The Big 10 with Jan Zalar

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Jan Zalar is a freelance second assistant director on TV and film. His main job is to look after and co-ordinate the actors and extras, as well as making sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes on a film set. As someone who is essentially the bridge between the director and the rest of the crew, Jan explains how he needs to be “on top of anything to do with logistics and organisation”. My Money caught up with Jan to ask him our 10 key questions about his life as a freelancer.

Faye: How would you define financial success?

Jan: Financial success to me is being in a position to pick and choose my jobs and not having to accept the first offer that comes in. Ideally, I’d also love to be able to pay off my mortgage early while enjoying a couple of holidays a year.

Faye: What’s the hardest thing you’ve learnt about money along the way?

Jan: I’ve found the more you earn, the more you seem to spend. However, buying a property and getting married in the last year might have something to do with that! I’m afraid I still haven’t got a strategy on how to curb this talent I have for spending money.

Faye: If money were no object, what would you treat yourself to right now?

Jan: A big house in the Cotswolds with no neighbours within 10 miles of my wife and me would be perfect.

Faye: If you could donate to any cause, what would you choose?

Jan: There are so many causes that are deserving of a cash influx, but I think Whizz-Kidz, who provide disabled children with essential wheelchairs and other mobility equipment, would be my first choice.

Faye: How easy was managing your money, when you first started your business?

Jan: When I started out, I struggled getting work as the film industry is an extremely saturated and competitive market. My first few jobs were unpaid, with the production company only covering my expenses, which was obviously hugely challenging in a financial sense. Luckily I have very supportive parents who let me live with them rent-free at the time, which enabled me to continue working within the industry until I got enough experience to get paid jobs.

Faye: Do you have a favourite finance book, website or app?

Jan: I must say I’ve never used any kind of finance book or app.

Faye: Who in your life has taught you the most about money?

Jan: My dad has probably taught me the most about money as he was a freelancer himself. His advice was always to never turn down any work as you never know when the next job offer will come in.

Faye: What was the first thing you bought when you got paid for the first time?

Jan: Probably a pint of lager and some tequila shots.

Faye: Would you say you’re driven more by money or love of your work?

Jan: My job is full on - 70-hour week is the norm. I wouldn’t be able to commit to those hours if I didn’t enjoy it. However, getting a payslip on a weekly basis certainly helps me get up in the mornings.

Faye: What is your top financial tip to a freelancer just starting out?

Jan: If you’re determined to succeed, make sure you’ve got a bit of cash saved up as you’ll inevitably have to take some knock-backs financially in the short term before you make a success of your freelancer career. Either that, or make sure your parents will let you stay with them rent-free.


Meet the author

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Faye Newman

Account Manager