Aspiring Actor or Actress: Tips and Advice

Although becoming and actor or actress can be a competitive career choice, the popularity of theater, radio, television and movies means there's always a demand for new talent.

Types of Acting Jobs

Actors and actresses create visual images and express ideas through performing art media that includes:

  • radio,
  • theater,
  • television or
  • film.

You'll be expected to interpret a written script as a form of instruction or entertainment for an audience. You may be hired to:

  • create voices for animation or audio books,
  • have a non-speaking role as an "extra,"
  • have a lead role in the production,
  • have a supporting role,
  • have a special appearance role, 
  • act as a stand-in or body double, or
  • have an audio-only role in the production.

Education/Training for Acting

Although many actors and actresses are able to secure work on their talent, luck and drive to succeed, most attend formal acting school through an acting conservatory or a university. Training is often a career-long process. 

Membership in professional associations like the Screen Actors Guild help members network, hone their skills and receive fair wages for the work they do.

What to Expect from an Acting Career

  • Acting schedules can be erratic. While television production schedules and be more stable, movies, television specials, plays and commercials typically require weekend, evening and holiday work with lots of down-time between jobs.
  • Wages vary widely. Actors and actresses will high visibility can demand extremely high wages while unknowns that are struggling for small parts or a big break will make much less.
  • Acting can be physically demanding. With the exception of voice-over parts, the physical aspect of acting can demand agility, versatility and the stamina to work long hours.
  • Acting can be stressful. Actors and actresses are under constant pressure to produce the results their director is looking for under whatever conditions exist. It can be demanding and frustrating as well as energizing and challenging.
  • Publicity is a way-of-life. Actors and actresses need publicity to be successful but with publicity can come a loss of privacy.

Tips for Becoming and Actor/Actress

  • Develop a thick skin--acting is subjective and you'll hear lots of criticism you can't take personally to succeed.
  • Get an agent--open auditions are time consuming and highly competitive. Agent's are experts are marketing you.
  • Build your skills--acting classes and workshops improve your skills and marketability.
  • Network everywhere--you never know where the next job opportunity will come from so let people know about your career aspirations an never forfeit an opportunity to apply for a job.

Typical Acting Wages

Acting salaries vary widely based upon the media you're working in and your own popularity. Feature movies bring actors/actresses the highest wages with theater, voice overs and commercial advertisement paying much lower. In all media forms the wider spread your popularity, the more negotiating room you will have for higher wages.

Extras and small supporting roles can earn a set fee for 2 or 3 days work, while other small supporting roles will pay an hourly wage, some starting out as low s $11 an hour. The larger, more feature roles will require a contract with wages agreed upon at the signing.