Career building for actors / by Rob Ostlere

During interviews for the The Actor’s Career Bible, performers would often say they wanted to work harder on their careers but were unsure where to start. If that sounds familiar, then you’ll be pleased to hear that experienced actors, career coaches, agents and casting teams offer an answer.

According to these industry experts, an actor’s career can be broken down into four main building-blocks:

  1. THE BASICS

  2. FINDING WORK

  3. AUDITIONING

  4. UNEMPLOYMENT and MONEY

In this post, we’ll overview each of these building-blocks that form a map of everything you can work on. Understand each one, pick out where your strengths and weaknesses, and decide what to focus on next.

THE BASICS

Your selling points 

Your ‘selling points’ are your various strengths as an actor; the things that set you apart. These can be anything from your acting-related skills to your particular casting types.

What you can work on:

  • Understanding your current strengths

  • Picking out areas you could improve

  • Developing your selling points - making plans to improve what you already have and working on new ones

Understanding the industry

Being able to quickly find industry-information is vital to almost all your promotional efforts - anything from finding an agent’s email address to picking up a casting director’s advice on how they prefer to be contacted.

What you can work on:

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

  • Starting your own mini industry database - organised actors use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of who they’ve met and contacted, and plan their next steps

  • Focusing in on your most realistic opportunities - narrowing 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. Your email, meanwhile, can be made to look professional in a few easy steps.

What you can 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

FINDING WORK - getting the attention of agents and casting teams

Casting sites

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

What you can work on:

  • Choosing the casting sites that suit your career stage and budget

  • Using the sites effectively to apply for auditions

Direct contact

This term refers to any email or letter you send out to the industry.

What you can work on:

  • Understanding the principles behind effective direct contact

  • Using direct contact to apply for jobs

  • Sending persuasive email-invites to industry to see your work

  • Making the most of other opportunities for direct contact, including quick updates and staying in touch

Finding the right agent

As one experienced career coach explains, 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.’

What you can 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

‘In a business partnership, you wouldn’t expect to do all the work and let your partner sit there twiddling their thumbs, and I think the same is true of the actor-agent relationship.’ Wise words from one savvy actor.

What you can work on:

  • Communicating effectively with your agent

  • Maintaining a useful attitude

  • Making yourself easy to promote

  • Adopting the right level of self-marketing

Networking

Networking for actors includes anything you do to strengthen your current industry relationships and anything you do to create new ones.

What you can work on:

Understanding the basics of networking

  • Finding opportunities

  • Using your network

Online marketing

Promote yourself using a personal website, IMDb, Twitter another social media

What you can work on:

  • Finding the right options

  • Building your online presence

  • Using online marketing for research and hunting for opportunities


AUDITIONING - making the most of opportunities

Preparing for auditions

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

What you can work on:

  • Prioritising and planning what to prepare

  • Improving each element of how you prepare

On the day

Giving your best under the circumstances.

What you can 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

Self-taping

Taking the stress out of getting your tapes in.

What you can work on:

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

  • Familiarising yourself with other self-tapes

UNEMPLOYMENT and MONEY

Dealing with unemployment

Making quiet periods bearable and productive.

What you can work on:

  • Keeping yourself mentally buoyant

  • Staying afloat financially

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

Tax and self-employment

The boring but important stuff.

What you can work on:

  • Understanding the basics 

  • Knowing what to do, when


Going through the list above, are there any points where you think your career needs attention? If so, you can make a start using the worksheets on this site, check out future blogs and get your hands on a copy of The Actor’s Career Bible.