Understanding what you can work on by Rob Ostlere

During interviews for the The Actor’s Career Bible, performers new to the industry or stuck in a rut would sometimes tell me they wanted to work harder on their careers. However, they were often unsure in which direction to focus their efforts.

Talking to experienced performers, career coaches, agents and casting teams it became clear that there are a several career building-blocks that any actor can work on. In this post, we’ll overview those building-blocks, that form a map of everything you can work on. You can improve your chances of success by making sure you understand each one and by identifying which might need some attention.

Based on industry experts’ advice, there are four main areas to work on:

  1. The basics

  2. Finding work

  3. Auditioning

  4. Dealing with money and unemployment

1. THE BASICS - getting the simple stuff in order

Your selling points

Your ‘selling points’ are your various strengths as an actor; anything from your acting-related skills to your particular casting types.

What to work on:

  • Understanding your current strengths

  • Picking out areas you could improve

  • Making plans to improve what you already have and working on new selling points

Understanding the industry

Being able to quickly find industry-information is vital to almost all your promotional efforts.

Work on:

  • Researching the industry; learning where to look and what to look out for

  • Organising the information you find so it’s easy to refer to and update. Many actors interviewed for The Actor’s Career Bible had created a simple spreadsheet mini-databases

  • Focusing in on your most realistic opportunities. Narrow down the huge number of agents and casting teams out there to give yourself the best chance of finding work

Photos, CV, showreels and email  

Your photos, CV and showreel/s (your ‘marketing materials’) advertise your strengths to the industry. Meanwhile, there are a few simple things you can do to create professional-looking emails, guaranteeing you make a good impression whenever you contact the industry.

Work on:

  • Creating your marketing materials

  • Making sure they’re easy for industry figures to view and use

  • Keeping them updated with your latest selling points

  • Finding the right time to upgrade

  • Smartening up your email

2. FINDING WORK - getting the attention of agents and casting teams

Casting sites

Casting sites include any online service that allows you to apply for work yourself.

Work on:

  • Choosing casting sites that suit your career stage and budget

  • Using the sites effectively

Direct contact

“Direct contact” refers to any email or letter you send out to the industry.

Work on:

  • Understanding the principles behind effective direct contact

  • Using direct contact to apply for jobs

  • Inviting industry to see your work

  • Staying in touch with current contacts and emailing potential new ones

Finding the right agent

As one leading career coach explains in The Actor’s Career Bible, finding the right agent is about ‘working out what you want realistically … and then looking for the person who is going to do that for you.’

Work on:

  • Getting everything in place before making approaches

  • Creating an effective submission

  • Navigating agent meetings

  • Handling offers

  • Dealing with a ‘No’ at any point

Building the relationship with your agent

Work on:

  • Communicating effectively

  • Maintaining a useful attitude

  • Making yourself easy to promote

  • Adopting the right level of self-marketing

Online marketing

Work on:

  • Finding the right options for you

  • Building your online presence

  • Using online marketing for research and finding opportunities


Work on:

  • Understanding the basics of networking

  • Finding opportunities

  • Using your network

3. AUDITIONING - making the most of opportunities

Many interviewees for The Actor’s Career Bible picked out preparing for auditions as the most important area an actor can try to improve on.

Preparing for auditions

Work on:

  • Prioritising what to prepare

  • Improving each element of how you prepare

On the day

Work on:

  • Using the hours before an audition

  • Avoiding common mistakes in the room

  • Keeping a level head afterwards

  • Picking out lessons to learn for next time


Work on:

  • Experimenting with your set-up and becoming comfortable with each aspect of the process

  • Familiarising yourself with other self-taping options

4. UNEMPLOYMENT and MONEY - dealing with quiet periods

The aim is to make quiet periods bearable and productive; now and for the longer term.

Dealing with unemployment

Work on:

  • Keeping yourself mentally buoyant

  • Staying afloat financially

  • Giving yourself the best chance of getting back into acting work

Tax and self-employment

Work on:

  • Understanding the basics

  • Knowing what to do, when

Going through the list above, ask yourself which areas are most relevant to you right now? Within these areas, are there any points where you lack some understanding or confidence?

To begin addressing any problems, look out for future blogs, take advantage of the free work-sheets in the ‘Tools for actors’ section of this site, and for more tips and guidance, get your hands on a copy of the The Actor’s Career Bible.