The Cost of Not Thinking Your Career Through

The hidden statistics behind employment in the arts

Photo by Ian on Unsplash

The Reality

Presently in a declining economic climate, 2.7 million people in the UK alone have applied for unemployment benefits. Many of these are not just creatives, but blue and white-collar folks who took the traditional route. But they have something you don’t — hard skills that are interchangeable. Managing a theatrical production is entirely different from managing a product, something I learned the hard way.

The Risks They Won’t Speak Of

The Statistics

The chart below is detailing the earnings of members within the Actor’s Equity. Recall, that only 37% of these members were employed. Within, that 37%, only 1% had a chance of making over $200k, and 68% had a chance of making between $1k and $15k, barely enough to pay the rent. These numbers barely improve year over year and are now non-existent due to the crisis.

“We are prone to overestimate how much we understand about the world and to underestimate the role of chance in events.” Daniel Kahneman — Thinking Fast and Slow.

Mass Long-Term Unemployment

Even without Covid-19, finding paid creative work is scarce; your capacity for expression is the only fuel that justifies the sacrifices you make for the dream of one day making it. However, that creative capacity usually means you have to put everything else to the wayside; indeed, there is no half-effort in making it professionally, you have to go all in, and that means there is an exceedingly high cost you will have to pay.

Financial Illiteracy And Your Future

Every one of us who works full time pays into a pension to secure a safety net for when we retire. Governments around the world force us to do this because firstly, we tend not to think long term and possess financial literacy, and secondly, there is a great risk that the government may not be able to subsidize your retirement through a state pension due to a longer-living population and fewer workers for every one retiree!

Money can’t buy happiness but it sure does ward off misery.

There is a real risk that the lifestyle you enjoy now will be a pipe dream when you’re older, as you have not saved enough for retirement to even be an option.

Let’s look at the numbers!

You’re 23 now. You would like to retire at 65 (the legal age you can access your pension in the UK) and live on a very modest £20,000 annually. That’s £1,666.66 a month ($2,180 USD). But adjusting for inflation at 3%, you will actually require £69,213.92 to have the same purchasing power in the year 2062 that £20,000 does now!

So, £69,213.92 is how much you’d like to withdraw from your pension for the first year of your retirement, so you’ll need a pension pot at the age of 65 to be worth £1,730,349.75.

Wait, what?

It’s why governments force those in full-time employment to pay into one! If you haven’t been educated about why it’s necessary to start investing in one, it’s not your fault, it is simply a failing of the educational systems to prepare you for your future and the risks of your particular degree.

Opportunity Cost

Have you thought about what you are giving up in the quest for fame?


The partner you’re with is also 28, but her maternal body clock is ticking away. The discussions about children and family life, now start to take on more weight:

The Bottom Line

No career is safe and the inevitable rise of Automation puts everyone at risk, none more so than those in the gig economy, the sector for artists to subsidize their passion. So, here are some key things you can do right now:

  1. Start paying into a pension and take your finances seriously; a short term mentality not only affects your retirement but your career and relationships. These are all thorny issues that we tend to avoid talking about but Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the economic consequences of not taking it seriously. Investing apps are a great place to dip your toe and get started, where you can start by putting away £5 a week to save for your future.
  2. Discuss the future with your partner — the easiest one to put off. If they want kids, you better begin by talking through the requirements of what that actually means: such as, when they would like to have kids, when to start saving for a deposit on a house, how to pay off a mortgage, do we have income stability, do we have enough of a credit-score to access a mortgage, school, etc. The bottom line is: can you do any of those things on the career trajectory you are on now pursuing your passion, and if not, how likely is it that kids are not an option? You’ll also have to consider that at the age of 22, having children is not appealing and one may never want to have them, but at the age of 30 and the window to conceive shrinks, people’s long-held beliefs may change…

Voice Coach and Founder of Orator | Masters in Voice Studies, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama | Currently Coaching in London |

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