The Trap of Doing What You Love for a Living (And How to Avoid It)

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    The Trap of Doing What You Love For a Living (And How to Avoid It)

    1. claudia

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:14 am

      wow, I’m really sorry to hear that. I never really did anything I loved except maybe exotic dancing (and that had its horrible moments believe me) but I got paid very well. Then I “aged out” . Talk about reality. Anyway, maybe if more people knew about this it would change. Good Luck honey.

    2. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Thanks Claudia. The actor’s union is in a sad state. We’re actually having a meeting today to discuss. Fingers crossed!

    3. Cashville Skyline

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:28 am

      As someone who has spent their entire career working in the entertainment industry, I can completely relate to your story. I’ve taken low paying jobs and worked long hours, all for the love of entertainment. The competition for even a foot in the door is brutal, and many people are willing to do whatever it takes. It’s easier when you’re fresh out of college, but eventually you start to wonder if it’s a sustainable lifestyle longterm. I know a lot of people in similar situations who eventually leave the business.

    4. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Unfortunately, I totally relate and see it all the time. It’s just not sustainable to work that hard to get a job that won’t pay you enough to live.

    5. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter

      January 27th, 2014 at 9:02 am

      This is a very interesting story. I have never been a “do what you love” person. I am a “do what you find interesting” person and “leave what you love as something you don’t get paid for”. I have always been one of those people who, if I start relying on something for my income, I stop loving it.

    6. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Perhaps someday theatre will become a hobby for me, but I’ll never regret fighting for my career. It has introduced me to the most amazing people and given me once in a lifetime experiences.

    7. Dave @ The New York Budget

      January 27th, 2014 at 9:40 am

      A friend of mine loves theater as well. She is more in love with the production side, but after producing a NYMF show and working on a bunch of others, without much financial stability, she actually decided to go to law school to explore other, potentially more stable areas of the industry. Perhaps one day she will be working for the union and will be fighting to help folks like you out with wages and working conditions!

    8. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      We need all the help we can get!

    9. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

      January 27th, 2014 at 9:53 am

      I feel your pain. A great friend of mine is currently on Broadway in a major show, and I was shocked when he shared money issues. I think the problem is that the producers know that you love what you do and they take advantage of that. A union is only good if it is a strong union, and it seems as though the actor’s union is not one of those.

    10. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      It’s true. They know that if you won’t accept $400 a week, someone else, equally talented, will.

    11. Michelle @fitisthenewpoor

      January 27th, 2014 at 10:33 am

      To borrow a line from Chorus Line… “What I did for love…”
      The music union is the same. In fact, as teachers, we were told to never, ever join the union unless we were only teaching part time and our students weren’t performing live. You make more money out of the union than in. Just less job security and perks.

    12. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      I believe it. I’m just glad they aren’t using canned music in the Broadway shows. That would be a tragedy.

    13. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

      January 27th, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Oh my gosh, it’s a funny-not-funny kind of thing but when I saw you were clearing $400 a week, I thought, that’s actually really good. And I laughed out loud that you thought you’d get protection from the union, but again, not in a good way. Or even an at you way, since I thought that once upon a time too. I’ve actually not made the jump into the union, because until really recently, I had no reason to. I’m not sure I ever will now, because working for slaves wages is kind of beneath me. I actually went to an interview with a company that put one of their key points in their company goals on their website was to pay all people involved in the company a fair living wage. They offered me $100 for three weeks of full time work. WTF? ARfjehrsgse. Anger. Just don’t put that on your website then!!

      I’d rather keep my safe job for now, which is not a dream job or really all that fun, and work stage management gigs around it when I can (and if I can ever get anyone to ever hire me again… sigh. That’s a story for another time, although one I’m sure you know too).

    14. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Sounds good till you think about that MSG is a 5,000 seat house and a typical broadway house doesn’t seat more than 1200. The fact that salary is less than a third of production minimum is completely unacceptable.

    15. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      If you’re into any of the other elements of production, you might consider joining local one. They make tons of money.

    16. Holly@ClubThrifty

      January 27th, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      My husband got his first bachelor’s degree in theatre and tried acting in the big city for a few years upon graduation. But, like you, he got frustrated with the low pay and uncertainty. After we met, he decided that he needed more stability to have a family and ultimately went back to school to get a degree in an in-demand field.

    17. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      It’s sad to me that you can be a successful actor and not make enough to have a home and a family.

    18. Holly@ClubThrifty

      January 28th, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Yeah, but it worked out. We wanted to have a family and the acting life doesn’t necessarily jive. If he kept acting, he would be gone most nights and weekends. That wouldn’t work for us.

      Now we’re doing the family thing in suburbia. We’re very happy!

    19. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      I totally get it. I have often thought of how nice it would be to have stability and move to suburbia 🙂

    20. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

      January 27th, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing the story…I had no idea the people backstage and in the pits make so much more than the actual actors. It is great that you are so passionate about what you do. I’m not sure what that is for me…maybe I was never able to find it because it was ingrained in my head that I needed to found a job that was practical and that could pay the bills. But as the saying goes…if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

    21. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      I love what I do, but the job hunting aspect and union activism aspect definitely feels like work :/

    22. Done by Forty

      January 27th, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Sobering story, Stefanie. From a negotiation standpoint, it makes sense. If people love the job and would do it under almost any circumstances, they have little leverage in negotiating higher pay.

      I don’t hate my job, but I don’t love it either. From a purely financial perspective, I guess there is a benefit there.

      But while it’s hard to quantify, there’s great value in doing what you love, too.

    23. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      Yes, we actors are our own worst enemies.

    24. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

      January 27th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      Hearing this story makes me admire you that much more Stefanie. If not for the pay but for the determination you have to work in a job you love. I would love to stop the soul-sucking main freelance job I have but the money is what keeps me going. THATS IT. I freaking love blogging though and I’m working my butt off to make that a more lucrative income. I would love to be location independent (I sort of am already) and free of some of the clients I work with on certain projects. Its what drives me. Keep breaking a leg…is that what they’d say? 🙂

    25. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      You seem to be on your way Tonya, I’m sure you’ll get there soon. And yes, that’s what they say 😉

    26. DC @ Young Adult Money

      January 27th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Probably the most interesting thing about this whole story is this: not many people (myself included, until now) are aware how little performers are paid. I think you are spot on, though, that it primarily has to do with your love of the job and the fact that others in the area love it just as much as you do. I, on the other hand, do not “LOVE” being an accountant sitting in a cubicle, though it pays well and isn’t terribly stressful most of the time, so I can’t complain. But when you love what you do you are willing to work for less. If enough people love what they do and you are all going after the same jobs, the pay won’t be that high. Hopefully you guys can get those rates up.

    27. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      I think there’s love of what you do, and love of the lifestyle some work affords you.

    28. Dee @ Color Me Frugal

      January 27th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Wow, like others, I had no idea performers were paid so little. It’s really smart of you to be working hard on your side hustles too- how does anyone else make it as an actor without side hustles?

    29. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      Every actor has a side hustle 🙂

    30. Liz

      January 27th, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      It’s wonderful that you are able to fearlessly go after your passion as your full-time job. I would love to be able to pursue my passion full time but I know that I also crave stability.. which is exactly what my 9-5 job provides me.

    31. Stefanie

      January 27th, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      I crave stability too. I’ve thrown myself into freelancing the last few months so I can get more of it when I’m not working in theatre.

    32. Dear Debt

      January 28th, 2014 at 1:08 am

      I realized a while ago I couldn’t be a professional performer for this reason. I’ve worked a lot in arts admin and teaching, and that also has it’s downsides and low pay. I feel like I’ve always taken jobs I’ve loved and always had a low pay. I started thinking about this recently, and it really sucks. I wonder if I can make money doing what I love, or do I have to do something else to make money and do what I love on the side? It sucks. That sweet taste of success quickly becomes bitter when reality hits.

    33. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Yes, it’s so much harder to leave now that I’ve tasted the success 🙂

    34. jefferson

      January 28th, 2014 at 7:44 am

      I think that there is certainly something to be said for being able to do what you love. But it has to be a balance. For me, I have people depending on me, so what I have to look for is something that I love— that also pays the bills. What I ended up settling on is great, but I wouldn’t say it was my passion.

    35. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      I have put off settling down, starting a family, etc to pursue this and I find that’s common in my industry. I have friends who had done it for so long, they were in their late 40s by the time they finally got around to having a baby.

    36. Travis @debtchronicles

      January 28th, 2014 at 7:57 am

      I’m very lucky in that I believe I am doing my dream job, and getting paid very well for it. Being a software engineer may not sound like a dream job, but it fits me to a “T.” I get to work with bleeding edge technology and I get to solve really hard problems. It keeps my brain moving, and I look forward to going to work each and every day!

    37. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Anything can be a dream job if it’s YOUR dream.

    38. Brian @ Luke1428

      January 28th, 2014 at 11:06 am

      I really enjoyed this read Stefanie. If for nothing else to understand the emotions you go through being an actor. I feel your passion for the profession and your willingness to sacrifice at great cost to be involved in it. I find that admirable.

    39. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Thank you Brian.

    40. Broke Millennial

      January 28th, 2014 at 11:20 am

      Hearing your cruise story in person was such a reality check. That needs an entire post! I’d love to have a chat with you sometime about the union(s) and get more details about how they operate. I’m quite fascinated by the whole process.

      P.S. I bring home only $50 more a month (after taxes, 401k contributions and pre-tax transit cards) than you did on that show. Granted, I get full benefits I don’t pay for and five weeks paid vacation which certainly softens the blow, but it gets incredibly frustrating to live in NYC on such a meager salary.

    41. Broke Millennial

      January 28th, 2014 at 11:22 am

      *$250 more a month.
      But this is my FT job I’ve been in for nearly two years. Not great.

    42. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      It always strikes me how low NY salaries are, all around. Maybe it’s just an over saturated market?

      The cruise ship was a nightmare. (More details in my staff post for seedebtrun tomorrow). We can talk union stuff at the meet up- there’s a lot of issues and unrest right now.

    43. Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      January 28th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, Stefanie. I am one of those people who advocate following your passions as I have been fortunate to be able to do so and make a good living in my primary job. Right now I have made a substantial investment in The Heavy Purse (printing, illustrator, etc) which I have not seen a huge return on. Yet, it’s my passion and something I care so deeply about. So right now it’s a labor of love and I continue to make the investment. I’m sorry to hear the Actor’s Union is such a mess and clearly not being great advocates for their members. You certainly deserve to be paid a fair wage!

    44. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      I think The Heavy Purse is brilliant. I really hope it takes off. So many people could benefit.

    45. Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt

      January 28th, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks for sharing this Stefanie – it’s exciting to get a glimpse of your performing life! I can’t believe your costume was worth $12,000! For me, I would accept low pay and poor benefits for doing something that I really loved – although, I’d hope to make it work. The only thing is that I haven’t found that passion yet anyway!

    46. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      You can’t imagine how much they spend on some things. I think my wig cost $6,000.

    47. Charles@gettingarichlife

      January 28th, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      I admire how you’ve been able to have a full life despite the challenges of your profession. I’m always hoping to see some big break news. Hopefully in 2014.

    48. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      My career is mostly one of small breaks 🙂 But that’s better than most, so I’m grateful.

    49. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance

      January 28th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Very impressive how you’ve been able to do what you love. To be honest, I try to do what I love on the side, but fear and contentment with my present situation prevent me from really doing it. That, and I need money to make it happen. I know I’ll get there one day, but I’m impressed how you’ve done it since day one.

    50. Stefanie

      January 28th, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Unfortunately, big theatre isn’t the kind of business you can do on the side professionally :/

    51. Erin @ My Alternate Life

      January 30th, 2014 at 11:19 am

      Wow, that’s rough :(. I do what I love now and I make less than when I did what I hated (tax accounting). I also have more time to spend with my husband and pursue other interests. I don’t have benefits, nor am I sure what I will bring in from one month to the next. I wouldn’t trade it for anything 🙂

    52. Stefanie

      January 30th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      As long as you’re happy at the end of the day, that’s all you can really ask for.

    53. robert@moneybulldog

      January 30th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Great post Stefanie. Sometimes I wonder whether it is better to not experience things which you really enjoy but can’t always get access to. Doing something you love then not being able to do it anymore is possibly worse than not ever knowing about it in the first place

    54. Stefanie

      January 30th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Though it’s been hard, I have no regrets.

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    56. NZ Muse

      January 31st, 2014 at 2:06 am

      I’m lucky that I actually make relatively good money for my field and my level of experience, but it does hurt ot know that there isn’t much room to increase that. I don’t think you should have to be miserable every day but I don’t believe in starving for passion’s sake and I think most of us just want a happy medium. Struggling with money definitely cuts into your happiness, even if your job is awesome.

    57. Stefanie

      January 31st, 2014 at 7:45 am

      So true. Finding the happy medium is really the solution for everything, isn’t it.

    58. Kristen

      February 1st, 2014 at 8:00 am

      It’s interesting isnt it? People think performers, stars in theater, on television, or on the radio are paid handsomely. We all sacrifice for the jobs we love.

    59. Stefanie

      February 1st, 2014 at 9:19 am

      People who are not in the business have very little understanding of how it works for the majority of people.

    60. Rachel G

      February 1st, 2014 at 9:34 am

      I can imagine that that’s a really tough world financially–I love performing myself, but I wouldn’t choose it as a career because I don’t think I’m tough enough for all that I know goes with it! You all who persevere through everything–that’s hardcore.

    61. Stefanie

      February 1st, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Some people think it’s glamorous, if only they knew!

    62. Debby

      February 1st, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      I feel like all creative fields are suffering, and everyone who has a job or who aspires a career in a ‘art-related’ industry, will be able to relate. I was shocked when I graduated college, that I’d make less money than I got paid for a summer job at a factory. And with all due respect for people who do daily what I did that summer, but it was numbing, boring work.
      Part of my decision not to aim for a job in design in NYC, is because the hours are long and the pay is low – even with +10 years of experience.

    63. Stefanie

      February 1st, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      I hope that as the economy continues to improve, the creative fields will be revived.

    64. Savvy Working Gal

      February 1st, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      I admire you for doing what you love. Imagine yourself working in some office keyboarding for a paycheck for the rest of your life. It seems like such a waste. I wish more of us (including myself) were like you. I hope you get a big break. You deserve it. That really sucks about the union.

    65. Stefanie

      February 1st, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks! I’ve been taking a more active role in the union recently, hoping a can help make a difference.

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    67. the Frugal Exerciser

      February 2nd, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      I’m doing what I love but if I had to do it all over again, I would have had an emergency fund for the business and for my personal life. I would also be debt free. When there are low in the economy or your business hits a low, it is good you have extra money to rely on.

    68. Stefanie

      February 2nd, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Definitely. I always try to keep my emergency fund well funded and replenish it when times are good.

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    77. Lisa

      May 8th, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Such a great post. The extremes of doing what you love for little pay vs. great pay but being unfulfilled is unfortunately the common choice. As you said, focusing on a lifestyle you love is more freeing that limiting yourself to those two extremes.

    78. Time Hedge

      June 19th, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Really enjoyed this article. We have been told follow our dreams from young ages. Yet we define ourselves by the job title we hold. I have recently realized we are not our jobs, we are who we are. Sadly many of us do not know who we are as we have been defined by the job. I like how your post talks about selecting the job that can allow you to live the lifestyle you want. After all this is what matters most!

    79. FrugalView

      July 28th, 2017 at 9:08 am

      There is definitely a need to draw some form of line and make some form of decision in terms of what your time is worth. As people we tend to only have time as our money maker, its our asset like a business would have machinery if you will. Therefore we need to do something that maximizes our utility. Want to do something you love? That’s okay to a point but you need to make sure it is paying the bills and allowing you to live comfortably also.

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    81. Roku

      February 5th, 2019 at 12:40 am

      Thanks for sharing this article with us.

    82. Pluto TV Activate

      April 16th, 2019 at 7:22 am

      The writer will give his 100 percentage work when he writes about the topic he loves. You will always get a new idea every time when you love what you do. Working from the heart will always make the work more beautiful than ever. There is a lot of danger involved in doing what you love but beyond that, you will feel the peace in your heart when you do what you love. That is the most important thing to live a beautiful life I think.

    83. Alita

      November 6th, 2019 at 11:43 am

      Why not downsize, live in a tiny house or move outside of crazily expensive cities like NY? Then you won’t have to work so damn hard to make a living and be able to do what you love and live off your income comfortably too. Society’s pushing of material things on us is half the problem. Who needs a smartphone? I got sent my replacement 3G phone for free from the company and I pay $20 pre-paid per month (even that’s too much for the amount of calls I make). I paid $300 less for my lap-top than what most millennials pay for their phones, and it does everything a smartphone does and more. Dreams ARE hard to achieve but especially so living in a culture that teaches us we can have everything we want, should have it, and should want it because everybody else has it. Don’t give up your dream – sacrifice your junk. Most of it will end up in the tip anyway!

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