To be a successful, professional actor that keeps working you must market yourself and commit to acting as though you are your own business.
Good actors go to school, Great actors never stop learning.
Businesses invest in education, you should too.
Acting school may seem expensive, but the knowledge you will acquire at a degree course or conservatory will be invaluable if you want to be a professional actor. You will stretch not only your way of thinking and approaching character work, but expand your vocal and physical abilities.
If you can't afford a full-time program, take part-time classes. Many respected acting schools have evening classes or specialized courses. There are also great private coaches out there.
For either a full-time course or part-time RESEARCH what course you think you will respond to most. Do you love classical work and want to be a stage actor? Do you want to be a t.v. and film actor? Do you want to work in musical theater? Schools will offer the same basic blanket- acting classes, voice, movement or dance etc, but different schools will have different specialties.
Everyday is a school day. As an actor, you are never finished learning. Being able observe yourself and others in a truthful manner is incredibly important, and that never ends! Think about keeping a personal journal- writing about yourself and other people and events that you find interesting.
READ!!!!! There are thousands of great monologue books, advice books and acting career books.
Two books I found inspirational and incredibly informative- Uta Hagen "Respect for Acting" and Larry Moss "The Intent to live".
Audition as though it's a full time job.
Businesses open every day and work all day long- that's what you have to do too.
Applying and auditioning for an acting gig is a full time job. You need to submit yourself for as many relevant jobs as possible. In a previous blog I have written about the various places you can find postings including backstage, actors access and casting networks. Breakdowns will be released at different times during the day; so sign up to get updates of relevant projects where it's available.
You need to have your resume updated and organized. Have hard copies of headshots ready.
Be Smart. A hard-copy submission is still used for musical theater and theater, but not as much in commercial casting, where a project will probably be cast by the time your headshot arrives in the mail.
Network, Network, Network.
Good businesses network to generate more work.
Attend seminars. If you live in LA or New York, they are a number of great studios that offer seminars to actors that let you meet casting directors and agents. The basic formula is a group Q&A, then a 5 minutes audition where you do a monologue or read copy, and feedback from the agent/director. In New York I particularly recommend One on One Studios, Actors Connection and Paul Michael's Actors Network.
To get the most out of a seminar- go in prepared, or don't show up. Have a great monologue that you feel confident and passionate about. Look your best. Have an updated headshot/resume with you AND be prepared to talk about recent projects that you have been involved in recently, or upcoming projects.
Make friends with other actors. If you take my advice and go to acting school or take class- look around you! These other actors will get to know your work. They may also be writers, or they have end up directing, or in casting (that's what happened to me) or in production. Same goes for when you are working on a production or on set. Be polite and make friends there- work creates work.
You are Your Own Brand.
Business know who to market themselves. They have a brand and stay true to that brand.
You should know your type as an actor. Do you always get cast as/called into auditions for the bad guy character? The girl next door? The cop, the lawyer or the teacher? Often I meet actors that don't like the idea of "typing"- of course there is always casting that breaks from convention- but instead of seeing a "type" as a negative, think of it as a powerful tool for your brand. Prepare monologues that fit your type. Have a variety of headshots, but one should show your type.
Branding is more than your hair, your clothes, your make-up, but as a business appearances are important. Turn up to the audtion appropriately dressed for the character or role. (unless, of course it's a period piece.....if you did that you would just come off as a nut job!)
Do Think they is a gap in the market, that your brand is something truly unique and different? Write your own project, produce or make your own work. Put a mini-series on youtube, publish your poems in a blog, work on a one-man (or woman) show.
The Golden Rule
In Business your reputation for professionalism is key.
Audition and network FOR YOUR REPUTATION. When you are new to acting this world can seem large and daunting, but in reality it is a small community. People talk to each other. If you have a teacher or a project on your resume and the casting director or director knows that person/someone who worked on the production you have listed- they better have only good things to say!
Be on time.
Do your homework.
Always have ideas so that you can contribute in a positive and memorable way.