We can't all walk into a West End show, Hollywood movie, or TV drama straight after training. Most of us will start our careers at the bottom rung of the ladder, or some distance away from it.
So, how do you form a career in such a competitive and over-subscribed profession?
Acknowledge the challenge:
Recognising the challenges ahead will help you play the long game. It will take time to build your CV, reputation, and gain experience. While lucky breaks do happen, they're rare and it will be tough, so acknowledge that, embrace it, and proceed.
Life goes on:
Too many sacrifice other life dreams for a career which could take off at any moment! It invarably doesn't, so be happy in life and live it. Get married, buy a home, travel, start a family, get a dog, write, whatever your dreams happen to be. If it makes you happy in life it can only make you a more interesting and pleasent person to work with. Just don't take your eye off the goal.
Understand the business of the industry, not just your role within it:
Unless you're a major star, you really are the final piece of the puzzle. Months or years of planning have already gone onto the project. Understanding how the business works may help to plan and develop your career. Why not offer to shadow producers or directors to learn more and get a foot in the door casting wise?
Working for Free / Unpaid Work
As revealed in a new study focused on the music industry, published in Arts Professional, most musicians do not feel 'unpaid exposure' benefited their careers.
Actors are continually asked to work for free because of the 'exposure' they'll get. It rarely pays off.
Unpaid work has its place, certainly. Directors and new theatre companies have to prove themselves before they can get funding, so nobody gets paid unless the project makes a profit. Certain casting services are full of this sort of work, and it can help build a CV and give you opportunities to promote yourself to agents and casting directors.
However, pick those projects wisely. If its not a great play, in a rubbish venue miles from anywhere, few are likely to see it, let alone anyone who can advance your career.
Get a Mailchimp account to manage your email marketing, and keep accurate records of who's who. A simple CRM like HubSpot will do wonders for managing all your contacts and keeping up to date with projects.
Become a LinkedIn ninja, and keep an eye on Twitter for directors, producers, theatres etc you like.
Above all, keep personal and professional social media profiles separate.
When it comes to accounts the most important date in your calendar is 31st January - tax return deadline.
As an actor, you're a small business, so keep records, accurately, and get your accounts in order early to avoid unexpected high tax bills hours before the filing deadline.
Trust me, it's horrid!