Starving Artist? How Subbing Can Be a Great Fit for Creatives

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Rachel Moore and her husband moved cross-country from Nashville to Los Angeles a few years ago. He was in school to become a physical therapist, and Rachel had dreams of stage managing. She’d been doing that type of work in Nashville, but had very few contacts in LA, so she needed something part-time to help pay the bills.

Because work in theater was her priority, what Rachel needed in a part-time job was specific: flexible hours that paid well and didn’t take years of training.

So she signed up to be a substitute teacher. While she didn’t have a background in education, Rachel knew she could succeed.

“A lot of my skills from my creative work dovetailed nicely with subbing,” she says. “I’m very responsible and organized, and I like the way I get to work in an entirely new context every day. It feels fresh.”

Many creatives find themselves in a position like Rachel’s. Maybe you’re writing your first book, preparing for your first exhibit, or auditioning for your first show. Or perhaps you’re the entrepreneurial type, working hard on a new idea that, while exciting, isn’t developed enough to pay the bills yet.

Here are six reasons why substitute teaching can be a good fit for supplementing and supporting your creative career:

1. It’s Flexible

Few professions give you the kind of flexibility substitute teaching does. While the job itself is structured much like a 9-to-5 workday, you can get a “day off” whenever you need one — and on a very last-minute basis! Likewise, if you need work, you can usually get it.

Because you can pick and choose your assignments, you’ll be able to schedule working hours (and even, sometimes, location!) around the often wonky schedule of an artist. You won’t have to haggle with your boss to get time off to go to an audition — just don’t accept an assignment.

Flexibility goes beyond planning your assignments. If you find you need to take a step back during an especially busy season in your creative work, you can always put substitute teaching on pause, too.

2. You’ll Earn Solid Money

Living in creative hubs can be expensive. Since jobs in these fields are often located in large cities like Los Angeles and New York, you can expect your cost-of-living to be high. Subbing can reduce some of that financial stress — in some states, you can earn up to $280 a day. Many districts also add incentives or bonuses for longer-term substitutes.

Living in the city also means that you’ll be surrounded by different kinds of schools that all need sub support. Applying to an education-based staffing firm like Swing Education removes the hassle of applying to multiple schools; instead, you can apply in one place and find a variety of opportunities in both public and private education.

3. It Taps Into Your Creativity

Subbing isn’t easy, but it does work those creative muscles! And these, we think, are exactly the kind of muscles you want to work. You’ll be problem-solving on the fly, developing interpersonal communication skills, and adapting to a variety of different contexts. These transferable skills are sure to help build your resume for many creative endeavors.

Likewise, your creative nature will make you a sought-after sub. Schools are always looking for people with the skills you possess.

4. You Don’t Take Work Home

Although subbing is a demanding field while you’re on the job, there is virtually no take-home work unless you’re on a long-term assignment. In most cases, you won’t have to devote evening hours to planning or grading. Instead, you’ll be free to set up more stand-up gigs, or scope out a new open-mic venue for your poetry.

5. You’ll Make Connections

In cities as big as LA, isolation is, ironically, more of a problem than most might think. It’s difficult to meet new people and establish relationships when you hardly see the same person twice. But the education field is a natural way to make authentic connections. Not only will you begin to become familiar with the personnel at schools you frequent, but you’ll be given the opportunity to meet students every day who come from a variety of backgrounds.

Introduce yourself at the beginning of each class and let students in on some of the passion you have for your creative field. You may find more than one who relates — either because their parents are in that industry or because they would like to pursue it themselves.

6. It’s Easy to Get Started

Although exact requirements vary by state, you often won’t need a full teaching credential to start subbing. If you have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited higher-learning institution and a clear background check, you could be ready to begin. This is the case in New York state, for example; in California, some positions do not need a credential/permit, while others do require the 30-day emergency permit.

Swing Education makes it easier than ever to start substitute teaching. Not only will we connect you with local schools, we reimburse start-up costs for most permit-related expenses, background checks, and other requirements, and our team will help you succeed once you start.

Want more inspiration to get in the classroom? Check out our blog on 10 reasons to start substitute teaching today.


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