How to Start an Acting Career

by Anthony Smith

Montage of career keywords

Every year thousands of people decide they want to pursue an acting career. If you're one of them, you better learn theses steps to starting your acting career.

Every year, thousands of people decide that they want to pursue an acting career. The problem is many of them believe it is as simple as getting a picture taken, composing a resume and getting an agent. That kind of thinking is precisely the reason why most aspiring actors never make it.

Here are the REAL first steps!

The basics of what you'll need:
  • Knowledge of yourself
  • Creativity
  • Knowledge of exactly what you want out of your acting career
  • A solid plan to keep you on track
  • Lots of motivation
  • Business skills
  • A good, solid financial base

Step 1: Find out what it really means to pursue the career in acting you say you want to pursue. Talk to both working actors as well as those who have been struggling to get work or who have been working sporadically. You can learn what to do and what not to do from both groups. Learn what a typical day could look like, especially at the beginning of your career.

Step 2: Start reading up on acting techniques. Read books like Sanford Meisner on Acting or The Art Of Acting by Stella Adler. They will help you to understand that there are different techniques that, first of all you will need to fall back on time and time again in order to be able to deliver consistently compelling performances and also how acting classes are conducted. You'll know what to expect and also have some basis on which to choose a school.

Step 3: Choose an acting school. If you have choices, don't just try and get in the first school you come to. Shop around, know what you expect from your training, interview teachers and ask lots of questions before choosing. Once you start studying the craft, count on continuing to do it for a good portion of your career.

Step 4: Study the industry. Learn how it works. Learn what agents and casting directors do and what they expect from actors and actresses. Learn why they are in the business they are in. Learn who casts the different projects there are. For example if you are in New York, you will want to know who casts for certain Broadway shows, for Law & Order, Guiding Light, as well as other even smaller projects. Learn about the different ways that actors can ensure their work gets seen.

Step 5: Learn some basic business skills. On my site for new and aspiring actors, I have listed and described only 10 of the 21 I wrote about in my book. However many you study, you need to know that first of all as an actor, you are a free-lance professional and as such, you must sell yourself in a positive way to your 'customers' (casting directors, agents, directors, producers, etc.)

Step 6: Start putting together some of your basic marketing materials: Headshot (commercial and legit/dramatic), Acting Resume, Acting Cover Letter, Monologues (at least two: comical and dramatic), but you will probably need more. Now the concept of type begins to be more important, because you want all of these things I mentioned here to all communicate the same message about who you are as an actress/actor.

Step 7: Make sure you have a financial base! Many aspiring actors don't make it, because they don't think about this step at all before they throw themselves into the mix. An acting career can be a full-time or part-time thing. If you want it to be full-time, you MUST have the time to dedicate to it, because chances are in the first couple of years at least, you might not be making enough money to support yourself, so you will need either a base of money to fall back on or you will need to have streams of residual or passive income coming in so that you don't have to worry about how you will pay the rent.

Step 8: Try and get some experience: community theatre, low-budget theatre projects, student films, indie films, background work on tv or in film. Background work is a great education in the beginning of your career AND you make a little money at the same time. The more you perform, the more comfortable you will feel.

Step 9: Now use your research of agents and of the industry to find the right agent for you. There are different ways to do that. You can meet agents (and casting directors generally) in a few different ways:

  1. Do a mass TARGETED mailing with regular follow ups. When you do that though, start to understand and learn what the interview/meeting with the agent will be like so you know what to expect!
  2. Meets and greets or Schools that hold seminars in which they let you audition. They do charge a fee, however.
  3. Forums with casting diretors and agents. Usually last a few hours and give you the chance to audition for and/or have a one to one meeting.
  4. Showcases in which you perform. Industry professionals are usually invited to check out the talent.
  5. Invite them to a show you are in, to see a televison program or a movie you are in.

Step 10: Continue to study! Other than continuing to hone your technique, you will want to start boning up on your audition skills, monologue performance, cold reading skills, improv skills, etc.

Step 11: Now your business skills will come in handy, because now you must realize that you are the CEO of your own company, of your own brand. Your ability to market it or not, will have an effect on how successful your acting career turns out to be.

Acting is a tough business! You must have thick skin, because you will be hearing the word NO a lot. You must be prepared for that and know that is not to be taken personally. It's part of the game.
Anthony Smith left a successful corporate career as a senior manager in Nike and Levi's after 15 years to follow his dream of becoming an entrepreneur, writer, motivational speaker and actor. While enjoying success in his "new" life, Anthony shares his business insight and acting experience with young actors. Aside from acting work, he has created and his first book, "Acting Career Start-Up: Four Key Factors For Success," is available now.

Copyright © Anthony Smith. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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Reader Comments

Hey,i am Nelson from Kenya a country in Africa.I just needed help on how i can become an actor since i really have this passion of acting and would like to make acting my career.I am 19 years old and just completed my high school studies and i now need to concentrate on acting as my career.The problem i am in Africa and i have no idea how i can be an actor.If you helped me i would really appreciate much,thank you in advance.

Posted by Nelson Muthomi (2016-10-16) 7438

Hello ! I am Hardik and I am exact 14 years old. My aim is to become an actor.So what i have to do now..???

Posted by Hardik Jain (2016-05-09) 7353

I am swarish bhardwaj and i am 13 years old boy.The biggest dream of my life is to fulfill my dream to be an actor and i can surely say that i will be an actor in the years to come.

Posted by Swarish bhardwaj (2016-01-28) 7274

I am looking to become a famous actor. i know i may not come right off and be like Will Smith, or Shawn Wayans, or Dwayne Johnson, im just looking to get stuff going in the business. Making money and fame.

Posted by Dustin Denzel Shaw (2015-12-04) 7257

iwhat you to help me whit my career of acting i realy realy love acting.

Posted by philisiwe hlatshwayo (2015-04-11) 7162

hi I am 16 years old. my dad is in favour of study they says that I should to take admission in any recognised engineering college but I want to work in film industry and I don not know any person who can help me go ahead towards my career

Posted by mohit yadav (2015-01-12) 7121

I want to make actor.

Posted by Lakshay Jangra (2014-07-01) 6897

i am 25 yoa and all my life ive been dreaming of being someone important, ive dreamed and dreamed but never came true ive always wanted to be an actor but never thought I would make it I come from a small town called Albemarle nc and always tried hard to be someone so hopefully I will be the one I want to be

Posted by jeffrey sanders (2014-02-17) 6685

I am searching for contacts to movies, tv shows, entertainment, etc...... to submit my resume', photo, and information. Thanks!

Posted by ruth oboh (2013-08-07) 6540

I wanna be a actress / singer

Posted by Samantha mulgrew (2013-08-01) 6534

I'm 17 years old,from Nigeria and i just used few months in Ohio,
I need help getting into the actual business.
I know every thing there is to know about the career.
I would like someone to help me out, I want to star in movies and TV shows, but I dint know how to so if u have a way to help me contact me please. thanks

Posted by king zanga (2013-06-23) 6513

Hi I'm Sheila Perez
I'm 13 years old
I live n Puerto Rco
My dream is to be on Disney Channel
I have a lot of talent
I'm not going to say much because I don't think is unnecessary because if some one has a powerful talent like singing and acing doesn't need to say much.
I'm very talented and I will love to be on Disney Channel specially on "JESSIE"
Thanks For Your Time

Posted by Sheila Perez (2013-04-28) 6480

Hi I'm Charlotte. I want to be an actress when I grow up. But I don't believe in myself. I am 13 years old and I really have wanted to acting since I can remember. I love drama in school, I try to aim for level 4-6 a,b,c .In Addison my teachers and family say I am very creative and I get high levels in my school work. Also in English I have won the Michal Davison Award. I really want to be discovered and I am going to try my 100% best to aim high and always be positive. I know its a tricky industry to get into but I am 1005 properd for it. What courses do I need to take to get into the biz industry?

Posted by Charlotte Swan (2013-04-12) 6467

Heyy, I'm 13 years old and I've wanted to act for as long as I can remember. That is always what I wanted to do and I feel like I was made for it. It makes me feel so happy. I've been trying to pursue this dream for YEARS but I just don't know where to start. I was in a school musical about a year ago and going to audition for another one in about a week. I was thinking about maybe becoming home schooled in high school so I have more time to practice acting/singing (which is also one of my dreams) and I've even thought about taking acting classes. I can usually cry on the spot and in my personal opinion am pretty good of an actress. I would really like to start my showbiz career now if possible. I know a lot of young girls want to be famous and stuff and then soon grow out of it, but I am serious. If I am not serious about anything, I know I am about this. The main reason I want to act/sing is because it makes me happy. It's something I enjoy to do and feel at peace while doing it. I want to make my small town proud and for it to be known for something. But the biggest reason of all is because I want to help. I love helping everyone I can; people, animals, anyone that needs it. I've always thought that maybe if I'm known enough and famous enough, I can give to charity and travel around the world to help the less fortunate. This is my dream and it always will be. I will NEVER give up on this. So what should I do? Thank you SO much for taking the time to read this. :)

Posted by Raven (2013-02-06) 6412

Hello, My name is Kelsi. I am 14 years old I come from New Zealand (Manawatu district). I am English, Irish, Welsh, Australian and a New Zealander. I have taken drama and singing lessons since I was seven year old and still take them now. In the year 2000 I won Johnson's baby of the year.I laugh alot and always find the funny side to thing, My friends and family think I have a good sense of humor. I love singing, acting and having fun (I don't like to be bored). I always give 100% in all the work I do. I have blonde hair and blue eyes (If needed I can dye my hair to a different colour). Everyone says that I am just like a little child because of what makes me laugh and the show I watch. I have wanted to be a Actress/Singer since I was Little and I don't know how to start my career so if anyone could help me can you please contact me. ASAP (as soon as possible) please!!!

Posted by Kelsi Byrne-Brown (2012-12-01) 6343

Hi,My name is Araya. I am 14 years old.I really want to start my acting career.My mother took me to this modeling or acting thing when i was 5 or 7. I acted in school befor.Acting is something is what i'v been wanting to do my whole life.I am a nice sweet and inocient girl.I laugh alot.Peole say im fun to work with.I love acting.I dont know how to start it off or what to do so im looking aroun.I wanted this for YEARS.I hope you contact me.I look forward into acting.Thankyou.

Posted by Araya (2012-10-01) 6311

hey im Zoe i live in Australia NSW, im 15 yrs old and have done dancing and acting in school and outside of school. it's hard because i live in a small town and no one i know does acting so i dont know what to do or who to talk to. i really want to get a chance to show you what i can do, i would put 100 percent into anything and everything. it is my one dream. if you know anyone close to me that could help me reach my dream or help me get an audition. thank you sooo much pls contact

Posted by Zoe Goolagong-Young (2012-07-18) 6258

Hi. I am Courtney-Leigh Whitmore. I'm 16 years old, I live in Joburg, South Africa. One of my favorite things to do is sit down n just watch movies, since I was really young I thought of becoming an actress. I don't wanna do this career for the money or the fame I would like to do it because I love it! I read what u had to say n it made a lot of sense. My best friend n I want to do this career so we practice...I just really need help to get there! Thank u for your good advice!

Posted by Courtney Leigh Whitmore (2012-06-06) 5919

Hello! My name is Ali I'm 13 years old. I really want to start my acting career. I have done several proformances with my home town and I really want to be known. Acting is something I love doing! I am nice, sweet, have a sense of humor and play soccer and run track. But unlike most actors I have braces. I'm really insecure about them and my body shape and weight. But acting is what I love. I am active and really chill and laid back. But I am committed. This is what I want. Please contact me with ALL/EVERTHYING you can tell me to help me achieve my goals! Thank you so much!

Posted by Ali Cote (2012-04-20) 5756

Hey am dimpho I love acting. Am 23 please help to fullfill my dream

Posted by dimpho (2012-01-28) 5437

Hi, My dream has always to been an actor. One thing i have major stage fright. I tried to get over it but i cant. I would rather act in-front of a camera, but every actress I have ever seen has beautiful features that i lack. I would be happy just to have a back round part as long as i got to act. It's my dream. I've never wanted anything more. Could you please help me, Send some advice or something. :) Thanks.

Posted by Tory Mcculloch (2012-01-07) 5355

Hello, my name is Vanessa and i am 14 years old...I told my parents and friends that i wanted to be an actress,but really didn't care..They just say whatever Vanessa. When i was in elementary school i did the school play and i tried out for The American Girl Movie Kit Kiteradge. i think i spelled that wrong! But then i tried out for a commercial and i thought i did good but wasn't good enough to make it! I really, really want to act and be in big shows and movies but I need an agent. I would love it if you can email me back or help me live my dream! Thanks!

Posted by Vanessa DeLuca (2011-08-10) 4220

Hi my name is Sasha - Lee and i'm 15 years old, my dream is to become an actress, i wanted to become an actress when i was 11 but i'm still not living my dream, please help me, i really want to become an actress, i live in Durban, South Africa. I would really appreciate it if you could help me live my dream. Thanks

Posted by Sasha - Lee (2011-08-07) 4155

i have just descovered that i can sing and dance and my parents aevery suppotive of what i want to be so please can you help me to be famous and im from soth africa i want to move and go to america where i can forfil my dreams thank you i will realy appreciate if you would help me

Posted by zanele memela (2011-08-06) 4128

My name is Michael terry. Im from Minnesota. I just moved to Georgia to become an actor. This is my dream since i was 12. Im 22. I also wanted to know what if I can work with you. Can you help me get my face out more.

Posted by Michael Terry (2011-05-24) 3309

I have always wanted to be an actress and i have some acting experience i mean very little. I was wondering if being 25 years old if its too late or if not what can i do to emphasis my experience.

Posted by Arthena O'Hair (2011-05-17) 3158

I want to become a actress when I grow up. I read this and it kinda makes sense to me. But I don't know how to find a agent.

Posted by Becca (2011-05-11) 3105

I'm 13, Don't have much money to take place in an acting school. I'm pretty much lost on what to do, I believe i should start a resume and portfolio to get out there, and start looking for agents???

Posted by Veronica cabrera (2011-02-24) 2897

Hello my name is Isabella and I'm 14 years old. I don't have that much of experience but I am a really good actress. I've been in a couple of plays and I really have actress material. I would really appreciate tips on what to do next because I still depend on my family and cannot go to California that much so, I won't give up because I know I can reach the big screen.

Posted by Isabella (2011-02-06) 2856

Hello im chris and i couldnt help but noticing this website. and i was just wondering on how to be an actor. im 13 years old and i want to be an actor. im doing pace right now and im in school right now looking at the website being bored waiting for school to be over. auditioning sounds fun right now. so any one who wants me to be in a movie or tv show so yeah pick me and i will lick peanut butter anywhere u put on ur body

Posted by chris (2011-01-12) 2828

i love acting so much and i will do it for fun i dont have to be famous it will all be worth all the work ive done if i can have a chance.

Posted by hayley (2010-08-28) 2687

My name's Nick & I've acted on broadway & was schooled at NYU's TSOA with a major in drama. Please take heed to this warning: anyone who believes you have talent will not ask you for a dime up front. It's the way show biz works folks. They get their cut when you begin to rake in the cash. My advice is to GET GOOD HEADSHOTS, and by good I don't mean a snapshot of you, nor a shot from head to toe. A headshot is just that: a shot of your head in any given pose that you think demonstrates you as a good photo... of your head... only. Once you've got the headshots the rest is a piece of cake. Get them around locally, and AUDITION!!!!!!!!!! You can't get a part if you're just sitting at home. Look up auditions in your area but once again, please don't fall for scams. Someone that thinks you have the potential to be famous will happily shell out the publicity costs. If you're meant for the business do what I said & if you've got what it takes, chances are you'll succeed. And as far as agents, if you show enough talent, they'll beat your door down. Also remember the sweepstakes mentality: many will apply, few will win big. If you have talent, drive, and passion, you will likely be one of the happy but somewhat poor crowd... which is better than being followed and in all the tabloids :-)

Posted by Nick (2010-08-26) 2685

ibelive i can be an actor if i get the chance

Posted by jordan gordon (2010-08-16) 2676

HI, my name is Makaylah Wagner I want to be an actor. I am very passionate about acting. If I ever became an actor I would thank god everyday. You do not know how happy i would be.

Posted by makaylah (2010-07-02) 2620

hi i'm niniii i'm 16 and want to be an actress very very much but i live in georgia in gori so there nothing to do or to become an actress,so please help me and take me abroad to take part in films, i have left this messige everywhere and many times, and you know evreyone answer me but nobody want to take me abroad so please help me and take me abroad i so much want to be an actress if you take me abroad i swear you won't regret i can do everything what do you want, so if you interested in me visit my mile and see my photo and if you like me i'll tell my phone to take me abroad, so i'll be wait you...............................

Posted by niniii (2010-05-17) 2531

Hello my name is ashley leath and i am 15 yrs. old and if i get to be a actor just what i have been wanting for along time.I woudl try my best and i am a very beatiful young teenager and i'm a very out going person and very funny and fun to be around.I love to meet new people i live in a very small town called gadsden al.very poor town.but i hope yo will pick me that would ake my life even better thank you for your time.

Posted by Ashley leath (2010-02-23) 2395

i m interested actting in movie

Posted by Aashish verma (2009-12-10) 2236

hello my name is Anthony im 25 years old and i more then anything else in the world want to become an actor. This is a dream ive had since i was 4 years old but never got the chance to excel in because when i was younger my family thought it was a joke that i wanted to become an actor. I took classes in high school and acted in plays but after that there was nothing. my dad said he would pay for me to go to school after high school but nothing that has to do with acting. I was never able to pay for portfolio pictures, or even step foot into the entertainment scene. i still believe 100% that i can become a great actor, and i will do whatever it takes to fullfill my childhood dream. Please i need any help i can get. i have no help or direction from anybody and i myself have no clue where to even start. i need ur help. Thank you for reading this and i hope to hear back from you

Posted by Anthony Izzi (2009-11-25) 2207

This helped a lot :)

Posted by gabby (2009-10-20) 2149

I'm 13 years old, i have experiance with acting and modeling.
I need help getting into the actual buisness.
I know every thing there is to know about the career.
I would like someone to help me out, I want to star in movies and tv shows, but I dont know how to so if u have a way to help me contact me please. thanks

Posted by Michelle (2009-07-27) 1840

well im 16 years old and want to become a actor im in theater and im really good at it thats what my thecher says well i want to be in a movie any movie i would even do it for free and a low budget movie please help me get discovered email me plz and help me out thanks alot

Posted by dan u (2009-07-13) 1765

Hi i realy want to be a actor but dont know were and how to start im only 13

Posted by Maria (2009-06-13) 1576

Uniquely, I am interested in acting because I love to perform and to create a story. I honestly could care less if I ever make it, however I am determined to persue my career in acting and won't take no for an answer. I am often told that my lack of thrill for becoming famous will inhibit me from persuing my dream. Do you agree with this?

Posted by Mike A (2009-06-11) 1570

Hi! My name is Lauren and I have dreamt of the day I would be on tv since I was 9 years old...I am 20 now and still getting curious as to how I can make my biggest dream come true. When I was about 13, my best friend and I would act out scenes with a video camera from our favorite shows. When I was little, I asked my dad if there was anything I could do and he wouldn't let me do anything about it until I graduated from high school. I've been out of school for 2 years now and this is my chance to find a way to get myself out there and shine. I'm very excited and I hope you can help me. I am a very positive and dedicated person.

Posted by Lauren (2009-04-06) 1249

hi my name is james reed and i just started to get into acting i wonder by me being 27 is it too late for me to try to act?

Posted by james reed (2009-03-05) 1099

i know that stuff its just i have no expirence.and i dont know where to start and only 13.and i dont have lots of money

Posted by jeniffer (2009-01-24) 923

Hey, i'm Jasmine and i'm 13. i just want to know how can you get an agent?
do you have to find one on a website or something?
do you know any good agents to get?
and since my family has finacial problems atm how can i move to america so i can audition for background person or a commericial, etc.

Posted by Jasmine (2009-01-14) 872

Hi I'm Carie Patterson. I'm 13 years old and I really, really want to start an acting career. I know a girl in my class who acts and I have contacted her with some questions about finding an agent and such. I can't really go to a big city like Seattle very easily unless I'm absolutely sure that something big could happen for me there. Please contact me with some advice.

Posted by Carie (2009-01-06) 843


Posted by KING (2008-12-27) 719

i really want to get into acting so if anyone out there is looking please contact me i really want to be an actor and i have always wanted to be an actress. i am twelve almost thirteen.

Posted by Kali Wintermote (2008-12-16) 686

Hello. I am Carson. I have always wanted to be an actor. Will you help my dreams come true by puting me in a movie? I am seven years old. I am active. I like to do big things. I am sweet, funny and very acting matirial.

Posted by carsongraham (2008-11-01) 518

I need to start a career as a actress and i am younger in my teens what should i do? Where should i go? I would do almost anything for this job.

Posted by Jessica McDaniel (2008-10-19) 488

what if we are young like 14 what do we do?how can we get to big starz and learn from them?

Posted by cassandra de la garza (2008-07-30) 155

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