How to be an actor – an essential guide

If you're signed up to, chances are you already know what it takes to be an actor, know how to get an agent and are already getting acting jobs on a regular basis. But if you're new to the oldest profession then you'll probably need some tips to starting your acting career.

Read on to find out how to be an actor.

25th June 2018
/ By Andrew Wooding

How to be an actor PIXABAY

What acting jobs do you want?
There are many types of acting jobs out there in many different industries. There are film roles, TV roles, commercials, voiceover, theatre jobs, holiday entertainment, promo work, stand up comedy, improv, performance capture and many more, ranging from lead roles to supporting, bit parts and chorus. The list goes on and on with scores of categories and sub-categories of performance work available.

The first question you need to ask yourself – if you haven't already – is, why do you want to be an actor? Knowing this will help you hone in on the kind of acting work you'll aim for. Of course, if you don't know, put yourself out there and gain as much experience as possible so that you get a clear of idea of what is and isn't for you.

Do you like the buzz of live performance? Do you like physically-demanding work? Dancing? Singing? Do you love the sound of laughter and happiness? Do you love the intimacy of performing for cameras? Or admire the beautiful dialogue of Shakespeare or the restraint of Pinter? The atmosphere and teamwork of group collaboration? Or do you like helping people through performance?

Don't know? Then find out! Give everything a try and see what's for you. It might be that a style of acting or performance that you never imagined would interest you is the one that you love most.

But make sure you put a realistic time limit on your "finding out period" and quickly develop an idea of where you want to be. A long-term blanket approach will only hurt your career in the end. For example, if you want to do TV acting work, what kind of TV work? What kind of shows? There are thousands of production companies and TV channels, internationally, all producing thousands of productions of various genres, formats and lengths. Honing in on what is and isn't of interest to you will stop the pursuit feeling so overwhelming and give you a defined target to hit.

There is nothing wrong with aiming to be a lead performer in shows but be very careful that your motivations do not lie with fame or fortune. Acting is about giving to an audience and being the very best you can be in the role you have in that production. Aim as high as you like but be humble, work hard and learn as you enter the exciting world of acting.

After determining the types of acting jobs you want, the next thing you'll need to find out is where that work mostly is. For film and TV, perhaps London, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Atlanta or Montreal might be best. For theatre, New York, Chicago, London, Edinburgh, Athens or Toronto might be places to investigate.

Either way, find out where the bulk of work is and seriously consider moving to one of the hubs, if you're not close to one already. You need to be close to where the acting action is.

Get out there
Regardless of whether you're starting with some relevant experience or connections, or starting from scratch, your number one goal is to build experience. You'll need credits to ascend in the industry and it might be that those are gained through amateur productions, to begin with.

You'll also want an online presence by signing up to, building a website and getting yourself heard of. Start small, have a strategy and keep putting yourself out there. Marketing yourself is half of the job.

how to be a film actor PIXABAY
Film acting might be the career for you

Of course, actors meet collaborators and employees through working, but an area never to be underestimated is attending events. Whether they be official networking evenings, conferences, expos, summits or other people's shows, events are crucial in expanding your industry network and getting yourself known.

And we don't just mean attend one every few months – get properly involved. Relentlessly search for networking groups online and in your local area. Try each of them once and see which ones feel like the best fit. And don't just show up, hang around the edges of the gathering and expect the world – put real energy and effort into meeting new people. That's what those events are for!

Obviously, applying to castings, rehearsing and attending auditions should be your number one priority and networking should never affect those things but do you really need to binge-watch all the latest Netflix shows before re-visiting your favourites? Or watch every football match on television? No! Every day you're not putting yourself out there – where you're not working on something – is a day you're not seizing opportunities and finding potential collaborators.

Take your networking as seriously as your work.

Treat your acting career as a job and buckle up for rejection
As we mentioned earlier, if you're entering into the acting profession for fame, you'll be sorely disappointed. It takes years for actors to get their big break (if that's what they're looking for) and rejection upon rejection upon rejection.

Treat your acting applications and auditions neutrally and unemotionally, even if the role is the one you've truly dreamed of. You'll be doing hundreds of them. Do the best you can – see it as a show in and of itself and as a chance to perform – and move on to the next one.

Also, don't take rejection personally. There could be a myriad of reasons that aren't connected to your ability as to why you don't get the role. If there's something to learn, learn it and move on. Otherwise, just move on!

To train or not to train
That is the question, right? And the answer really depends on the kind of performance you want to do for a living and the kind of experience or natural ability you have. Some people have a knack for performance from the off, whereas other new actors need to learn more or, on the other hand, unlearn overacting.

Some kind of acting work needs very specialised training – voiceover or physical, for example – rather than a general acting course. It might be that a three or four-year course is necessary for you to succeed in your specialty. Or perhaps weekly workshops or a short course suit your situation or ability more than taking an acting degree or long-term course.

The benefits of any form of acting training is keeping your acting muscles flexing and building a network, so investigate the best courses that most suit you and go for them.

Take the work on offer, initially...
When starting your acting journey, it might be that you don't get the acting roles you want but the ones casting directors, directors or producers feel you're suited for. Without having credits, we suggest taking the work and building your portfolio. Once you've racked up some acting experience, you can focus on changing this direction. Get those credits and build that network!

Getting an acting agent
If you're just starting out with no credits, showreel or connections, the chances are it's too early for you and you won't get an acting agent straight away.

Once you're ready, read our tips on how to approach an acting agent.

Be light-hearted
Acting and entertainment is an adventure. Whether you're interested in doing serious heartbreaking dramas or breezy, chirpy holiday entertainment, what you're doing essentially remains the same – pretending to be somebody else for an audience for money. Don't take it, or yourself, too seriously. Enjoy the ride. Keep learning. Make friends.

Good luck on your acting quest!