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How to Make Money as an Actor

Jennifer Birtles 3rd Aug 2020 One Comment

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Like almost every other creative industry, making money as an actor can be tough – especially now as productions have screeched to a halt in the pandemic. Regular, paid acting jobs are not guaranteed, leading most actors to find other ways to supplement their income.

There are plenty of ways to do this outside of traditional acting jobs. Here’s how to boost your chances of successfully finding work as an actor, as well as some additional ways to increase your income.

create a showreel

Create a showreel to help make money as an actor

A showreel is as important as a CV in the creative industries. It showcases your skills across multiple projects, genres, and styles and allows you to demonstrate any additional talents you have.

If you lack experience you can still create a showreel for yourself. Either go solo, or collaborate with a few friends to recreate scenes, or write and perform your own work. Film everything you do and quickly enough you’ll have an abundance of footage to use. Take time to edit it together professionally and make sure it’s well presented. Your showreel is one of the first impressions you give of yourself, so you want to make sure it shows you in the best possible light.

Find representation

Although finding an agent in the early stages of your career can be tough, it is important. A lot of agents will require experience, but don’t be disheartened by this. Even if you don’t have professional credits, having any sort of acting experience still counts. Whether that’s local, community productions, student projects, or amateur dramatic groups. However, still be prepared to be turned away and to face rejections. Ask fellow actors and research agents – some agencies take on more actors starting out. Find ones locl to you and get in touch.

It can be hard work but dedicating time to find an agent is wise. With their industry knowledge and contacts they’ll be able to find you a lot more job opportunities and auditions than you would on your own. Besides, it’s in an agent’s interest to find you lots of work as they make money when you do.

Backstage, a website dedicated to help people finding work in the creative industries, has created a database of agencies around the world worth checking out.

maximise your skills

The wider the range of your skills, the more jobs you’ll be able to apply for (and the more success you’ll likely have). Auditioning is incredibly competitive, and any extra skills you can bring to help you stand out are crucial.

This can be anything from strong athletic ability, to musical talents, having dance training, to being fluent in another language. Use them to improve your chances of auditioning success. Make the most of all the online classes available right now! Brush up on forgotten skills or learn new things, everything from knitting to yoga could come in handy for your next role.

Learn more about the industry, too. Screenskills offers plenty of free resources and training courses to help you learn everything you need to know about working in TV and film.

find work as an extra

Make money as an actor by being an extra on film sets

Working as an extra (also called a ‘supporting artist’) is a great way to earn additional money and gain experience on a professional set. All films and TV shows need extras to make scenes look realistic and natural so there’s an abundance of work in this field. It’s an ideal starting point too, as you don’t need any professional acting experience or training to be an extra. Find more details on how to get started in our article Make Money as a Film Extra and TV Extra.

Extra work is generally booked on a day-to-day basis as and when the production needs it. Extra work doesn’t always give much notice and isn’t always guaranteed. It’s not advisable to rely solely on extra work as a main source of income, but is brilliant at topping up your income and fitting in between other projects.

There are plenty of extra agencies out there like Mandy, StarNow, Extra People, and Casting Collective. Many of these agencies also look for actors for leading roles, too.

Stand-in work is similar to being an extra. As a stand-in you’re a substitute for an actor during scene set ups, allowing the crew to focus shots and prepare lighting. This is generally better paid than extra work and is usually a longer commitment as a stand-in tends to be booked for the duration of a shoot.

teach online classes

Obviously, this only applies if you’re skilled and have relevant experience or expertise in acting. Creating courses online has become increasingly simple and there are a variety of platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Future Learn where you can do this through.

As you plan your course content, you could either generalise it to appeal to a wider audience or tailor it to be more specific. Course charges range massively with prices from £20 to £100s. The price will vary on how long the course is and quality of the content, but dedicating time to produce something people are happy to pay for, guarantees a nice earner for you.

voiceovers and dubbing

Voiceover work can be lucrative and, similarly to extra work, can be picked up as extra income as and when you need it. Voiceovers can be used for almost anything from dubbing film and TV, to audiobooks, podcasts, and gaming.

There are plenty of sites where you can find voiceover work and upload your profile. Voices is amongst the biggest in the market, along with TheVoiceRealm, and Voice123.

create your own work

Make money as an actor by creating your own show

If you can’t find the jobs you want then creating your own is always an option. In fact, it’s what the premise the TV show Extras is based on.

If you have friends in the creative industries who are also looking for work, why not join together and collaborate on a project. Write and perform short sketches, or even start a web series. Projects don’t need to have a large budget – plenty can be done by keeping costs low. One simple technique is to think of a story almost exclusively based upon one location, and one you have free access to. Think of some classic films like 12 Angry Men, Clerks and The Breakfast Club. They were mostly shot in just one location and are all excellent watches.

Creating your own work allows you to use it for showreels, but if you stream it on YouTube you can earn money from views and it may get picked up, too!

more useful reading

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3 years ago

Interesting article. I’d be particularly interested in voiceover work.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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