Your Acting Career, Is it a Hobby or a Business?


Georgina I would be willing to bet that more than half of the people who pursue acting never take the time to learn the business of acting until they think they have to. Which for the most part would probably be once they book their first reoccurring or lead role; after all, isn’t that when it should matter the most?

Rarely do I meet an actor who is willing to put themselves through the repetition of numerous auditions, the ups and downs of not booking vs. booking, the sky rocketing fees paid out to photographers, agents, managers, classes, workshops and so on, only to say you’re just pursuing this as a hobby.

When I read the article written by Adam Toren, (co-founder of Young Entrepreneur) ‘Alright, Alright, Alright’: What Matthew McConaughey Can Teach Entrepreneurs; I wanted to reach through my screen and high five him.

As an actor, you are an entrepreneur.

I know the word entrepreneur really throws some actors off because it implies that you must be starting some kind of tangible business venture, right?

Well, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary the definition of an entrepreneur is defined as: en·tre·pre·neur: a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money. If that does not spell out ACTOR in big bold letters, I don’t know what else does?

Whether you’re starting off, or you’ve been in the business for a while, it’s important to remember that acting should be treated like any other business. You are the product and you are selling your acting services to (hopefully) eager buyers (producers, directors and casting directors) who see a need that your company can fulfill.  Yes, it really is that simple.

Start off as a professional, and you will continue to be treated as one.

You would never consider starting any other business without first knowing the ins and outs of that particular industry? You would want to know what sets your business apart from your competition, what your key selling feature is, who your target audience is, what makes your product marketable and how you plan on marketing your product to your target audience.  You would probably work on a business plan, you would master your 60-second elevator pitch, and you would consider how you want your brand to be perceived in the eyes of your buyers as well as knowing what your brand does not represent. If you’re wise, you would probably do all this work before you spent one penny investing in your business.

However as actors, some of us do this all backwards or sadly, never at all.

So many actors rush to Hollywood with a focused goal in finding out: (1) which is the best acting class to enroll themselves into (2) who they should chose as their headshot photographer (3) they ask fellow actor friends who their agent or manages are and use that as their sole research on how they choose whom to send their headshots to. Some will also randomly spend money on workshops to see casting directors who are not casting their type or worse, not casting at all. They submit themselves for any project regardless if it’s going to help them tier jump or solidify their brand. Only to burn out, go broke, develop bitter actor syndrome (as coined by casting director, author, and coach Bonnie Gillespie), and think this industry is hard to get into.

Yes it is true that there is no rhyme or reason why some actors make it and some don’t. What works for one actor may never work for the next and how long it will take for you to reach your definition of success will vary. Although there are no rules for making it  – just don’t break any- there are certain things you can do to help you get the best start and mindset for success.

Adam Toren suggested a few things he felt that Matthew McConaughey did so-on-point that is was a no brainer why he has reached his current level of success. Yes, even A-list actors still need to work on rebranding their image in the mindset of Hollywood decision makers.

Here are 4 tips you can use to incorporate into running your acting career as a business verses a hobby.

Tip #1: Create a focused career strategy.

Like with everything, having a strategy on how you plan to reach your goal is far better than just winging it. I would suggest writing down a very lose 1, 3 and 5 year plan and use it as a roadmap, but stay open and willing to go with the changes so you can consistently market your brand in a positive light. Just don’t focus so hard that you cease to see the tier jumping opportunities that can result when you least expect it.

Tip #2: Never be afraid to rebrand yourself.

Adam Toren wrote about how Matthew McConaughey was pegged as a playboy and bounced from one romantic comedy to the next. Realizing it was time for a change, he removed himself from the Hollywood scene to reassess his career. Knowing that he had developed a style that Hollywood grew to trust, was it a risky move to try and change now? Sure, some would think so, but Matthew knew his potential and understood his ‘brand’ which allowed him to come back stronger and more aligned with who he was as an actor. As you grow, you will change artistically, personally and professionally. Always be willing to be in alignment with who you currently are and the message you want to sell.

Tip #3 Become GREAT at what you do.

Being good isn’t enough to stand out in this industry. If you’re a Starbucks fan, you don’t go there to get a good cup of coffee; you go because you think it’s great. Rarely do you buy an electronic gadget because it’s okay. No, you buy it because in your opinion, it kicks ass. You as a performer should think no differently. You need to able to bring it at every performance and be willing to fully be yourself, quirks and all. Don’t hide who you are under the assumption that someone may not like your choices, because not everyone will.  You want the writers to feel like they can’t tell if the words flowing out of your mouth were written by them or you. You want to be on brand all the time so that when casting calls you in to perform a scene, they don’t have to wonder how they will cast you, but when they will cast you.  This, in my opinion, is what Adam Toren meant when he said you have to have commitment to your vision. It’s one thing to play a character; it’s another to let that character intertwine with your own essence so that you become one. How committed are you to your brand, your vision and your company (yes you)?

Tip #4 Know your buyers.

There isn’t a single successful company out there who has neglected to take the time to understand and know their buyers before going into business.  Actors are no different. Your type and style won’t excite everyone, so tailor it to those it does. Do the work and figure out who is looking for what you have to offer and then figure out how to consistently market to them. Your job is to figure out a way to organically cultivate a relationship where you are giving and sharing so that industry professionals can see past the “act” and understand why they should invest time and money into YOU.

There is so much to study up on and learn that should come far before you even think about paying to get your headshots done, or trying to figure out which acting class you should take. If you expect industry professionals to take you seriously, then you should take a moment to reevaluate if you’re going to continue to view your acting career as a hobby or a business. If longevity is what you want, then I would highly suggest you roll up your sleeves and get prepared to do the work.

So, are you running a business or a hobby? I’d love to hear from you. Share your tips on how you’re building your acting career as a business.

To read the article written by Adam Toren called Alright, Alright, Alright’: What Matthew McConaughey Can Teach Entrepreneurs you can visit the Entrepreneur website