Professional Acting Resources


Acting Tips: Acting And Having A Day Job

Answers to various acting questions I get from aspiring actors and actresses.

Q: Hi, I just ran across your awesome site and was wondering if you could help me?  I live in L.A., belong to SAG and have an agent, my question being how do I pursue acting and still have a full time day job?

I'm worried that if I book a job, I'll have to quit my day job, but then, the acting job would be over and I'd have to find another day job.  What should I do?

A: As to your question, it's actually a pretty easy one to answer.  You can't really work at a regular, full-time job and realistically pursue an acting career.  This is one of the biggest reasons people quit their acting pursuits, because to actually give yourself a shot at this kind of a career takes enormous sacrifices and most of those sacrifices come in the form of really crappy living conditions for really long periods of time.  

And by "really long periods of time", I mean like (on average) about 8 to 10 years.  Acting professionally for film and television is one of the hardest jobs in the world to get and the odds of success are literally about the same as "making it" in professional sports or becoming an astronaut.  As a general rule, if the bulk of your waking life is not spent working on acting, you're not going to be successful at it.

So, with that in mind, the best you can hope to do in the short term is to always keep your expenses really, really, really low.  Which means, no eating out, no buying drinks at the bar with your friends, no new cars, no video games, no computers, laptops, iphones, ipads, expensive dates, etc.  It means sharing a house or an apartment with someone or many someones.  It basically means don't spend money on crap that you don't absolutely need.  

To put it in a different perspective, to do what it takes to get (or keep) all of that stuff I just mentioned will pretty much guarantee that you won't "make it" as an actor.  The guy who wants to be an astronaut will gladly give up all of that to study and practice and train to become an astronaut.  The guy who wants to make it in sports will gladly give up all of that to study and practice and train in his sport of choice.  The actor who really wants to make it in film and television will gladly give up all of that stuff to study and practice and train in his or her craft as well.  Heck, MOST college kids will give up all that stuff just to go to school.  See what I mean?

But, if you do cut down on your expenses, you can then afford to work less and at jobs that are very flexible and accommodating of fluid scheduling concerns...a very cliche example being waiting tables.  Not to mention that most of your gigs in the beginning will be very short term affairs and will probably not take more than two or three days to accomplish.  So, in table waiting land, it's pretty easy to work around, and you won't have to quit over it.  

Not to mention that EVERYONE in table waiting land is doing exactly what you are as well and, for the most part, they're pretty understanding of auditions, call backs and shoot schedules.  Just bear in mind that auditions, call-backs, television shows and films are generally shot during the day, during business hours.  If you have to work you'll have to find work that can (or will) work around that reality easily.

Now, obviously, you don't HAVE to wait tables, but it's pretty rare to find part-time jobs that are that flexible and accommodating, but can still "pay the bills".  Which is why expense management is so critical to your success.  If you have student debt, credit cards, car loans, house payments, child support,'ll have a really uphill battle ahead of you.  Not that people with that stuff haven't made it work, but I'd say you'd better get used to not sleeping very much.  

The truth of all of this is, again, going to come down to how much you're willing to sacrifice your comfort to enable yourself to have time to do the work that you need to do.  Because, at the end of the day, this all comes down to work and a lot of it.  The actors that are at the top of the game bust their asses every day and it's one hundred percent focused on acting.  For them and those who are coming up behind them, it's literally all acting all the time...if you want to BE one of them, you'll have to DO like them.  I know it's tough, but I didn't call this place Acting Reality for nothing!

As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, or would just like to share some of your successes, please feel free to drop me a line.  I actually answer them.

Best of Luck out there and remember, you can't fail if you don't quit.

D.L. White