A lot of the people I coach and work with regularly ask me about work. Acting is a long game as we know, and often while building up credits, we need to take up “other” jobs.
After all, I’m not an advocate of you living on the streets in order to pursue your craft. Nor would I want you on your mates couch for years. They probably won’t want that either (trust me, I have mates who’ve done this!).
So it’s probably a good idea to consider all the possible ways that you can earn money as an actor, while you’re working away at being a full-time actor. Here, I’ve compiled a list of jobs that are closer to acting than being a waiter or working in a clothes store. You might have experience in one of these, or maybe a number of these. Perhaps you’ve often considered it, but didn’t know for sure. Either way, by taking up one of these “other” jobs, at least you’ll be one step closer to acting, and might even make some useful contacts at the same time.
Voice over work:
One of the best ways to earn money on the side as an actor is by doing Voiceovers (VOs). I have heard of artists who could buy houses they earned so much from voiceovers. Now while I don’t generate anywhere near this kind of income from VO work, I certainly do find it a wonderful way to help pay the rent and it’s really fun. Sometimes you even get to be a character. I’ll dedicate a whole post to voiceovers at some point in the near future, but in the interim it’s this easy. Just follow these steps:
- Get a voicereel together as most VO agents won’t consider you without one. I recommend checking out Guy at Voiceover Kickstart or Kirsty at Sounds Wilde.
- Get an agent specifically for voiceovers. Start by contacting voice over agents who don’t have anyone who sounds like you. This might seem silly but it’s not. If there’s another guy who also has a velvety deep RP voice, they’re probably going to say they don’t need you right now because there just may not be enough work to warrant having two of you on their books. VO work is different to acting and you don’t necessarily need more than one type in each category of voice types.
- Get a Voiceover page together. I have one (take a peak for ideas on building yours) and it means that when clients contact me to enquire about my previous experience, I can quickly show them my Voiceover page. It also means I show up in google as I try to get people to hire me as an Australian voice (USPs and all that).
- Make a one pager and have it on the ready if ever you need to show someone. Maybe the people at the company are busy and won’t have time to click on your reel and listen. Or maybe they heard your reel already and just need some actual examples to include in their pitch to the client. Have a one page PDF on the ready with all the brands you’ve worked with once you’ve built up a list.
- Every time you do a VO, send a tweet out about that job, tagging your VO agent and the client if the client is allowed to be mentioned (ALWAYS check this with your agent first).
- Finally, read my excellent buddy and experienced voiceover artist Felicity Jurd’s, and voice coach’s post on starting out in voiceover land: FINDING YOUR VOICE.
Mandy.com (previously Casting Call Pro) and other sites like Casting Networks are littered with corporate style auditions and jobs. While these might not be glamorous, they pay well and you rarely find a casting notice for a free corporate (unlike acting roles). The other benefit of doing corporate roles is that you make contacts. Most people doing corporate filming aren’t living the dream. They’re all likely to be budding filmmakers themselves so you are essentially setting yourself up to make more industry contacts while you’re paying your rent. But please always be professional and learn your lines. Don’t get lazy just because this isn’t you filming an episode of Black Mirror.
Hard to get into but well worth it if you can. You get to play characters! It’s the closest to acting that you’re likely to get while waiting for those amazing TV roles to come up. When I’ve done role playing I have often had to be a patient with mental issues, or a person with an illness. It is a great way to hone your craft, meet other likeminded actors, and pay the rent. And the other cool thing about role play work is that once you’re in with a company you are likely to get more regular work.
Work at a theatre – ushering:
I have a pal who has been working at the Royal Court for years as an usher and it’s been an amazing experience for them. Not only does she get to see just about EVERY show that is on there, she meets other actors and filmmakers and theatre creators all the time. She is immersed in the industry. It’s got to be more useful than serving coffees at Starbucks right? Plus it’s flexible and mostly done by other actors. So if a last minute audition comes up, you can typically get around it by swapping a shift. Most reputable theatre companies have these roles available.
Be a reader:
Many Casting Directors pay their actors to be readers in auditions. If you didn’t catch my article about this, here it is. Being a reader offers so many benefits. And if you can’t get a paid gig out of it, I recommend you try and do it for free anyway, for the experience. Nothing makes an actor less needy than one who has been in the room watching someone else’s auditions. You learn SO much.
Oh and while on this topic, you might also want to check out Paul Barry’s amazing Backstage piece on bad readers. There are some top tips in there.
Casting Director’s Assistants:
This is a great job and offers lots of flexibility. As a CD assistant you’ll learn loads about the business and see other actors audition, get to build a rapport with agents, know what’s current in the industry, and just generally learn loads about the business.
Work for a film company:
There are so many film companies about. Have you tried to email every single one and see if you can do some part time hours. What are you good at? Offer those skills first. Perhaps you could be the script supervisor, maybe you are great at being a runner. Could you help with set design, or be in charge of social media? Offer your excellent services and start working behind the camera while waiting to audition in front of it. Carrie Mulligan was a most excellent runner before she shot to fame. She actually used to serve coffees to one of my pals.
And finally, if all else fails and you simply can’t find any other jobs to do, just remember like I wrote a few months ago, other jobs are okay (read In The Interests of Transparency). Quite a few people wrote back to me about this post so I know I’m not the only one…(right?) Everyone started somewhere else. Remember the famous story about Brad Pitt dressing as a chicken for a random food outlet when he started out as an actor. You’re gonna be just fine!
Happy job hunting.
See also…why you need to get into voiceovers now, by Paul McLaughlin.