I'm writing this blog post to all my lovely friends out there who are thinking of taking the plunge and move to the big apple. I can only speak from my personal experience so a lot of my move was on a budget and comes with a lot of survival jobs.
I will be adding in content along the way for those moving to the city already lined up with an amazing job and just need a bit of how to advice. Congrats to those with a serious adult job that pays the bills and then some....stay there forever. hehe Just kidding. Follow your passions but the actor life is no joke if you're considering.
So you want to move to New York City but you've got one, maybe two contacts up here and lord knows one of those college "friends" isn't really a friend and will read your post and never get back. To be fair, it's not personal, I've been that "friend" and not gotten back because life gets busy, people. But, how do you do it? How much money do you need saved? Where do you live? What's a safe neighborhood? What type of job?... the questions can be endless and scary. So, let's begin.
So, here's what I did. I moved to the city with 4000 in my savings account and got a short term, pre furnished sublet (I'll get to that later) to give me just enough time to know if I'd crash and burn with still enough money to afford a plane ticket home or (hopefully) flourish and be able to afford longer term housing, or stay subletting and auditioning. BTW I just hit year three! YAY!
I found a short term sublet through a mutual friend but there's an amazing facebook page called "Gypsy Housing." Artists move in and out of the city on contract so frequently that there's always a short term or long term sublet coming available. Literally. Everyday.
When looking at housing on gyspy, it's important to set a budget. Housing can be anywhere from 600 to....well, it's NYC so unlimited. I've attached a list of areas that are heavily populated artist areas, safe communities, and affordable housing. If you find a space in your budget you can look up the street address on Google Maps and see the satellite view up close and personal to get an idea of the neighborhood.
Best Areas of NYC to Live
Queens: Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City- most of queens is quite safe but these are the more popular, affordable artist areas with good community.
Brooklyn: Greenpoint, Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Park Slope, Bed Stuy, Bay Ridge, Bushwick
Manhattan (affordable): East Village, Financial District, Lower East Side, Hells Kitchen, Upper West Side (some affordable housing can be found), West Harlem, Morningside Heights, Washington Heights (big artist community and very affordable housing), Inwood (farthest commute)
When discussing housing and subletting (short term housing agreement that does not usually go through a land lord and is just a trusted agreement) make sure you asked the following questions:
What subways is the apartment close to
How long is the commute into Midtown Manhattan AKA audition studios in Midtown
How long is the walk to the subway from the apartment (this is important especially in the colder months)
Are utilities separate or included
Is the room furnished or not furnished
Any big particular rules about the apartment that may not be common knowledge
Are there any negatives about the apartment I should know about if you're not able to view in person i.e. mold, rodents, bugs etc (of course this is tough because the person could lie but hopefully not. It's not common to have negative gypsy housing experiences but it's also not unheard of so just be thorough in questions)
Once you've got it nailed down, you like the apartment, the budget works, and the roomies seem nice download the app Venmo. This will probably be your main source to transfer rent for your new sublet and transferring funds in general in the city. Venmo is safe and reliable and has a super easy interface.
The New York City real estate market is no joke and you'll probably have at least one sublet fall through but trust me when I say it always falls into place at the last minute. It may be down to the wire but that is absolutely how the city works. Try not to stress too much.
Soooo congrats, now you've moved and you're almost a New Yorker, though most will argue that only a perfect balance of love and hate of the city make you true city folk. It's time to get a survival job and figure out how the theater community runs up here. It is absolutely different then anywhere else and can be a steep learning curve. Let's start with the job that pays the bills.
Waiting tables. There's always turn over in the restaurant and finding a serving position is not difficult. Literally walk into a restaurant, ask if they're hiring, and give them a resume (non acting resume)
Nannying. Nannying is a great option in the city, again, lots of families looking for reliable sitters and often times consistent work throughout the week. I work with a family that I love four days a week picking up and handling after school care. A lot of these positions are through work of mouth but if you know one actor up here they know at least three families looking for part time sitters.
Catering. Another great option that offers flexible hours and good pay.
Working for the theaters in merchandise. Again, high turn over and good pay....and you get to see shows for free!
If you are bringing a car there's always the option of being an Uber of Lift driver.
Reception Positions. A lot of the audition studios hire actors to answer phones and questions and schedule the audition spaces etc. In the audition studios they're going to be more understanding to flexible hours but if you feel more comfortable with consistent hours look online for 9-5 openings.
Temp Work. I know a lot of friends who do temp work consistently. They work a full work week one week and off the next to audition. Googling temp work will bring up a slew of offices looking. Go interview and get cracking. I've worked with Hudson Gate Partners and had great experiences.
Niche work. I worked in health care for three years before moving to the city and I was able to use that to my advantage. Caregiving is a huge job market in the city and can offer flexible hours. I've worked the past three years in the city specializing in Alzheimer's care and companionship. This has been a means to pay the bills but also incredibly rewarding work. If you have any niche specialties use them to your advantage and make your own schedule.
High Profile Nannying. This is a particular market but there are many higher profile families in NY looking for care takers who value discretion. If this is something you can get behind and have significant nanny experience with great recommendations google this area and get some interviews set up. I've worked with and have been placed with a family through the Lindquist Group- highly recommend.
When moving to the city in pursuits of being a professional actor there's a steep learning curve especially if you're not coming from one of the big feeder schools.
Equity verses Non Equity, how to get an agent, how to audition for an EPA, what's an EPA... these are all great questions that I feel most actors are not equipped with when coming out of undergraduate acting programs. The tools to succeed in this business likely were not taught in school because it's more about working the skill and honing the talent unless you're in a larger program that is highly set up in the city. BUT, it's not impossible to learn and can only be made better with practice and understanding. Please check out my beginners guide for the non union actor in New York City.
BEST NYC APPS
Google Maps- for finding your way around
NYC Subway- to learn the subways stops. Though, spending a lot of time out and about learning the routes is the best way to become familiar with the city. It's not hard just seems a little scary because it's new.
Seamless- The best app that will forever change your life simply because of food delivery service.
Venmo- The easiest way to transfer money
Yelp- to know just how good the food is
This should get you to a good three month or so point where you decide what the next move is- hopefully to stay. Hopefully that survival job is tolerable and the subways are becoming easier and it's become time to start investing in the life that you want to make for yourself in this beautiful city. The trial period is over and now it's time to hunker down, start the real work, get a longer term housing situation, invest deeper in relationships and become a real New Yorker. If New York is not the place for you-you tried and will always have the memories of this place and time in life. Because if nothing else this city will keep you on your toes and give you memories to last a life time.
Please feel free to message me with any questions or if you have anything to add to this article! I would love to hear about your experiences moving to the city! (: