Good & Bad Ways to Deal with Freelancing Anxiety

Central Park & Skyscrapers
I’m back on the Bolt Bus on my way from New York City to Philadelphia looking at the shimmer of lights aglow in skyscrapers dotting the sunset as I enter the depths of the Lincoln Tunnel. While I’m on my way back to Philly for a few days to spend some time with my Danya, I am also going back a night early for another reason. I’ve hinted at this before, but I’m not sure if I’ve written about it in any detail. While I’ve never specifically been diagnosed with clinical anxiety (though I tried medication for a short period of time with no effects), I can be prone to spiraling into streams of stressful contemplation about my present and future. Some people have anxiety when it comes to performing, this is definitely not me. But in my past few years as a freelance artist, I have developed a great deal of anxiety surrounding where my next job is coming, from what is going to happen in my career, and what the future holds. I had a good handle on these impulses to overanalyze every possible thing that could go wrong when I had a stable job position. But as many other freelance artists have shared with me, living from job to job and paycheck to paycheck can pull out a whole slew of emotions that can send one driving down a highway of reasonable and unreasonable concern. While I am seasoned in how to deal with anxiety, I can’t say that I am an expert at coping. But with all of my experience in this area, I’d like to share some GOOD and BAD ways that I, myself, and others I’ve worked with handle their anxiety.

Anxious Face

GOOD - Write down what is making you anxious, why it is making you anxious, whether it is valid, and a game plan to relieve your concern if you consider it valid. Most of the time, I find that my anxious thoughts like to replay over and over again in my head because I like to evaluate, then reevaluate the evaluation to bring about the best outcome. This can be helpful to a degree, but tends to bring about a never ending cycle of thought. If I put these items down on paper, I tend to take the thoughts out of my head and stop the cycle of overthinking.

Dinner with my family (niece & Danya with me)
BAD - I know a handful of people that shut down when they are stressed. Instead of dealing or coping with what is causing their anxiety, they sleep all day, stop interacting with people, or just ignore their anxiety in hopes that it will disappear. This is no way to handle anxious thoughts. Try to avoid and be proactive to stop these negative coping mechanisms. Get up and get out. Go see some friends or family. There is no better way to stop anxious thoughts dead in their tracks then by hanging out with people that care about you. If you are with people you trust and have a chance to share what you are experiencing, then do so. But don’t dwell on the subject too long or let that anxiety take away your chance to forget about what is stressing you out.

GOOD - If money is stressing you out, as it does for many freelancers, don’t allow yourself to stay holed up in your apartment. Maybe you haven’t eaten out for awhile because of your financial fears. Maybe you haven’t seen an inspiring show in some time because “you just can’t afford it.” Don’t sit around your apartment feeling all anxious and sad about your bank accounts current state. There are ways to make things happen, you just need to be savvy. For instance, I am currently in a famine state of work. So, while I survive off of the feasts of yesterday, I find ways to make things happen. Can’t go out for dinner? I make dinner at home, then meet up with a friend for “dinner” and order fries or an inexpensive appetizer. A few bucks is worth my sanity. Or make a picnic and eat it outside of the comfort of your home. Don’t feel that you can purchase a ticket to that production that you have had on your calendar for 6 months? Give a few things up. Whether it be your daily latte, that bottle of wine, or that thing you think you need today (but could really get in a week or a month), pass on these items and buy that ticket. This way, you aren’t losing any money that you weren’t going to spend anyway and it feels like a special treat.

Overindulging, perhaps, with a delicious Pumpkin Martini.
BAD - Alcohol, Drugs, Etc. - Now I’m not one to judge and I’ve overindulged before. But turning to items outside of your body to help relieve anxiety is generally only a temporary fix to the bigger issue at hand. While becoming intoxicated is an easy solve to relieve overwhelming anxiety and stress, these things are likely to cause more of it down the line. Drugs and alcohol not only cost a great deal of money (which is a likely contribution to your anxiety), they often leave you feeling depressed, tired, and more anxious afterwards. Now, some people do require a certain dose of prescription drugs to chemically balance their brains or to take the edge off of extreme symptoms. But there is also a fine line with these types of drugs, as well. Don’t be afraid of a recreational evening with friends. Just be aware of your reason for indulging and avoid excess.

GOOD - A great deal of my own anxiety stems beyond finances outside of a feast period. But I also deal with stress caused by overwork and lack of immediate results. While dancers tend to judge their career well-being on the parts that they are cast to dance at any given moment, freelance artists tend to note their worth based on whether they are working and what they are working on. One way that I cope with this may seem a little odd. During my off times, you can often find me reviewing my previous work. Whether it be watching a particular role that I felt good in or a ballet that I choreographed, I watch things that remind me that I am successful and have talent. For me, particularly, it is easy to feel like a failure when sitting around waiting for that next call back or commission. Reviewing my previous work not only helps remind myself of where I’ve come from, it helps inspire me to push my next bout of work even further.

BAD - At times, I have committed the worst offense that most people dealing with some type of anxiety commit. I have lashed out at loved ones when they are trying to help. When things become overwhelming, it can be hard to tell when somebody is trying to help because often it feels like nothing can help. A partner offers some advice and you respond with a snap. A friend tries to relate and you tell them that they just don’t understand. Remember this. There is no greater gift than receiving the support of a loved one. Even if you can’t move past yourself, step outside of your mind and show appreciation for the care being offered to you.

GOOD - Look around at the things in your life that you can take control over. Anxiety tends to be inspired by an overwhelming fear of things that are mostly out of your control. Maybe they will be in your control at some point in the future. But, at the moment, you are unlikely to control all aspects of your future that concern you. If you take charge of certain things that are more in your control, like how much sleep you get, how much time you spend working to get work, how much recreational time you give yourself, and the state of your body, you may not feel as overwhelmed by the things in your career and life that are out of your control.

One of my favorite anxiety reducing activities - photographing skyscrapers (World Trade Center)


LOFD receives significant mention in Dance Magazine

I began Life of a Freelance Dancer nearly 4 years ago hoping to make a journal of my journey as I entered the world of working as a freelance artist. My plan was to document my experiences as a sort of guidebook for any dancer wishing to grab the reigns of their own career away from any permanent contract work. Little could I have imagined that it would become what it is today.

I was contacted a few months back to be interviewed by Dance Magazine about my Core-ography project, but was surprised that they had a lot of questions to ask about this blog. Consistency and a massive amount of hard work does pay off. Check out this online version of the article which features both myself and New York City Ballet's (and former Ivy Smith on Broadway's On the Town) Megan Fairchild. Read about how we are finding unique new media to break the fourth wall with our audiences. Or you could always purchase this month's Dance Magazine to see it in print!


How to Write a Freelancer's Resume or CV

It has been nearly four years since I began posting here at Life of a Freelance Dancer. You would think that, at a certain point, I would run out of fresh, new topics to discuss. Strangely enough, I often find the opposite. Looking through my previous posts, I was shocked to find that I have never talked about writing a resume as a freelancer. If you have been waiting for this post, your wait is over.

The resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) of a performing artist generally differs from one that might be constructed for work in most other fields. Many resumes are headed with either an objective, what you are looking for as a job seeker, or a general overview of your experience. Most dancers leave these items off of the top of their resume for a few reasons. First, it allows them to save space for their performing experience. Secondly, the objective of most dancers is quite clear. "I am auditioning to dance for you." If you are seeking a job working in administration, I think these details are pertinent to construct an appropriate resume. But if you are looking to join a company or perform in a professional production, I would suggest leaving these items off the top.

Keeping in mind the above information, where should you begin? Start by developing your header. The top of your resume should display your name as the largest item, usually in large, bold print. Following this should be your most personal information underneath your name in a smaller font, but still bold-faced. Be sure to include your contact information (phone number, address, & email) for the employer if they need additional information or want to offer you work. For freelancers that are seeking work beyond their local freelancing scene, I usually suggest that you add where you are based out of versus your physical address. For instance, I live in New York City and Philadelphia at the moment, so my resume states "Based out of New York City & Philadelphia." With my name centered and these items evenly spaced below, I finish off my header with a link to my personal website, which holds a wealth of additional information for any potential employer who wants a more detailed look at my experience. Additionally, include some of your physical details that are expected from applying dancers; like height, weight, hair color, eye color, and birth date.

The next section of your resume should consist of any long-term experience you have had. In bold-faced print and somewhere around size 16 font, write the words "Professional Employment" or "Professional Experience." Below that, you will go back to a regular, 12 point font. If you have held a contract with any companies or performed in an ongoing production (longer than a few months), be sure to post these in chronological order. My general experience is listed by date in general chunks of time. For instance, I danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet from 2004 - 2011 before transitioning into freelance work from 2011 - present. It isn't necessary to add the months that you worked with these companies. Just be sure to put your experience down starting with the most recent position you have held. For example, I place that I work as a freelance artist first, then PNB second. Avoid putting down company and performance experience that you have performed short-term as a freelancer, as we will include that later. Your general position should be stated as "Freelance Artist" or "Principal Guest Artist" (if you have performed as one) for the period of time you have been performing this type of work.

Next on the list, you will want to write down the roles that you have performed. A friend recently asked me for some advice on developing their resume relating to performing Corps roles more recently than Leading roles. My simple solve to this is to spread your experience out between multiple sections. Of course, if you have limited experience, you can keep this all in one section. But if you have been performing as a professional for a period of time, you often have to remove experience from your CV to keep it all fitting on one page.

For this section, begin again with a bold-faced, size 16 font with the title of "Leading Roles." By doing this, whether you have performed a leading role recently or not, this experience is at the top of your resume. Below this title, I list the name of the ballet, the role I danced, the company that I danced with, and the year that I performed this role. You have a few options of how to list these roles, but I generally put them in alphabetical order by choreographer. I also tend to use acronyms to list the companies where I performed roles, as it saves space and makes it easier to keep all of the information on one line. Throughout my resume, I will post the acronym for a company in parenthesis in my general experience area. For instance, as you can see below, under "Professional Experience" I wrote Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). That way the employer can reference back to the organization if they aren't familiar with the acronym.

If you wish to follow up your Leading Role experience with roles that you have performed that were either Featured, Corps, or Chorus roles, then you can follow your leading roles experience with this below. Format this section in the same way that you formatted above. At a certain point, my experience became too vast to include all of this information on my resume. So, instead, I chose to include two lists. One includes choreographers I have worked with where I originated roles (they were choreographed on me) and a separate section listing choreographers where I have danced Featured and Corps roles in their works. Beginning with the same type of header as I have executed for all of the above sections, I follow up next by evenly listing the names of all of the choreographers in alphabetical order. I also state the companies where I originated roles in works.

Following my performance experience, I finally include the list of organizations that I have worked with as a freelance dancer. I do this here because I generally worked with these organizations for shorter periods of times (usually a few days to a few months). Using the same header size and font as I have throughout, I follow up with the companies that I have freelanced with and the years that I worked with the companies. This is quite simple, evenly spaced, and neatly organized.

Finally, if you have enough space, you can include whatever you feel is best to sum up your experience. Some people choose to include quotes from printed reviews, while others leave information of references to contact. I chose to make a short list of accomplishments that I have achieved over the years and media that I have been featured in. It is really up to you to sum up your CV as you wish. If you feel that you are lacking in experience and can benefit from sharing reference information, by all means do this. If you feel that a Broadway audition may be interested in special skills that you have (acrobatics, gymnastics, etc.), put that here.

Generally, you should keep your resume down to one page. There are few instances as a performer where you should be providing potential employers with a resume beyond this. Try to print out your resume on paper that is higher quality than regular printer paper, but don't feel like you will be looked down upon if you can't manage that luxury. Today, many employers accept resumes via email or an upload button on a website. Be sure that you save your resume as a .PDF file. THIS IS A MUST!!!!! If you send your document in any other format, it is possible that there will be formatting issues when your information is uploaded. And if you are asking a company to take their precious time to look at your information, they will appreciate this. If they download your resume and it loses it's formatting, they are very unlikely to take the time to find a fix. This means that they won't read your resume and won't consider you for work.

There you have it! I have included an image of an old resume of mine below.  Please keep in mind that this is only a guideline for you to follow. Honestly, there is no perfect resume or CV. Each employer might have a different opinion on what they would like to see. Take this example that I have offered you and tweak it to work best for you. Happy Job Hunting!