Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Creative

So, I bought a "white board" last night to help me manage the time I spend not making money.

As you might have noticed in a previous post (no, not this post... though that one's very important, and I hope you join me in Salem on March 17!), things have been pretty slow here at Casa de' Trish and Harold lately. The economy (stupid) has affected us the same as it's affected everyone else. Thankfully Trish and I are actors. We're better equipped to handle tough economic times like these.

Why, you may ask, are actors better equipped to handle a bad economy? It's not the reason you might think - that we don't make a lot of money anyway, so we can do more with less (that's true, don't get me wrong... but the "less" we're used to becomes even less-er during bad times, the same as it is for anyone else).

We're better prepared to operate in bad times because actors are, by their nature, entrepreneurs. We don't go to an office and work 8 hours a day, five days a week (well, some of us do, but that's not our "real job"). We run our own "business-to-business" operation, just like the machine parts company that sells landing gear to Boeing, or the office supply company that sells paper to law offices - we sell our talent and abilities to producers and directors to make something. We're used to putting a lot of contracts from a diverse group of clients together to make our living. This is what sees us through the tough times. The office worker who's used to a 40-hour-a-week job is at a loss - sometimes paralyzed - when s/he gets laid off, or his/her hours are cut as the result of a bad economy. A business owner just keeps on keepin' on, and works harder to find creative ways to run the business. So it is with us.

If we actors want to be successful in our business, we have to do the work required to run the business. It's that simple. When I made the decision a few years back to get serious about my acting career, I had to learn a very important lesson: time spent building my career and reputation is WORK, not PLAY. The money I spent on tools that made my acting career easier to manage (like PerformerTrack, my blackberry, books, etc), and the time spent doing bookkeeping, learning lines, rehearsing, going to auditions, networking and promoting myself and my projects - while it felt self-indulgent at the beginning, and took time away from my day-job work that made guaranteed money - was simply money and time spent managing my business. It's the same work a corporation would expect a CEO, CFO, PR Manager, Middle-manager, and employee to do. The difference is that my business doesn't have five people to do the work. It's got me - and I only have so many hours available to me to do that work.

Wait a minute... I guess I lied a few paragraphs back. I do work 8 hours a day five days a week - I just don't go to someone else's office to do it. Huh...

Anyway, up until recently I've been able to manage everything using my Outlook Calendar, my PerformerTrack, and my noggin. I was able to balance my acting jobs with my day-job, and would step between my two lives with ease and surety. Then things slowed down (on both fronts) at the beginning of the year. Suddenly, neither of my two businesses was bringing in the amount of work I'd gotten used to.

Which brings us back to the title, the white board, and getting creative. When I realized that I had a lot more time during the day (time that was spent working on money-making projects) I faced a choice: I could worry about the fact that the work wasn't coming my way, wait by the phone, and sweat it out... or I could get creative and find new opportunities. I could use the time to do the work to build my business in a different way - to find ways to use my skills for new purposes, and for new markets. Those of you who know me know I'm not one to sit around and watch "Reality" TV (a misnomer if ever I heard one, but that's a topic for a different post) until opportunity finds me. Opportunity is all around us, if we're willing to see it and invest the time (and sometimes money) to make it into a reality.

Enter the white board. I've had a lot of ideas over the past couple of years... ideas on how to make my acting business stronger, on how to bring in more income through acting-related side-projects, on investments that I could make to give myself more opportunity. They've been ideas, up to this point, because I've been so busy working on other things that I haven't had the time to devote to them. Well, I can't say that now - I've got the time. I've even got the money - yes, it's scary to spend cash on "opportunities" that don't have a guaranteed pay-off, but that's the very definition of investment: putting your money into an area that you expect to pay off in the long-term. The cash I've saved up can sit in an account gaining 4.5% interest, or I can gamble a little of it on something with a little risk that is likely to turn a profit in the long term.

When President Obama (aaahhh... still feels so good to say that out loud...) was discussing the state of the economy a few weeks back, he suggested that we work to turn "crisis into opportunity." I'm a big believer in that idea - there's always two sides to a coin. Less of one thing always equals more of another. It's basic physics - a vacuum will be filled. We can let others decide what to fill it with, or we can take matters into our own hands and decide for ourselves. I choose to make that decision - I'll take the risk, and I'll pay the price if I fail... but when I succeed (as I tell myself I will), I'll be that much happier about the path that led me here.

So, expect news of some exciting projects coming from the Trish and Harold nerve-center in the coming weeks. These could be troubling times... but I choose to see them as exciting times, times that are wide open and waiting to be used to make tomorrow better.

In the mean time, I hope you're all doing well, and thinking of creative ideas yourselves.