So you’ve faced the final curtain.
And after the buzz of the last night party, and the less than tender hum of the morning after’s hangover, the realisation of the unemployed life
ahead starts to slither in like an unwelcome dinner guest.
However, there are several things you can do after a contract ends to ensure your career and mindset keeps moving forward.
Below is a list of to-dos to keep you occupied and proactive as you make the change in lifestyle and employment status. They range from quick and simple tasks to activities you can continuously implement, whether in a job or not. But all will help you skip the post-show blues altogether, whilst making you the proactive and productive actor you know you what to be. So let’s crack on…
1. Update Your CV / Website / Social Media
In this digital age where material is so easily accessible, it’s crucial that the information you’ve got out there is up to date. You don’t want to miss an opportunity because someone thinks you’re still in a show; there’s also nothing like seeing on someone’s Twitter that they’re currently appearing in a show that closed 3 months ago. It’s quick and easy. Change currently appearing to recently finished performing on your Spotlight CV. Post a status on all your social media platforms letting people know that you’ve just finished a run. The fact that you’re not doing the job anymore doesn’t mean that you didn’t at one point do it, and completely your run is something to be proud of.
2. Thank Your Creative Team
These guys gave you a job, so give them some gratitude. When I say creative team, I mean your director, and choreographer and musical director (if applicable). If you were doing an original show and worked closely with the writers, include them too. You’ll most likely have their e-mail address through a rehearsal call, or an e-mail they themselves may have sent. Send a quick note thanking them for the opportunity and hoping you’ll get to work with them again. Even a (concise) text is great. Creatives move very quickly onto other projects and your message puts you, your courtesy and professionalism in the forefront of their mind. And if they are ever involved in a show you feel right for, you can e-mail them without that being the first thing you contact them about since last working together. It’s also worth e-mailing thanks to the Artistic Director of the theatre, if they were a part of the casting process or had a close relationship with your company.
3. Contact All Industry Personnel That Came To The Show
Now that the acting job has finished, you’ve got to get started with the other acting job, The Hustle. Find out who in the industry came to watch and send them an e- mail with a link to your Spotlight, website and show-reel (you should have all of these!). I did a show where we had an Industry List posted on the company wall where everyone could write down the name of any casting directors, writers, directors, etc that had come to watch. At the end of the run, one of the cast members e-mailed the list out to the company. I didn’t contact them all personally, but having this resource was invaluable for me as I ended up meeting some of the casting directors personally in subsequent auditions and was able to use the show as a conversation starter. Whether you personally invited them or not, they have watched you perform so there is already an icebreaker. The sooner you do it, the sooner they can start thinking of you for potential roles.
4. File Away Your Payslips
On many shows you’ll receive a weekly paper copy of your payslip from your company manager. Other will be sent directly to your agent, who will most probably store them online with an e-payslip site. Whichever way they’ve come through, get access to all of them and file them in a folder on your computer, or in an envelope.
5. File Away Your Receipts
Filter through your purse, suitcase, inbox, and box of obscure things you keep from your dressing room, and separate out the receipts dated in the time frame of the job. Then sort through them again to keep the receipts for the things you can claim as expenses. This will make your life –and your accountants- a lot easier when it comes to that sly tax return deadline.
6. Put Aside The Tax
If your income on the job you’ve just finished has taken you past the Personal Allowance for tax-free income, it’s time to start putting away your Income Tax. A ballpark figure of what you should put away (if you’re in the lowest tier), is 20% of your gross income (what is on your production payslip). Or you could do 18% of what ends up in your account after your agent and VAT have had their worst. It may seem counter-productive, especially since if you’re resting, you’ll want all the funds you can get. But trust us, you do not want to get to January and start panicking that you haven’t kept enough saved. Fail to prepare and prepare for the wrath of the HMRC. Put away as much as you can.
7. Evaluate Your Experience
In order to improve on each job, it’s important to take the time to reflect on it. And it’s best to do this once free from the routine and environment of the show, so that you can debrief properly, but also be fully objective and honest about your experience. What could you have done better, on- and off-stage? Were there moments where your professionalism waivered? If you could repeat the job, what would you do differently? Answering these questions ensures that you improve personally as well as artistically.
8. Meet Your Agent
If you do number 7 for a good deal of time, I can almost guarantee you’ll want to do this anyway. Arrange a time to physically go into your agent’s office and have a meeting. Tell them about your experiences, but use it mainly to discuss the next steps of your career. Find out what they’ve been putting you up for, what is casting now and soon. And rather than asking your agent what they think is next, tell them what you want for yourself. It is their responsibility to get you into the room, but you need to know what rooms you want to get into. Be active and proactive, and they will do the same.
9. De-expense-ify your life
No doubt that whilst you were working, you built up a stack of newsletter subscriptions for various restaurants and stores that you now need to use…significantly…less. It’s time to get frugal. Unsubscribe! Unsubscribe! Unsubscribe! You may think you can just ignore the e-mails, or that 30% off coats at Urban Outfitters really is a great deal. But that 30% off doesn’t come for free, especially not at Urban Outfitters, so rid yourself of temptation. Take time to work out the cuts you’ll need to make on certain luxuries. If you must eat out, do it once a fortnight rather than three times a week. Or better yet, work out how to make cheap versions of your favourite restaurant meals. Sort out through your existing wardrobe and see what you can recycle and get a voucher back for. For more (awesome) tips on eating well on a budget, check out this great article from your admin Jason Broderick about Healthy Eating When You’re Skint.
10. Clear Out Your E-mails
Unless you need dispute the amount of hours you worked for some payslip issues, you’re unlikely to need the rehearsal calls and parish notices usually sent via e-mail from your company manager. Save the contacts you’re likely to need in the future, and get rid of the rest.
11. Visit Home
Get out of your world. See your parents. Visit your family. Cousins, nieces, nephews, dogs, and spend some time them. Get out of the big smoke –wherever that is for you- and get some fresh and drama-less air. Set a limit on this time though, so that you don’t end up feeling locked up in that respect too.
12. Or Take a Short Holiday
This one will be more beneficial if you’ve lived at home for the duration for the job, or you live with family regardless. A great way to prepare for this is to save a small amount in the last few weeks of the job. Use it to take a short city break. There are many cheap flights to various European cities, and great last-minute package deals if you have budget for a longer trip. Browse for the cheapest, best reviewed stays on AirB&b or Booking.com. Reward yourself for your work on the job. And don’t worry, there will still be auditions when you return. Casting Directors will forgive you for spending two days in Berlin. They may even be jealous.
Acting jobs can be very mentally, emotionally and physically demanding, so it is important to give yourself real down time. Say no to unnecessary social events. Put anything that isn’t pressing on hold whilst you rest your body and mind. Give yourself at least a day of complete relaxation, or ideally as long as you have the time, patience, and finances for.
14. Establish A New Routine
The loss of routine when a job ends can slowly turn into a sense of a loss of purpose. Especially when you’re losing the activity that served as your main artistic practice. In order to combat and avoid that feeling, create a schedule for your day. Add some personalised and designated structure to your life. Get an A4 piece of paper and write down some of the things you wish to make time for. Be sure to include exercise, enough hours of sleep, and a way of maintaining your artistic foundation. For example, if you set aside 30 minutes each morning to meditating, exercise, reading, networking, and improving one skill on your CV, that clocks up as ten hours of efficient work to career development every week.
15. Ready Yourself
Rest and relaxation aside, your next audition is only a call away. Be sure to take a break after your contract but make it snappy enough that you don’t allow yourself to get physically out of shape and mentally out of practice. If you’ve spoken to your agent, they are most likely going to be pushing you into casting rooms as passionately as possible; in order to put your best foot forward, it’s got to be shined. Get audition ready. Refresh the skills you’ve neglected or haven’t had to use recently. Practice your accents. Finesse your rep. Self-tape your monologues, then play them back and evaluate. Do it again. Hold onto the memories, but focus on improving your craft and getting your mind and body ready for the new opportunities, so that the topic of conversation will soon be your next job, as well as your last.