How Waiting Tables The Right Way Grew My Art Business Like Wildfire

Alexis Fedor

Caf in Paris

When I first graduated from NYU I began working with a small performance art theatre company as an actor and choreographer. It was the best practice for me to get to know more like-minded artists while honing my craft. I wasn’t getting paid to work with the company and we rehearsed at wild hours- sometimes early morning, sometimes 11:00 at night, and anywhere in between. There was no way I could take a regular job during the day with that schedule, so I opted for the typical NYC performer go-to: waiting tables.

I got hired at an Italian restaurant near Rockefeller Center with a gorgeous view of the ice-skating rink and incredible food. However, I realized the moment I started the job that I wasn’t going to last. Most of the wait staff were performers, working hard to make a living at night and going on auditions during the day, and their main focus on the job was whether they were making enough in tips. Night after night I would hear story after story about how their tables weren’t tipping them enough, and how the owners were making it impossible to make a living because we weren’t paid enough per hour. “They’re out to get us!” was what they were all saying. “How am I ever going to be able to pay my rent with these kinds of tips, and my pay check that adds up to nothing?” This was a terribly depressing energy I didn’t want to be around.

In addition to that, I wasn’t making enough in tips to cover my expenses. My rehearsal schedule was getting more intense, and I was trying to figure out what other job I could take on without burning out entirely. Where was I going to find the additional income I needed to make? I was at my wit’s end, and certain I was never going to stretch myself far enough to make ends meet.

Then I noticed one woman who I had never talked with because she was so quiet during our shifts. I found out she was a performer as well, visiting on a work visa from London. I asked her how she was doing in terms of making her rent, and she said she was doing great. In fact, she was doing more than great- she was making bank every shift she worked.

We immediately became friendly with each other and I finally found the time to ask her how she was making so much while the rest of us were struggling. She said, “I treat every table like they’re my family. I bring them bread, drinks, food, make sure they have everything they need, and then I figure out what more I can do without disrupting their time together to make their stay special. It seems like everyone here has forgotten how to do that.”

I was floored at how right she was. Of course, that is exactly what we are supposed to be focusing on! But beyond that I realized she was treating the job like her own small business, which was essentially how it was set up for us to treat it. When you own your own business, you want every aspect of your customer’s experience to be golden, as you not only know they are paying you for what you offer but you take pride in offering them something exceptionally meaningful to you that you have put your heart and soul into creating especially for them.

I started to take this approach with each of my tables, and not only did I start to see an increase in my tips, but I started to make connections I never could have anticipated. It was then I realized there was virtually no difference between the kind of business the owners of that restaurant were running and the business I was running with my art. This job was part of my own business with my art, which brought me a stream of revenue so I could support myself while pursuing my art, as that extra amount I needed was right under my nose the whole time. And if I kept approaching it that way it would lead me to getting paid directly for my work as an artist.

A few months later, as I was working hard and earning more than ever waiting on those tables, I waited on a casting director who came in for dinner alone. No one wanted to wait on her because everyone avoided waiting on single women, as they traditionally tipped the least. I gladly took the opportunity to make her stay a fantastic, and by the end of her meal she had my number and to my great surprise I had an audition scheduled with her for a last minute casting the next day. That audition resulted in me getting cast in a show directed by John Patrick Shanley, and from there being asked to work with another director on a year-long performance art project I was paid handsomely for.

From that point on I started to work with mentors who owned successful businesses so I could learn how to run my own business with my art in the same way, something we are never taught as artists in school.

I now make six figures as an artist with my own business with multiple streams of revenue, and enjoy every single minute of it. I’d love to show you exactly how I do that for yourself. I have a free 14 Day Challenge you can sign up for here to dive in to nail that revenue that is right under your own nose, right this very moment.

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I believe artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world. Help me prove my belief by taking action and sharing a theme that is integral to your art in the comments below, or share a visual on Instagram using #artistsinbusiness and tag me: @alexisfedorpics!