So You’ve Decided to be a Stage Manager. Now What?

A lot of articles you read these days about how to become a stage manager focus on how hard the work is, how difficult it is to find jobs, how little money you’re going to make, or even how all the good positions are taken.

100% UNTRUE.

There are so many amazing ways to create a successful career. The trick is to change your perspective. Take some time to expand upon the definitions that have been presented to you up to this point and suddenly, the pool of jobs for stage managers you could be hired for expands significantly.

1. More than a stage manager – you’re a freelancer

Often we only think of SM careers as time spent in pre-production, rehearsal, and show calling. This unfortunately only gets us part of the way. In this industry, it is a near guarantee that we won’t spend the entirety of our careers in the same role working for the same company. Freelancing is king in our world.

Let me repeat that. Freelancing is king.

Not only will you need to learn to work with hundreds of freelancers throughout your career, you’ll also need to align yourself with the “gig economy” mentality. In some ways, you’re already prepared for this. Shows open and close and you’re off in search of the next opportunity. News that more industries are aligning with this way of working is a topic for serious debate these days. Many wonder if it is sustainable, is it the new norm. Which in some ways is a funny concept to event and theatre people. We’ve been working this way for years! Our struggle is not coping with this type of work environment. Our’s is looking beyond the next gig and the one after. It is thinking long-term, how we can turn these short-lived employment stints into a long career with benefits, security, and a little bit of financial stability.

To do this, you must think of yourself as a business because in everything but legal status, that’s what you are. The services you provide to a producer are the end result of all the efforts of your business. In order to get to the point where you are able to provide products and services, your business must build an infrastructure encompassing many different departments.

Here’s a few classic business departments and some ideas about you might apply them to your “Freelance Business For Hire.”

  • Marketing

How do others find out about you to hire you? How do you network? What makes the best impression? How do you present yourself compared to other people vying for the same jobs?

  • Sales

How much do you charge for your services? How do you increase volume? How will you meet your sales targets for the year?

  • Finance and Budgeting

Closely related to your Sales, where does your money come from and where is it going? How do you pay for rent and bills? How are you being paid? How much do you put away for taxes? How do you save for retirement? How much do you have to make to cover your cost of living?

  • Legal

As a freelancer you’re going to be working for a lot of different companies. How do you make sure you’re protected?

  • Operations

Can you do your job more efficiently than others competing for the same role? How can you give yourself advantage over your competition? What about continuing education?

2. Broaden your thinking

What is management, really? Don’t only take gigs that fit within a narrow subset of what has been defined for you as “stage management.” There are plenty of other management roles that align beautifully with the wide sets of skills that you’re learning through your work in the theatre.

Think about the aspects of stage management that you truly love (there are many to choose from). I guarantee you that jthere are jobs out there across various industries that allow you to exercise those particular skills. Those roles just don’t carry the title, “Stage Manager.” Side note: many of them have the added advantage of paying well, too! Here are just a few of the potential jobs for stage managers out there, just to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Production Manager
  • Production Assistant
  • Talent Wrangler
  • Production Coordinator
  • Company Manager
  • Event Planner
  • Wedding Planner
  • Site Coordinator
  • Venue Manager
  • Project Manager

 

The true art of “Managing,” the act of taking responsibility for a project and seeing it through from start to finish, is a highly valued and sought-after talent in all industries. So if you are thinking, what do I do now that I am out in the world, stop, take a breath, and remember that your options are open. You just have to change your perspective.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss any of the above in more detail. I’d love to connect.

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