Yesterday I received a call from someone, wanting to hire me to do some carpentry for them. Aside from being an entertainment carp, I also build furniture, cabinets, kitchens, etc.
I find that knowing how to build things "for real" helps me to build them for a film or play, when it only needs to "look" right. So I take classes, read a lot, and even watch tv shows that can help me learn new things. Any chance I get to grow as a carpenter, I jump at the opportunity.
The gig was down in Key Largo, which for me is about 90 miles one way, and I made sure he knew that. "I've got lots of work," he said. "I'm looking for some really good carpenters, who know what they are doing. I won't pay gas money, but I am paying a really good rate." Which he told me. ::choke:: After paying for gas, tolls and meals, I'd end up making about $250 a week. Let alone the three to four hours a day spent commuting.
I am not in entertainment to be rich. I do it because I love it. There was a time, like most anyone in the industry, when I took jobs for the experience. My first national tour, I made a whopping $215 a week. No per diem (they did supply us hotel rooms) and no hospitality at the gigs. So all the money we earned went to buying food on the road. But what an amazing experience! As a young kid with no expenses, to tour the country with a group of very cool people and put on shows was an amazing experience. It was awesome!!! But that was a long time ago. My passion has not diminished, but my experience and and skill level has increased.
All too often, people are more concerned about saving money than paying for good workmanship or a good product. Times are tough, and money can be tight. However, selling yourself short just to make a buck doesn't help anyone. As an employer, you are not just paying me for my time to put in a bookshelf. You are investing in a complete package - the tools, the classes I have taken to learn speciality skills, the time researching ways to improve on what I've learned, and the professionalism I bring to every project. It is the same with every other skilled craftsman, regardless of what their field is. Sure, there are people who will take work for that rate, but you get what you pay for.
Now, there are places in this world where $250 a week is good money. I have a friend in Ecuador where $5 an hour is a really great rate. But, the cost of living is also ridiculously cheap. In South Florida, it's a little different.
I would encourage anyone who works (isn't that most of us?) to be the best you can be. Take pride in your work. Learn as much as you can. Listen to people around you - they always have something to teach you (even if it is how NOT to do something!). Study new technologies and equipment. This holds true if you work in an office or in a theater. New software, new tools, new techniques - things are always changing. And we owe it to ourselves and those we work for, both clients and bosses as well as ourselves, to do the absolute best we can. Nothing feels as good as a job well done. And for goodness sake, know what you are worth, and why. When you take pride in your work, people will see that, and appreciate it.