a business, effectively managing employees, filing taxes, being professional, honest, stern and respectable are just a few duties and traits every entrepreneur should encompass. But before all that comes into play, there first has to be a plan, a realistic one, with a product or service that a consumer would buy into. When the planning phase is over, that’s when you take it to a mentor to have it evaluated. And by the way, everyone should have a mentor. You get a mentor by networking with professionals in any industry that is making moves you would like to make someday. It does not matter if they are in a different industry than you, just that they are honest, trustworthy and share the same success outlook that you do. I have a mentor in the entertainment industry, finance industry, healthcare industry and legal industry. They all have successful careers, great personalities and honest character traits I hope to have someday. Do not choose a mentor solely on their success, but look closely at the person they are when they are out of the office, not on television or in the public eye, because those are the behaviors that reveal who they really are deep down inside.
I’m often asked do I have a 9 to 5, and my response is “No, I have a 24/7.” We, as entrepreneurs, work harder, and hopefully smarter, than the average Joe. During a regular 24-hour day, I perhaps worked 17 hours on company related tasks, whether it was email marketing, talking to clients, having a business breakfast, lunch or dinner or attending a networking event. And while I’m sleeping the other 7 hours, I’m dreaming of how I can increase growth and productivity of the company. With a schedule like this, you’re probably wondering when I have time for acting. Well, acting is number one and my companies come in second. I had my first company set-up where it could run by itself if I had to film for days, weeks or even months. One could have argued that this is too much like “work” and it could take away from their acting career, but I’m here to tell you that it will, and can, enhance your acting career. When I needed money for headshots, wanted to take a director out to lunch, drove across town for an audition, needed to pay all my bills and travel wherever I wanted, I did not have the anxiety and nervousness of having to talk to my boss for time off, not having enough money or worrying about finances in general, since that is a major concern for most young, up-and-coming industry professionals. The light bulb went off in my head and it hit me that, “artists are entrepreneurs also!” We are our own business. We do all the things for our careers and ourselves just like a traditional entrepreneur does for his or her business. This connection triggered a mental and physical lifestyle change that has been the foundation for my success in every area of my life.
My closing advice for entertainment professionals looking to entrepreneurship as a means of survival while pursuing the industry, is to "network, network, network, learn all you can and then give back!”