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Five Tips Every Beginning Actor Needs to Know

Dani is a writer and actress who loves to learn and share tips and information to help others.

Breaking into the entertainment industry is no easy feat. Here are five tips to help you succeed.

Breaking into the entertainment industry is no easy feat. Here are five tips to help you succeed.

Many people are intrigued by the idea of a celebrity job and lifestyle. Living in front of the camera, jet-setting to worldwide locations, and dressing to impress for the red carpet is a dream that you may desire but are not sure how to begin to achieve.

In this guide, I will give you five tips that can help you break into the acting industry so you can begin your journey to stardom.

1. Be Realistic About the Rate of Success

The acting industry is tough. According to the Actors Equity Association, about 90% of actors are unemployed at any given time [1]. You can have money, training, friends in high places, the best clothes, and be drop-dead gorgeous and still not achieve success in this industry. I don't want things to seem grim, but you have to be prepared not to achieve success. In other words, have a plan B.

One way to do this is to college and earn a degree that you can use in a different career if acting doesn't work out. If you can't become the next Viola Davis or Ryan Gosling, you could possibly remain in the industry as an agent, manager, PR specialist, or some other career that suits your talents. There are a lot of promising areas of employment that will still allow you to be a part of the entertainment industry [2].

I'm not suggesting that you expect failure. You should definitely give it your all. Just remain realistic during the process.

2. Save Money

If you are lucky enough to be rich, congratulations. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for most people trying to pursue an acting career. Even well-off people sometimes struggle a bit when it comes to building their careers.

At some point in your career, if you don't already live there, you'll probably venture to a larger market in a key city like New York, Los Angeles, or Atlanta. It is very expensive to live in these areas, and unless you grew up there and have family there, it can be almost impossible if you don't already have money saved. You can look forward to working less-than-desirable jobs between gigs to make ends meet until you get your big break.

You will also need to invest in yourself and your career, so having money for things like headshots, training, clothing, etc. will make things a lot smoother for you. You don't want to be stressed about trying to make money to pay for the hundreds of things that will inevitably pop up while you're pursuing your career.

3. Have Basic Tools Ready Before You Dive in

When you begin your acting career, you don't get a fancy dressing room that has a star with your name on it. You won't have a hair and makeup crew and an assistant who comes running whenever you want a latte. In other words, you don't get things handed to you when you start.

Chances are you'll be doing everything yourself. You'll be in charge of your own marketing, your own appearance, your own styling, your own transportation, your own everything! It's a lot of stuff to deal with, and if you don't think it is, you're in for a rude awakening.

Being prepared will help you keep your sanity while you navigate the rough sea of the acting industry. Before you go on your first audition (or if you are a background actor, before you do your first job), here is a list of things you should already have at your disposal:

  • Plenty of headshots (I promise you, ten is not close to enough)
  • Several types of outfits for different looks (evening wear, gym outfit, club wear, church wear, casual wear, etc.)
  • Outfits for each season (because a lot of projects are filmed off season)
  • Shoes for each outfit
  • Hair products to keep your hair looking as close to your headshots as possible
  • A cell phone with a good amount of free data (because you will need to be in contact with people CONSTANTLY)
  • If you use public transportation like subways or buses, you'll need enough Metrocard credits (or whatever card your city uses) with a lot of credits so you don't have to wait in line every time you need to ride. Trust me, especially in the case of New York City, every minute counts when you're trying to get to set.

All of these things might seem silly. You may feel like you don't want to buy certain clothes until you know you need them, but this is a mistake. Many castings will want you to submit photos of yourself in a certain "look" right away. If you have to take time to go shopping, you could miss out on opportunities.

For background acting, it is even more important to be prepared with these things. Background actors often get very short notice of what they'll need for a shoot. When I say short, I mean like they could tell you at 11 pm that you need a certain look and make sure you're on set by 6 am the next morning (I have had many experiences like this). This leaves you zero time to shop, do laundry, change your hair, or whatever else you need. Be prepared.

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Issa Rae, actress, writer, producer, director

Issa Rae, actress, writer, producer, director

4. Build Your Social Media Presence

Now more than ever people are getting the right kind of exposure from social media. Social media is a way to get your talent out to the world. With so many different social media platforms, you can literally get the word out about anything.

Actors should consider having something like a Facebook profile, and Instagram account, a Twitter account, a Snapchat account, or a YouTube channel. These are the most popular social media platforms in the world. While you don't necessarily need all of them, you should have at least one. All of these platforms will allow you to post videos of yourself. You could show your talents by performing monologues, showing past performances, or even creating your own web series.

A great example of how social media can help you blast into the acting industry is American actress, writer, director, producer Issa Rae. She started on social media with humble beginnings. Issa Rae created a web series called Awkward Black Girl and aired it on her YouTube channel. It became so successful that it won a Shorty award for best web series [3].

Issa Rae continued to create amazing web shows and eventually ended up writing, directing, and starring in a show that got picked up by HBO. The show, called Insecure, is in its third season. Issa Rae has earned two Golden Globe nominations and a Prime Time Emmy nomination for her role in the show. Despite her mainstream success, she still continues to release shows on her YouTube channel like many other celebrities.

Another small note about social media is that casting directors often research people on social media when they are considering booking them for a role [4]. They want to know the type of person they'll be working with, so it's always best to put your best foot forward. On top of that, if they visit your social media page and see some amazing work that you've done, they will be impressed and you'll have a better chance of getting booked.

5. Treat Your Career Like a Business

Being an actor is not like having a job. You don't clock in, work for a few hours, and get paid whatever's left over after they deduct taxes at the end of the week. Acting is a business and you are the product that's for sale. You also happen to be the CEO. Being an actor is selling yourself to casting directors.

There are other business-related aspects of being an actor. You have to worry about taxes, marketing, employees (in the form of managers, agents, or anyone else who helps you in your career), and more. In fact, acting is so much like a business that I would recommend creating a business plan for your career. A business plan can help to guide you in the right direction and achieve your goals. Of course, unlike a business, an acting career can be extremely unpredictable, so don't think your business plan is set in stone. You could make a business plan today and get your big break tomorrow in which case you'd probably need a whole new business plan.

As long as you realize that being an actor is not just about acting, you should be okay in this area.

SWOT Analysis for a Business Plan

SWOT Analysis for a Business Plan

Final Thoughts

Being an actor can be a very rewarding experience whether you make it big or not. It's about self-development and discovering what you're made of. It's not easy, but that's what makes it even more exciting. Using the tips above can help make things a lot easier for you when you get started. Good luck on your career and I wish you all the best. Now go break a leg!


[1] Unemployment Is A Lifestyle For Actors, And Now Too Many Others

[2] Occupational Employment Statistics

[3] Issa Rae Presents: About Me

[4] What does a Casting Director look for?

© 2018 Dani Alicia


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 21, 2018:

Great suggestions! A must read for the would-be actor. Practical and necessary. Thanks.

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