Freelancing: A Choose Your Own Adventure Profession
By Amanda Pintore
Who I Am:
I am a teaching artist, creative mover, director, costume designer and circus entertainer. A.K.A. I am a professional freelancer. I identify primarily as a teaching artist and have learned over the past several years just how difficult that is to explain to others, and sometimes pin point for myself. A look at my work schedule would give most 9 to 5 folks an instant headache. I have given up all manner of nights, weekends and days off to pursue this passion. Why you ask? Besides being a workaholic, I love what I do. Every day is a different adventure.
Opportunities I Am Glad I Took (in other words, The Totem Pole):
When you venture into this world, you learn quickly that full time teaching artist positions are rare. I’m still not there! However, there are a number of stepping stones that worked for me:
- Internships – To date I have completed six internships at locations all across the country. These are perfect because they are long enough for you to get a feel for the company, but short enough to have the chance to explore other positions during the season. I have never taken an unpaid internship. I have taken several low paying internships. You have to decide what your time is worth, but also understand that internships are a learning experience.
- Assistantships/Fellowships – These often entail a longer stay at a company, but are completely worth it. Here, you are really given the chance to get to know the company and focus your skills while developing your philosophy as an artist.
- The Random Stuff (Summer Camps, Touring Companies and the Like) – I have hit points in my career where I knew I needed to try something even if it wasn’t going to be what I did for the rest of my life. I was a drama instructor at an overnight summer camp and worked as an educator at a touring company. I even had a stint as a princess performing at children’s birthday parties. Not only did I widen my net of connections in the field, I also added diversity to my resume. Don’t be afraid to take a few random opportunities that may not align perfectly with your vision.
- Teaching Assistant – Don’t be surprised if you have to start here with a company, no matter how fantastic your resume. Every working environment is going to have a different atmosphere and you need time to find your groove within it. Plus, it is always good to take a humbling backseat and observe other teaching artists in their element.
- Teaching Artist – Here it is, real bonafide lead teaching positions. These can be found in several places and it is important to dig, especially if you’ve moved to a new city. They can be born out of internships or assistantships. They may be found within actual children’s theatres/creative arts companies or may occur in schools as an extension of those companies.I am also at a point in my career where I can offer my teaching services to a school without a partnering organization contracting me.
Things to Remember When Searching:
- When looking for a company or a specific position it is important to keep a list of reminders in your brain. I started by figuring out my end goal. It is not a bad idea to start with a small goal, say five years from now, “I will….” For me, that goal was going to graduate school (finally happening this fall) and every freelancing internship, job, etc. that I took had to contribute to that goal in some fashion.
- When reaching out to a new company, remember that just as much as these companies are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. Know your strengths and be vocal about what you can bring to the table. This mutual exchange is key.
- Don’t hesitate to travel for a position, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I have spent the last six years traveling for new positions, but I always made sure to move somewhere with enough work that I could support myself.
- Finally, a lesson that I am just now learning, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. As a freelancer, you have to advocate for yourself and be able to say the scariest word of all: no. I still struggle with the balance of paying my bills and not driving myself crazy by working for so many companies at once. It is important to find that happy place where you can eagerly take the work that is coming your way, but know when enough is enough.
- Develop other skills (practical ones that align with your field, but also fun ones). It is good to stretch those creative arms in different ways and it will make you more desirable.
- Remember that every person you meet could be a potential networking connection. In other words be kind, be yourself and be honest.
- Stay in touch with past companies and give them recognition where it is due. You wouldn’t be where you are without them.
- Be persistent. If there is a company or job or place that must happen for you, keep trying to find a way to open the door.
Teach, create and do all the things you do. Ask questions, know your stuff and plan ahead. Being a freelancer can mean financial stress, question marks and a puzzle-piece work life, but how lucky we are to dream and create how and when we please.