In client representation there’s this idea of “expectation management.”
When dealing with a client, besides negotiating deals, navigating their career, and offering feedback, a huge part of the job is managing their expectations. A good manager understands this is how you keep a client motivated and working. It’s how you help them find long-term success in a business that will spit in your face. Then kick your dog, too.
There’s a direct correlation between how well you manage expectations and your understanding of the industry as a whole. A manager who’s worked in the business for 20 years sees the field differently from someone who’s been a producer for 5 minutes.
They make connections others don’t see, like that director worked with that actor 12 years ago on that Oscar-nominated picture — and they absolutely can’t stand each other. They trust their instincts. They’re attuned to a rhythm others don’t feel.
Allow me to manage your expectations in moving to Los Angeles, through this guide. My goal is to create the definitive source of information for moving to Los Angeles — on the interwebs or in bookstores, whether it’s free or paid. I say this because I’ve read them all. I know what’s out there. I think we deserve better.
However, this is just a guide. It’s the hand on your shoulder and voice in your ear before an audition saying, “this is what you should expect from the casting director. This is what they’re looking for, this is how you should dress.” However, no one’s walking into the room with you. For that, you’re on your own.
There is no post titled “12 Easy Steps on How to Move to Los Angeles.” If that’s what you’re looking for, honestly, let me save you some time: stop reading. Go read BuzzFeed. See what’s currently trending on the topic. That shit ain’t here.
I bring it up because I’ve received half-legible, unintelligent emails from people who are unhappy with their lives and think a move to Los Angeles will fix things. They say things like:
- “I just need a little bit of help.”
- “Can you point me in the right direction?”
- “Hopefully I meet someone that’ll push me along.”
I’ve answered those questions in this guide on moving to Los Angeles. It’s the bit of help I can provide, it’s the only compass I have, and my gentle prod (or swift kick in the ass). So let’s start.
How Much Should I Save?
I love this question, because both the people asking and answering the question pussyfoot around it. People asking it are looking for that little morsel of information, because they think “ugh, if I just knew how much to save, I could hit that number and then I could finally move to Los Angeles.”
They think it’s the question of money that’s holding them back.
More than likely, it’s something more abstract, like fear or rejection or fear of failure, but that is much harder to admit aloud. Easier to blame it on money, credit card debt, and loans, which are concrete and tangible.
On the flip side, people who answer that question offer general, qualitative advice like:
- “Depends on where you live.”
- “How much do you think you’ll need?”
Which is not necessarily untrue. But it’s just not all that helpful.
Plus, their advice is never based on any sort of quantitative metric. That way, no one is ever held accountable for the advice they give. “Hey,” they can say, “that’s just based on my experience!”
The Short Answer
The minimum I (personally, as in “me, myself, and I”) would want: $3,000
The minimum for someone who has traveled, and is use to living out of their comfort zone: $5,000
The minimum if you see yourself as conservative or risk-averse: $10,000
Some people have done it with much less.
The Long Answer
You may not want to take my word for it. I don’t blame you — I like to see how a person reached their numbers too, because I always believe I can leverage less to do more.
Plus, there are tons of factors: where you live, roommates, etc. to take into consideration. Below, I’ve provided some quantitative metrics to calculate how much you should save:
Cost to Move
Here are my actual costs to move from New York to Los Angeles: $375.
I’ll cover the drive out to Los Angeles in more detail in a later post.
Cost = $375
Renting an Apartment
Here’s a quick breakdown of those numbers again:
- Studio / One-Bedroom: $900 – $1,100
- Two-Bedroom: $1,200 – $1,500
Ideally you can find a roommate and split rent and initial start-up costs — more on those numbers later. For now, let’s use the ballpark figure of $1,000 for rent / month. To secure an apartment, besides good credit, you’ll need first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit.
That’s $3,000, and all you’ve got to show for it is an unfurnished, empty egg-shell white box of an apartment, without the essentials of furniture, food, and high-speed internet.
Cost = $3,000
Cash Reserve = Cost of living x Months you’ll be unemployed
Calculate your cost of living. I’ve included a basic template so you can see what costs you should be thinking about. This is a close approximation to typical fixed costs a young pup in the entertainment industry might entertain — but notice while I included numbers for “groceries” and even a 15% cushion, it doesn’t include “savings” or what I like to call “my good time fund.”
Remember, these are rough fixed costs. Yes, you may be able to pare some of the costs down and eliminate some categories altogether, but a lot of these are here to stay.
Monthly Cost of Living = $1,500
“Months you’ll be unemployed” has a whole bunch of other names, like “buffer zone” or “emergency cache” but I prefer the former. There’s a connotation to the word “unemployed” that puts a foot in your ass and reminds you the clock’s ticking.
As with all these other numbers, there are a ton of impressive-sounding figures to consider like unemployment rates, number of open jobs and national GDP.
None of that shit matters. They distract you from the figure that actually applies to you:
1. How many jobs have you held in the past, and
2. What’s the longest period you’ve gone unemployed?
History is a good indication of future performance, so what does your history say about you? If you’ve never held a part-time job in your life and have zero skills — you’re going to have a harder time finding work (because why would anyone hire you? What can you do for them?)
If you’ve bounced from job to job and have a handful of skills to offer (tending bar, waitressing, typing, computer maintenance) you’ll find a place to put those to use.
For now, we’ll use a multiple of 3 months to calculate your cash reserve
Cash Reserve = $1,500 x 3 = $4,500
Add these costs up and we arrive at $7,875, which we’ll call $8,000 to give us a nice round number, or right around the middle of my “safe estimate” and “conservative estimate” as I mentioned above.
Always Look For Your Edge
Wait a minute: if I’m calculating $8,000 as the amount required to move to Los Angeles, how can I say that $3,000 is enough to get started?
I’m saying I’m comfortable at making this move with less than half of what I’d recommend others to save. What did I have working for me in my situation (that may work to your advantage as well?)
- I moved to Los Angeles with a friend, so I knew at the start I could already cut the opening renting costs (as well as utilities) in half. Don’t have a buddy who plans on moving out with you? Neither did I, at first. It took an extra year of waiting to get the timing right, because we both knew in the long run, it was crucial to start off with a roommate. In fact, for the first two years, I lived with two friends, so I was paying less than a third of what I estimated above.
- I knew how to cut Costs of Living down to almost true fixed costs. In the past, I’ve lived with just the absolute minimum overhead (rent, utilities, groceries). It wasn’t just something I thought I could do. I already did it. Once you’ve lived out of a backpack and budgeted yourself $5 for food a day, and slept on someone’s couch for weeks at a time, it gives you the confidence to say, “I could do this again if I had to.”
- By Hollywood standards, I had no idea if I was immediately employable. I knew absolutely zero about the industry: what’s the difference between an agency and a management company?; between management and development?; what’s development season?; what are the fall pick-ups? I mean, I was less than clueless. What I did know was I worked four jobs in college and have been waiting tables for the last 10 years. Based on this decade worth of qualitative knowledge, I knew I could land in any city and I’d find a way to make an income. Thus, my unemployment multiple could be as little as 1.5.
- If I really became strapped for cash, I had two lines of credit. If you’ve read any of my material, you know this isn’t ideal and I would almost never recommend buying anything on credit you can’t pay off immediately. However, if it’s a choice between eating and some costs of living debt, you should probably eat.
It’s important to strike a balance between what you calculate and your own gut feeling for what you’ll need. You should always be looking for that “edge” you have on other people who might be doing the same thing. Those are mine, above.
No blog post, book, or guru can tell you where your comfort zone is.
The point of the exercise was to eliminate arbitrary number doubt. The problem with saving up to an arbitrary number some guy told you on the internet, is even if you reach that number, you won’t have the confidence to pull the trigger.
Subconsciously, your mind will tell you: “this is not a good plan” and you’ll fail to execute. The way you hack this is by seeing how and why you reached your number, as we did above.
In Part 2 of The Best Guide For Moving to Los Angeles, we’ll cover ideas of Minimization.