Post 29: “Would I have seen any of your work? And do you actually earn any money from doing this?”
Arts freelancers. We're no one until the person we meet can validate us through personally knowing of our work. And for some reason it's entirely acceptable to ask about earnings in a way that seems impolite when speaking to, say, an office administrator.
(They're almost definitely earning more than me. That gives you a ballpark.)
It takes a long time to build up your reputation in the industry, and most people take unpaid roles and opportunities for ages before they start finding paid employment. For me, having worked in other fields for so long and without professional training as an adult, I think it was over 2 years before I got paid theatre writing or directing work that wasn't related to workshops or activities for kids.
During that period I tried to gain as much experience as possible, volunteering to help people who had valuable skills that I could learn from.
In 2012 my play Staffroom opened at the Tristan Bates Theatre in the West End as part of the Camden Fringe Festival. My mum was full of excitement, “Now you're famous!” I replied, “Ok mum, name me 5 contemporary Playwrights with work on the West End fringe. Having ummed and aahed for a few minutes she reluctantly admitted that she didn't know any. “That's EXACTLY how famous I am,” I told her.
As a freelancer I find I work constantly at finding work. At the same time, I am.driven by my own projects. It's bloody lucky I can't sleep much. When I am travelling or touring there is usually twice as much to do as I work on both the event I'm with and the ongoing stuff back home. There's a self-imposed pressure to push on and make money. We'll, not entirely self-imposed - as the old adage goes, my landlord won't take exposure in lieu of rent .
I think people imagine that working in theatre and comedy must be hilarious japes and celebrities and constant fun, but like all jobs it's 90% admin and 10% fun.
If I’m honest, I actually love it. I need to validate myself.