Don’t Let Side Jobs Bring You Down

How I stopped vomiting at my side jobs - Pyragraph
Heading to work, trying not to hurl.

With few exceptions, I begin vomiting daily at every routine job around the sixth month of employment.

This is why I had to hire myself.

Unless you’re a particularly busy actor and able to sustain yourself from residuals and acting work alone, you’ve likely got a side job. I won’t call this a fall-back job, since you won’t find an actor out there saying, “Thanks to my parents for blessing me with the ability to serve heinous people heaping plates of fat all day long. I’m so thankful I’ve got this to fall back on when my acting career bombs.” Jobs to supplement moneys are side jobs.

My side jobs have included waitressing, baristing, senior home care, pet-sitting, house-cleaning, selling lingerie to catalog customers, more baristing.

When I realized I have a regurgitative response to all repetitive jobs, I decided to create my own side job.

I asked myself:

  • What am I good at that I also enjoy?
  • What won’t make me want to puke after six months of doing it?
  • What can I do that won’t hold me back from going to auditions?
  • How much can I afford to put into this endeavor?
  • What will people pay for year-round?

When I’m feeling down, a Google search of cute baby animals is my remedy. I also love finding really tiny cups and tiny silverware and other tiny things at vintage stores and flea markets. I particularly love wearing a little sock on my finger.

My answer was to make tiny things.

My business, Very Small Shoes for Very Small Humans, is a great remedy for acting unemployment slumps. It’s a side job that allows me to hold a mini shoe in the palm of my hand and giggle. It cost me about $350 to start up. $250 of that was my farmers’ market season cost, and I made that back during my first two weeks at the market. Another $20 went into opening an Etsy shop.

Now, when I go into an audition and I’m asked if I can take time off work for a shoot, I can say, “Sure! I am a self-employed baby shoemaker, I’ve got no schedule.” This feels so much better than, “I’ve accrued vacation hours for situations like this,” or “I’ll just quit my job if my manager says ‘No!’ Haha!”

If you’ve got a side job that only brings you down, know that it doesn’t need to be that way. When you’re an artist being rejected 90% of the time, your side job should be one that keeps you from feeling like expelling your insides every time you clock in.

Photo by Christina Salas.

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  1. I’m glad you are doing something that you like and that’s creative. I’m sorry that caring for seniors brought you down so much, though.

    I spent a few hours tonight in my new “side job” of executor, going through papers belonging to one of my patients, now deceased, who depended totally on home caregivers. I read employment records on one after another who worked for a few weeks, days, or even hours, then simply decided it was too hard and didn’t show up. The last one of these directly contributed to my patient’s death by refusing to take her to a critical doctor appointment. The so-called caregiver quit that day, saying the job was “too hard.”

    Doing home care for seniors and disabled people is one of the most crucial jobs there is, and it is desperately needed by those the caregivers serve. If it makes you want to vomit, I’m very, very glad you aren’t doing it anymore. It’s a whole lot more important and more rewarding, and sometimes even a whole lot better paying (though never well-paying enough for what is involved) than being a barista. Your attitude toward this work makes ME queasy. A greater level of maturity, caring and commitment is definitely needed to do the job.

  2. Hi Elene,

    I certainly didn’t mean to insinuate that every one of the jobs in my “side-jobs” list made me feel ill–it was just a list of side-jobs I’ve held. I loved visiting the man I helped, spending hours in his house every day, listening to stories from his life, taking his dog out, running errands. I am a lover of anthropology because I love humanity, I am an artist because I feel inspired by the world around me.

    I am sorry I have offended with my syntactical fumble. To clarify, I spent three years unexplainably throwing up every morning while holding jobs as a barista, as a waiter, and as a customer service representative. My most interesting and rewarding side jobs were running a vegetable garden working for a soup kitchen, helping with a professors’ anthropological fieldwork study, taking care of an elderly writer and his black labrador, waitressing at a tiny family-owned restaurant, and busking at BART stations in San Francisco. All of my favorite side-jobs were short-lived, with a time limit based on contract, funding, or my hopping around to a new location. The creation of my own business was to provide a job that wouldn’t be short-lived and, depending, possibly causing ill to myself by working there, allowing me to dependably work as an actor.

    I share your disgust with people who would mistreat the elderly or feel sickened by them in any way. My little brother works at a senior home now and I’m so proud knowing that he cares about them and isn’t an abusive jerk to the community. I can now see the implication in my writing. Thank you for pointing this out so I could clarify.

  3. Good article – expressing all the pain of have to do jobs because I cannot get all the work I need from my first love job. And good on you that you found a creative side-job that is yours.

  4. Tabatha, thanks so much for the clarification! It must have been frightening as well as uncomfortable and awful to find yourself throwing up day after day. I hadn’t quite gotten the message that you were severely, physically ill. Yikes.

    It was kind of you to write a thoughtful reply, and your reply does make your original post a lot more understandable.

    Just for full disclosure– I taught music lessons and played as a soloist for three decades. I do know the extra-jobs-while-struggling-in-the-arts thing (and most of you writing on Pyragraph seem to have yourselves a lot more together with marketing, etc. than I did– I’m impressed with you all). I’ve been fortunate in that going to acupuncture school wasn’t just the desperation of trying to make a living, but something I could genuinely throw myself into with great enthusiasm. I still put a lot of time and energy into music but don’t teach anymore.

    It seems like it’s getting to be usual to have to do more than one job these days, even for people in more traditionally job-like careers. I wish everyone happy and fulfilling side job experiences! And I wish for society to value people who do every kind of job.

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