“When I started out, I remember thinking about how badly I wanted my only job to be acting in front of the camera… Years later, I realized it was never about trying to just have one job I love, but multiple revenue streams that all brought me joy and happiness” – Michael Coleman
Uncertain. It’s a word we hear a lot these days, COVID has changed how we think, how we act, how we go about a regular day. In a way, we wake up each day a little ‘uncertain’ how that day will go.
As actors, we are use to that way of life even before COVID, since we are, by business purposes termed ‘self-employed.’ We’re always a little uncertain when our next gig will come. When the cameras will be rolling or the curtain will be raised. So that’s why its important to have as much control over your career as possible. To take away the ‘uncertain’, and make sure to have multiple revenue streams, so having various work is always a certain thing
The service industry has long been a flexible revenue stream with the opportunity to make the kind of money you can’t make at other part time jobs, while maintaining the flexibility for auditions and bookings. The actor by day, server by night is a reality for many professional actors as they are starting out. The character traits of the young aspiring actor have often aligned nicely with the type of person many restaurants are looking to hire as their front facing staff member to the paying customers. Many actors who choose this path dream of the day when they can finally book enough consistent work that they never need to serve again.
I stumbled upon another path early on my career, and nurtured the opportunities it created over the years to offer me the opportunities I am glad to have today. Instead of waiting on tables in the early part of my career, I discovered I had a knack for voices and was able to book work replacing voices on animated series that were originally recorded in other languages (primarily Japanese) into English. I was able to cover my basic needs through the early on camera bookings with the voice work. This still left me lots of time in my day to learn other things that I enjoyed and that could also provide me additional revenue streams. Next, I picked up work as a professional mascot, performing numerous characters for a local special events company. I’ve been doing things I love to pay my bills for decades now, all within the same category of “things I love doing.”
There are countless opportunities for actors to do the same if they just take the time to figure out what they love and how they can get paid to do it. There is a beautiful Japanese concept, called Ikigai, that focuses on the union point of four fundamental components of life: passion, vocation, profession and mission. It breaks down into finding something you are good at (your passion meets profession), something you love (your passion meets mission), something the world needs (your mission meets vocation), and finally, something you can be paid for (your vocation meets professional opportunity). Many people in this world are convinced you can find a job or career that makes you money, or one that makes you happy. The truth is… you never had to choose one or the other.
I now have multiple revenue streams, each in areas that bring me joy and fiscal compensation. I act for the camera, on stage, and voicing cartoons and video games. I was fortunate to work on some higher profile shows and I make some of my revenue from attending fan conventions as a guest. I own a production company that creates content for film and television. I write books. I own a post-secondary school. I direct. I produce. I write for film and television. I wish I could say I was lucky to have found a path that has allowed me the opportunity to have create revenue in various roles but it wasn’t luck at all. Nor is it a unique opportunity for me. This is available to all actors.
I think of all of the other actors out there who also have multiple revenue streams: Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba, Nick Offerman, Rupert Grint, Tom Selleck, and countless others. They all have other part-time jobs outside of their acting or music careers. The secret has never been to get down to one job, it’s to find multiple revenue streams that bring you as much joy as the acting does. This ability to create financial security also creates a confidence and ability to really focus on the kind of work you want to do.
Michael Coleman is an award winning actor, writer and comedian who has appeared in numerous film and TV shows, such as Once Upon a Time, Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Smallville, Fringe, X-Men: Evolution. He’s also the founder of Story Institute, where actors and writers train to become acting and writing professionals in the film and television industry.