Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Second Job Wages - Are They Worth It?

Last week I began house managing again for our local theatre. When you go and see a play there are typically at least two managers in the building. The stage manager does just that - they mange the stage. They are there to make sure everything goes smooth with cast and crew and that the performance goes well. There is a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea - the stage manager oversees the production.

The house manager oversees the audience. They handle ushers, coat check, concessions, ticket window and any questions the patrons might have. So, while house manager has everything in the lobby and auditorium (or "house,") the stage manager has everything on and back stage. This is a pretty simplified example but enough to give you an idea. Anyway, I've done both at various times over the years (though never at the same time.) In my world the stage manager is pretty much the same person every single night of a play whereas the house manager can be, and frequently is, someone different every night. The reason for this is that stage manager has very play, cast and crew specific duties that are specialized to each show, while the house manager, however, does pretty much the exact same thing (turn on the lights, set out the programs, train the ushers) regardless of what the play is.

In any case - I used to house manage pretty regularly about 4 years ago or so. When I realized I was going to be needing to horde every penny I could, as well as trying to make some extra shekels - I talked to my old boss and asked if they might have some house managing gigs open again. Much to my happiness, they did! So, last Wednesday was my first day back.

While I am glad to be earning extra money, there is a part of me that is wondering if it is worth it...

House managing pays about $40 a night. Wednesday and Thursday night I put in about 5 hours each night. Now admittedly, I had to be there especially early because we had to go over some new evacuation procedures with the ushers and this is an incredibly long show, so 5 hours isn't the norm. I'd put it closer to 4. Which means I'll be making $10 an hour. House managing is one of those jobs that is a half hour of chaos followed by an hour of calm then 15 minutes of chaos and then another hour of calm, and so on. While not precisely hard work, you are in charge of quite a bit - like evacuating the building in an emergency, dealing with medical issues (everything from seizures to kid puke,) angry patrons, maintenance problems like when the bathrooms upstairs had a problem and water poured out of the electrical fixtures, and once a I had to catch bat that was flying around in the lobby. The last two nights I worked I went home exhausted. Is $10 an hour worth it?

I think so... for now anyway. While there is a part of me that says I could be using this time to work on homework, passive income streams, or spend time fixing up my house, I also realize what a great opportunity this is. The nice part is that I can choose my own schedule. We are sent a list of available nights and then we email what we can do. Then the schedule is made from that, which means I get to pick and choose when I work.

Plus there are those two hours or so of calm. Those are great times to catch up on my reading. I can't completely relax- I have to keep my eyes and ears open in case a problem should occur, but reading is certainly acceptable. Then finally, there is another advantage. House managing allows me to be in touch with the theatre. I feel like a part of productions, even in my small "here one night, gone the next" kind of way. I get to see my friends and hear all the things that are going on downtown. Already I have been able to reconnect with some folks I haven't talked to in a long time.

As I like to say, "from pennies, dollars are made." As a nonpassive income stream this may not be one of the highest paying, but I think it is going to work for me.

Photo by: mercurialn


Catie said...

I think about this often when I am doing a freelance gig that is not really worth the hourly rate, and I think you've hit it on the head. What it boils down to for me is that I am taking a hit on my wage in exchange for the freedom to not have a 20-hour per week 2nd job all the time. Basically, the lower wage is worth the freedom I retain.

Having a little guilt-free reading time is just a bonus!

LP said...

It really does sounds like a fun job, even if the pay isn't all that great. I used to work at a musical theater when I was a teen, and I also loved the calm times when the patrons were watching the show and I got to study/read.

Dawn said...

Catie - you are right! The benefits of a job are not always just the cash. There are other intrinsic benefits that need to be looked at.

LP - Theatre is one of my great loves and it is a whole lot of fun!

Lindsay said...

Hi Dawn,

I am, of course, a big fan of building assets that bring in passive income, but it's a task that really takes months and years to come to fruition. When you need money now... well, sometimes you just have to take that second job! Wages may not be great, but if you enjoy the work and the atmosphere, you're ahead of most people.

You could always use that down time during the show to read educational material and plot out blog posts. :)

Louise said...

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