There are SO many things you need to know as an aspiring actor, it can be overwhelming. What you need to know more than anything (alongside your technique) are the 3 things that keep actors in the day job.
Nobody told me about these when I was studying at drama school, and I really wish they had so I could have been much more prepared for them and armoured with my best tactics. I finished my training, and aside from not feeling ready to work professionally, I was just as clueless as everyone else about how to make small steps to get away from the day job and start climbing the acting career ladder. I didn’t land an agent at the end of the three years and had to graft my ass off. I made a million and one mistakes, which is why I wrote this blog – so you don’t have to fall prey to the same traps I did and can save time.
3 THINGS THAT KEEP ACTORS IN THE DAY JOB
- FEAR – Let me give you some examples you may relate to – not wanting to keep contacting people because it feels like you’re pestering them, not going to auditions because you’re not sure you’re ready to take that step or don’t feel you’re good enough, staying with an agent that hasn’t done anything for your career because you don’t have much to sell yourself with to other agents and it’s better to have an agent than not, not applying for jobs because there’s always a reason you wouldn’t be able to connect to/play that role or the production dates/location are inconvenient, not taking roles that are offered to you because “something else has cropped up”. These are just a few examples of excuses actors make when fear has set in. Fear results in lack of confidence and procrastination (and a career that takes MUCH longer to get off the ground).
To conquer this, the actor needs to look at their beliefs and start taking steps to change them or they will always be stuck in the day job feeling unhappy.
- MONEY – Many actors find themselves in a catch 22 situation, they need money to pay the bills, which keeps them in the day job, and most acting jobs in the early stages of an actor’s career are very low paid, which means taking time out from the day job results in losing money. This can be especially difficult if an actor has a mortgage to pay, children to feed or any other financial responsibilities. Many actors simply don’t see themselves as a business and this is their downfall, they pay for things last minute – that train down to London for an audition, their CCP renewal etc which can leave them in a financial pickle, feeling stressed and can really mess up their month. Businesses survive on cash.
A good place to start is getting clear on spare money left over after outgoings have been accounted for then putting money aside (in a separate bank account) each month, so there is spare cash available when it is needed. It would also be wise to keep track of your incomings and outgoings from your acting career so you can identify what the good and bad investments have been. Ditch anything that is not helping you move your acting career forward.
- PLAYING AT THE AMATEUR LEVEL – Playing at the amateur level means not taking the right action EVERY.SINGLE.DAY to get to the pro level. Playing at the pro level means investing 20+ hours per week in marketing activities (you have to be visible after all), keeping track of everything from money spent, to submissions made, having focused databases of casting directors, upgrading your skills regularly, reviewing what’s working and what’s not and making changes accordingly. There has to be a laser focus that cannot be compromised otherwise you will always be taking inconsistent action and seeing inconsistent results, which keeps you stuck in the day job. If you’re calling yourself a professional actor you have to behave like a professional actor. I didn’t for a long time.
I hope this has opened your eyes, or reiterated just how much work needs to go into developing (and sustaining) a successful acting career. Talent has to be backed up by a business head, and a business head has to be backed up with talent. I genuinely don’t believe winging it is a good strategy.
What resonated with you?
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Here’s to your success!
Don’t give up, just keep learning.
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Louise O’Leary is a professional actress, method acting coach and Artistic Director of StandBy Method Acting Studio. Her mission is to help as many actors as she can launch their careers and become the best actor they can be.
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