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Geoffrey Owens, The Cosby Show & the Artists' Side Hustle

Tips on How to Live a Peaceful Life as a Creative Freelancer

· money,actor,side hustle,Geoffrey Owens,The Cosby Show

You now probably know the story of Geoffrey Owens, who played Elvin (Cosby's son-in-law), on "The Cosby Show," and if you don't, here's a quick recap: Someone took a photo of Geoffrey, working at Trader Joe's. A few news organizations published the photo and essentially "job shamed" him. A lot of people stood up to the shaming and created a backlash against those news organizations. Geoffrey admitted that after the Bill Cosby scandal, he wasn't receiving residual checks from the show anymore and the amount of work he was getting acting, directing and teaching acting didn't pay all of the bills.

Geoffrey Owens at TV Land Awards

Now, how much are those residual checks? It's a pretty complicated formula based on an actor's contract, time spent on the production, the type of show and the market where the show airs, and of course, only "principal performers," or major recurring characters receive residuals. Some principal performers make millions from their residual checks.

“The Cosby Show” was one of the most beloved shows and could've gone into decades of syndication and lifelong residual checks for the cast. However, that all changed in 2014, when TV Land pulled the show and removed all references to it from its website as sexual assault accusations piled up against Bill Cosby. 

In 2016, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played Theo Huxtable, said in an interview with The Real that “since the show was taken off the air, it’s literally taking money out of my pocket.”

After Geoffrey Owens was "shamed" for working at TJ's, which by the way, pays really well and gives all of their employees, even part timers benefits, Tyler Perry offered him a job on Twitter, which I read that he has now accepted.

#GeoffreyOwens I’m about to start shootings OWN’s number one drama next week! Come join us!!! I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs. The measure of a true artist. - Tyler Perry @tylerperry

I, too, have so much respect for people who hustle between their creative, artistic gigs. True artists like Jennifer Hudson worked at Burger King, while Rachel McAdams worked at rival McDonald's. Kanye West and Matthew Morrison both worked at The Gap. And as we all famously know, Vincent Van Gogh never even sold a painting while he was alive, and yet, in the 1990's, one of his paintings sold for $82.5 million!

Geoffrey told Good Morning America that he was working for Trader Joe's because it offered him flexibility to go out for auditions, and he added,

“I didn’t advertise that I was at Trader Joe’s, not [because] I was ashamed of it, but because I didn’t want the entertainment community to decide, ‘Well, he’s doing that. He’s not pursuing acting anymore.’ I felt like I had to be careful about that.”

I've had thoughts about that, as I've started this financial coaching business. I've been a TV producer and development executive for 15 years, a documentary filmmaker, and a journalist before that, so a total of over 20 years in the media and entertainment industry. As a TV producer, I've been mostly freelance, and it's why I developed an understanding and liking for personal finance, budgeting, debt repayment plans, and retirement planning. However, I've been somewhat nervous and reluctant to share what started as a "side hustle," because I don't want anyone in the TV industry to think that I'm not pursuing television producing jobs anymore.

In the beginning I didn't share because I didn't think the two jobs were even that closely related. Sure, I really knew how to create and oversee big budgets for slates of projects and also stay under budget for networks, shows and episodes, but were there other transferable skills? The more I looked, the more I realized that the answer is YES. For one, I know I would be an even better television producer because of the work I'm doing with my clients. I'm better at listening, interviewing, and telling hero stories because everyday, I help my clients take their old stories and transform them into something that's magical, manageable and miraculous! A coach once told me that miracles are just a shift in perception, and I help create those shifts every day, and as the hero's journey evolves, those small shifts in perception create bigger shifts that turn into seismic changes!

Every day in my business, I have an entrepreneur's mindset, and as a TV producer, or for most jobs these days, this is one of the most valuable skills to have. No one tells you, step by step, what you should be doing next. You just have the end goal. It's up to me to produce that final result, and it's what I do best. Have I failed before? Sure, but that's also part of the entrepreneur's mindset, to not allow failure or people saying "No" deter you from getting back out there and finding a way to get that YES. Like the day I turned an initial NO from Bjorn Ulvaeus, founder of ABBA, into a YES.

“The funny thing is, I never go too long without booking something, which is not a surprise, the only issue is, the things that I book last one day or two days at the most,” Owens says. “I’ll book something for one day but then not work three or four months.”

That's the dilemma of most creative freelancers. So, how do you pay your bills in those three to four months, when you're not working? Get a side hustle, which is exactly what Geoffrey Owens did.

“No, I wouldn’t [change my life],” he adds, saying acting is “my calling. I’m going to keep pursuing it. I’m going to persevere. And even if that means, that eventually when all this hoopla dies down, I might need to take another job outside of the business. I’m still willing to do that.”

Another tip...live within your means when you do get those gigs. Try and not take on too much debt. If you do have credit card debts, put together a plan to pay them off. Next, take what you make, and put aside money for taxes, then pay yourself first, which means to put money into your rainy day/emergency savings account. The general rule of thumb is to have about 6-8 months saved up, especially if you're in an unstable profession, and most creatives are in unstable professions. I have about 12 months' of expenses saved up, just in case I'm not bringing in money and for my own peace of mind.  

Do you have a "Day Job" or Side Hustle, while you continue to work at your creative, artistic endeavors? Subscribe and comment below! If you would like to talk to me, for FREE, about how to have a financial plan when you don't bring in a steady paycheck, putting together a debt payment plan, how much you need for an emergency account or just how to stop worrying about money when you're in the cycle of working for awhile and then not working for awhile, click here. You'll be sent to the main page where you can sign up with your name and e-mail, and then you can schedule a time at the link on the main page or here.

With so much gratitude for an honest day's work,

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