Work Backstage in the Performing Arts

So many folks – ourselves included – don’t (or didn’t) know what’s out there for work in performing arts production. For those of us who don’t have full-time regular J-O-B-S in the industry, we’re relegated to freelancing and picking up work wherever.

You’re in luck!

There are a TON of opportunities and resources out there for you and it doesn’t have to take thousands of dollars in college courses to start making money right now!

Let’s face it. The arts in the United States can be a poorly funded industry. Budgets get cut; funding is lost; and artistic staff can and will change the direction their going resulting in your part of the production being nixed. It’s best to be prepared.

Side Hustle

My wife and I talk about the “side hustle” all of the time. This is the ability to diversify your income so that you’re not dependent on one gig or working for just one company. You know you’ve got some sort of side hustle going on when you get a dozen W2s or 1099s at tax season.

As a disclaimer, this type of work isn’t for everybody. Budgeting is different when you’re not sure what next week or next month is going to actually bring home in the way of monies. Your schedule needs to be flexible to a certain extent or you won’t be picking up those $1000 day calls that pop up with 24 hours notice.

If I could give any advice to folks who are looking to make the switch from day job to freelance world, here are a few tips I wish I had known back when and advocate to folks all the time:

Set Goals

Develop a short list of skills you’d like to learn, people you’d like to meet, and types of work you’d like to engage in.

We listen to podcasts, read books and industry periodicals to keep on top of trends and technology. Don’t think that we’re maniacs with this. A little bit at a time. Podcasts in the background on the way to a gig, light reading over coffee in the morning, etc.

Find a person who does what you want to do. Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them questions about how they got to where they are. Listen.


You may be the best (insert area of specialty) but if no one knows about you, then you’re just treading water.

Networking doesn’t have to be the stuffy business attire meetings you may think it is. I network on gigs, through social media, and even while grocery shopping.

If you’re a bit on the shy side of personality types or even if you feel like you’ve been networking but aren’t getting results, I’d love to hear from you.

The sooner you engage with people in the trade, ask questions, and apply yourself, the sooner you’ll make connections and land work.

Be nice.

Encourage others.

Follow Through

You never know what connections you make today might yield you work tomorrow.

Collect contact information via social media and/or phone. That person you met yesterday is useless to you unless you have a way of communicating back with them.

Everyone is looking for people who they know, like, and trust to help out with their projects. Sometimes those projects are volunteer oriented and sometimes those projects are paid. Either way, they connect you with other people who help build your repertoire of experience and Rolodex.

Update your resume/CV

Even if your “profile” is a text document with names, dates, and scope of work you did, make sure you have a resume or can document work you’ve done.

I have a dozen resumes and more than that in cover letters that specifically target scopes of work and skill-sets that I can bill for.

Be the black sheep

Be aware that 95% of people are doing what everyone else is doing – competing for the 5% of monies out there. Set yourself apart by having a good attitude and being teachable and motivated.

I hope this helps.

If you have feedback or comments I’d love to chat.

Just another traveler in the world….


This post is made possible in part by support from our partners at Production Advantage.

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