NZS, Episode 0011: Finding Stability In A Multifaceted Career

Nate: Hello everyone and welcome to episode 11 of the Nate Zeisler Show. Before we dive in, I want to give a shoutout to Buzzsprout, the online platform that hosts my podcasts. This is an incredible tool for content creation and I encourage you to dive into podcasting. Following the link in the show notes let’s Buzzsprout know I sent you, gets you a $20 Amazon gift card if you sign up for a paid plan, and helps support this show. What are you waiting for, sign up for Buzzsprout today!

Now, on to the question from Parisa. 

Parisa: As artists, we often lead multi-faceted careers. How do you strike work-life balance as you’re trying to transition your artistic passion into a full-time financially viable career?

Nate: This is the first question on the podcast that blends work/life balance, financial stability and meaning, I love it. I could spend hours answering this question but today I’m going to focus just a little time on the financial stability piece of the equation and I hope it provides some insight. 

Pursuing a multi-faceted career can be some of the most rewarding, overwhelming and intense work you can do. This is because artists need time to build some financial stability before they fully pursue their artistic passion. That means, at least in the beginning, you will probably have to pursue work outside your art making in order to make ends meet. 

I actually think that the pursuit of the multi-faceted career brings balance because it forces you to focus in on exactly what you’d like to do artistically. Your ability to say no to things during this time is every bit as important as taking the next great artistic opportunity.  

Your desire to strike a balance between your artistic pursuits and financial stability is the hallmark of a multifaceted career and my suggestion is as follows: Find one position that offers a minimum of 20 hours a week of work that is regular (for example, 9-5 hours), that is predictable and requires zero work outside of your place of employment. Balance that work by building a portfolio of work in the flexible work space. While you will likely need to begin working full-time to cover your costs, as you gain work on the artistic pursuit side, you can cut back on the 9-5 work. 

When it comes to financial stability, there are a few advantages to pursuing a multi-faceted career in your 20s. 

  1. First, a multi-faceted career lowers your financial risk: If you’re like me, having some stability while you figure things out is important. Working for 20-40 hours a week will not only provide some financial stability, it will give you a work community for connection. This is also a good place to plan to save for retirement. I recommend saving 15% of your stable work to invest in a retirement account. Save early, save often. 

  2. Second, a multi-faceted career provides time for transition: While you’re in your 20s, you can use your stable, 20-40  hour a week position to anchor your work while planning for a transition to completely flexible work over an established amount of time. This dramatically lowers your financial risk while giving you time to build up flexible work.

  3. Third, a multifaceted career gives you more headspace to focus on work you really want to do–If you’re always concerned about where your money comes from, you won’t feel like you can pursue the things you care about. What’s worse for me is that when you depend on 100% of your art to sustain you, it forces you to take jobs that are not fulfilling or at all meaningful.  Anchoring yourself in steady work allows you to compartmentalize your work. When you’re at the 9-5 job, focus completely on the position so that when you leave, you can dive directly into your art.  

Individuals who pursue a multifaceted career are looking for the best of both worlds, a flexible career with some stability. This line of work allows for some side gigs and personal pursuits while also enables you to have regular, steady income. In your 20s, a blended career is also nice because it allows you to test the waters and see which end of the spectrum you’d like to be on. Multifaceted career seekers often have one (or more) of the following things in common: 

  1. They have the ability to pursue variety and adventure without financial fear—Blended career seekers often appreciate this pursuit because it keeps them alive and enthusiastic about the work. In addition, the 20 to 40 hour a week position allows them to take a breath, bringing balance into their lives. Think of your 9-5 job as an investment in the future you because it will likely allow you to start saving for big ticket items like a down payment on a home, retirement, or even a vacation and increasing your ability to have flexibility later in life.

  2. They are choosy about the flexible work they take on—One of the biggest reasons people move away from flexible work is that they take work that is not meaningful or satisfying to them in their pursuit of financial stability. A balanced approach provides a solid financial foundation so you can say no to work that doesn’t align with your career goals.

  3. They build a social network during their 9-5 job. Flexible work can be quite isolating, especially if you’re building your career on going into business for yourself. Part of your decision making process when searching for a 9-5 position should revolve around the individuals who will be your colleagues. Having a tribe is a great way to stay focused on your career and life goals.

  4. They build routine. I have seen a lot of individuals struggle deeply if they don’t have a daily routine. A part time position with set hours can provide the type of structure that enables you to deeply plan each day. Time is the ultimate variable in the pursuit of a balanced career. If you want to have more money in the mix, maybe you work for 30 hours a week for three years and then 20 hours a week for 2 years and 10 hours a week for one year, all while building up flexible work. If you want financial stability, give yourself more time to transition. 

Parisa, there is one word of caution that I’d like you to and our listeners to consider and that is the challenge associated with a part-time job. Many people dream of a part time job that offers a good salary while giving them some flexibility to pursue the things they love to do with the rest of their time. Part time jobs are tough because even if you are only working 10-20 hours a week, the work often leaves with you. If you take on a part time position, it must be something that when you leave, you don’t have to think about it until the moment you sit down to work the next time. A lot of part-time positions can be incredibly draining because, inevitably, the work is much more than what you can accomplish in a part-time setting. The right part time job can be a great way to anchor your artistic work and I have a few tips to help you find the right work for you:

  • First, expertise driven part time work is the best—Do you have a skill that you can utilize to be your part time job? This may or may not be in the main focus of your flexible career. Your primary goal with this is to provide financial stability. Take a look at sites like elance or upwork to see if there are jobs that meet your skillset. The nice thing about this work is that you can do the work on your time, not with set hours during a normal 9-5. Musicians take advantage of their expertise driven part time work by teaching private lessons, which allow them to set their own schedule and likely charge a much higher hourly rate than if they held a normal desk job. 
  • Second, your goal is to make at least 2X minimum wage—In order for your 9-5 work to make sense within a balanced career path, you need to be making above the established minimum wage in your area. I like the goal of twice the amount of minimum wage so you can work for less time and make comparatively more money. 
  • Finally, on demand work is great—I can’t get into a Lyft or Uber in LA without learning that the driver is driving to support their acting career, band tour, or script writing. The beautiful thing about on demand work is that YOU get to decide when you work. You could batch two weeks of work in four days and then take off for the next ten while you’re on a tour, or even select the hours you want to work within each day in order to maximize your work in other areas. 

Parisa, thanks so much for the question and to those of you listening, I’d love to be able to answer one of your questions on a future podcast. Please send me an email with a recorded question to and I’ll do my best to help. Finally, if you like what you hear on this podcast, I encourage you to join my newsletter, 5 Tips For The Unrelenting Twenty-Something, it’s completely free, easy to digest and specifically created for unrelenting twenty-somethings just like you! Thanks for listening. 

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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