The key to the sustainable pursuit of passion is getting grounded in financial reality; staying well above what I like to call “the make or break number”- the absolute minimum level of income needed to cover your most basic life expenses while funding long term savings and retirement goals.
While you can employ cost cutting strategies to reduce your make or break number, finding ways to increase your income beyond that bare minimum level is far more liberating. The more positive distance you create between yourself and the make or break point, the further you get from the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and the more freedom you have to spend your money and time in a way that serves your greater goals.
Artists and freelancers, myself included, often struggle with generating enough income to surpass the make or break number. Compensation from passion projects is far too inconsistent and often insufficient in covering basic life expenses. As such, additional income is pursued via “survival jobs”- the (often) soul-crushing work we do just to “get by”.
Unfortunately, this mentality of working to make “just enough” perpetuates the cycle of paycheck to paycheck rather than prosperity. Combined with the total misery surrounding most survival jobbing, this common recipe for temporary financial solvency often leads to burnout and drop out.
What if instead of “traditional” survival jobbing, artists harnessed the skills they use in the pursuit of their passions to create additional income sources- not only to increase their overall earnings and exceed the make or break number, but to find happiness in the actual pursuit.
Rather than waiting for the Broadway show or national commercial or record deal to come through and allow artists to profit from their talents, what if we created our own income generating opportunities throughout the journey of achieving greater professional goals?
I had the pleasure of interviewing Linnea Sage, an actress and entrepreneur who did just that. After moving to New York City four and a half years ago to pursue acting, Linnea started working for a healthcare company to pay the bills between auditions- making cold calls and doing data entry. That is, until she discovered a way to pour her passions into an alternative project that could also pay the bills…
“I was on my way to a wedding a few years ago, in a carpool with some other people I didn’t know. I was talking about acting and how I’d love to get more into voice over when one of the people in the car recommended I check Fiverr out. I thought maybe I’d get a couple of orders and be able to make a voice over demo to show to agents. There was no way I could have ever expected it to grow into my full time job.”
For those unfamiliar with Fiverr, it is a website where you can purchase or sell gigs starting at $5. I’ve used it primarily as a buyer- namely to get the logo done for my website and find quirky gifts for friends.
Linnea was able to harness the power of Fiverr and the gig economy to create an entirely new income stream doing something she was passionate about- voiceover- and it took off….
“Orders on Fiverr just grew and grew every day, with the growth of the site. I didn’t have to do anything but deliver good work and offer good customer service. One day I was getting 1 order every few days, and three years later I’m getting around 40 orders a day.”
Has your work with Fiverr helped you in your career- either in giving you more flexibility, time, or money to pursue the things you really want?
“It’s helped me do all of those things. I still can’t believe it. Right now it allows me to pursue acting or anything else I want without having to ask anyone for permission. My work on Fiverr isn’t that demanding, just a couple hours a day 7 days a week. I can travel anywhere and do my voice over. I have complete freedom at the moment.”
How does your work on Fiverr differ from other survival jobs you’ve had?
“I’m not horribly bored. I get to be insanely creative. People respect me and trust me. With my current income I finally don’t have to stress about groceries or going out to dinner with friends or taking a little vacation. I have a 401K now!”
Has your success on Fiverr changed your perspective or taught you anything?
“It’s certainly taught me a lot about human nature and how to run a business. How to be grateful for everything I’m given every day. How to treat specific types of clients. How to ask for what I deserve. When to say no and when to go the extra mile for someone. In terms of my career changing, all of my experience has just made me a better voice over artist. It’s like getting paid to get an education.”
What advice would you pass onto other artists trying to earn extra income who feel like they’re struggling just to get by doing jobs they hate?
“Do what you love and use the skills you have, and the money will come.”
Linnea’s success with Fiverr, my work as a blogger, and the stories of the many other actress/entrepreneurs I’ve encountered over the last year have opened my eyes to a new reality- it’s time to rethink the “survival job”. In today’s world of endless income opportunity and varied resources, there’s no need to be limited to the actor-waiter/temp/babysitter/ whatever stereotype. Rather resigning ourselves to work that allows us to pay the bills and nothing more, let’s harness the skills we have, doing the things we love, to prosper and thrive financially, personally, and professionally!