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CHApter four - Acting is expensive

Money, Money, Money
Spending, Saving, Earning

One of the more challenging realities of becoming an actor is that it can and will get expensive. The cost of classes, pictures, marketing, demo reels, scripts, theater company dues and union initiation fees and dues, showcases, etc. etc., etc. adds up big time. Even participating in graduate films and small theater will necessitate spending some money on wardrobe, make-up, and props not to mention gas and parking fees. The sobering news is that almost any other profession you choose will probably cost you much more, however, with most other professions you would have a somewhat better chance of earning a steady income, -unless you are in the 5% who can make acting a career. When embarking on other professions, you would have a good idea of all the necessary expenses for your training, start up business costs and the money you would need to get you through the first few years. Unfortunately, most new actors don't stop to consider all the costs involved with the necessary training and marketing or have a plan to finance their career. Often that means major obstacles are in place before they even get started. Some get lucky and fall into situations and opportunities that help make it easier. Some have rich families or influential friends. Nevertheless, new actors must "get real" and go into this business as if it were a business. (It is easier to get lucky when you are knowledgeable and have a plan). I STRONGLY suggest that you put together a financial structure. Outlined in this chapter is most of the information you need to be financially prepared for every step in this trip.




In order to structure a feasible plan, first it is important to have an understanding of most costs involved. Please realize that the following costs are approximate prices based on an average and the year you purchased this book. Also, know that I have listed a maximum number of activities you could be involved in and items you could purchase in each year of your development. Although it is ideal, I realize that most new actors probably won't be able to do and get everything on the following lists; therefore I will also suggest variables and options for you to consider.


  • Acting Classes
    • $225 per month for approx. 11 months - $ 2475
  • Improv Classes
    • 2 Twelve week workshop sessions @ $450 each - $ 900
  • Commercial Workshops
    • 1 Eight week session - $ 425
  • Books and scripts - $ 125
  • Photographs
    • Photo session - $ 375
    • Photo and Resume Duplication, 250 copies - $ 150
  • Mailings
    • Includes postage, mailing labels and mailing envelopes - $ 110
  • Speech and/or Diction lessons (if necessary) - $ 500
  • Gym membership or dance and/or yoga classes - $ 500
    (I believe that taking care of your body is an acting expense.)
  • Cell phone and voice mail - $ 500



It really adds up doesn't it? Again, it is better to know the expenses so that you can organize and be prepared to get the most out of this first year.

Someone once told me, "It is not that you can't really afford what you need, it's that you choose to spend your money elsewhere. And if you don't have enough, make more." As simple as that sounds, bottom line, it is the truth. If you want to be an actor, be smart about making, saving and spending money.


Here are a few items that might help to reduce some of your acting related expenses in this first year:

  • No speech and voice lessons (If not necessary); Deduct - $ 500
  • Exercising on your own; Deduct - $ 500
  • Hold off until your 2nd year to get pictures and resumes and to start marketing; Deduct - $ 635
  • Barter services for your acting classes; Deduct $ 2000
    (Sometimes teachers will exchange their class for a student being a class assistant or a work-study)
  • If you are approaching acting as an investigation you might not take as many classes; Deduct $1000
    (If you are doing this as a career or hobby, classes are the wrong place to cut back)


Many actors will invest in their training and when the time comes for photos, marketing and union expenses (in the second year) they are not prepared financially and thus often miss wonderful opportunities. The way you handle your finances can make a big difference in the pursuit of your career. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Plan for all of your expenses
    • Along with acting expenses factor into your budget the costs of living: home or apartment, food, eating out, insurance, gasoline, car payments, going to the movies, transportation, recreation, phones, internet and cable access, the costs of taking care of your appearance and health and every other possible expense. (These living expenses would be the same with any profession that you pursue.) Once you have a clear financial picture you will know how much you need to earn.

    TIP: Know that everything will cost more than you thought. You can count on it. So factor at least a 15% cushion into your best estimate.

  2. Make lots of money
    • My strongest money advice to the new actor, (in the first year) is to work at the best paying job or jobs possible. Many actors have to take several jobs in order to support themselves and their careers. It usually is overwhelming but realize it is just part of YOUR game plan. Don't be afraid to take a day job during the first year when you are training. It's not a necessity at this time to keep your days free for auditions. I believe it is very important to focus all your attention on training and just make as much money as you can. This way, in the second year and after, you would have the money you need to handle the increase in expenses to pay for your marketing and promotion as well as joining the union(s).

    TIP: You might want to get an entry-level job in another field in the entertainment business that you might like as a second choice to becoming an actor. First of all, it is an opportunity to meet people that might help you as an actor. Secondly, it could be that if you choose to pursue a career in this second choice business then you would have made a foothold in this first year or two.

  3. Open a designated bank account
    • For those who are pursuing an acting career, I recommend that at the beginning of your two-year plan, you open a bank account just for acting related expenses. Each month deposit (if at all possible) $ 650 into that account. The $650 would cover your monthly workshops, phone and misc. expenses plus allow you to save the money necessary to take photographs, market yourself and eventually join the union(s).
      • A separate account will help you to keep your acting business financially organized.
      • It is the best way to justify all of your acting expenses for tax purposes
    • For those approaching acting as an investigation or a hobby, you may or may not want to take on all the above listed expenses for Year One. I believe that $275 to $400 is a reasonable amount of money you should deposit into your designated acting account each month. This will cover your training and some marketing expenses. It is realistically what you might need to spend per month in order to facilitate how you choose to proceed in year two or three. And it is what you will need to spend to determine if you want to continue or not after year one.


The heat gets turned up this year for your acting related expenses as well as your time commitments. This is the period when you start to showcase yourself, find acting work as well as continue to develop your craft. Now is when it starts to even get more exciting. Enjoy the ride by being financially prepared. Remember, the costs listed are approximate.

  • Acting Classes
    • $225 per month for 11 months - $ 2750
  • Improv Classes
    • 1 Twelve session workshop - $ 450
  • Cold Reading Workshops
    • 2 Eight week sessions @ $425 each - $ 850
  • Specialty Workshops (Sit-com, Soap, Shakespeare, Theater)
    • 2 Eight week sessions @ $425 each - $ 850
  • Showcases and One-on-One Casting Director Workshops
    (Starting the last six months of the second year)
    • One Showcase
    • OR Three workshops a month for six months
    • OR One Showcase and 6 Workshops. Average cost - $ 540
  • Theater Company Dues
    • Initiation Fee
      Initiation Fees are rare. Most companies have monthly dues.
    • Monthly Dues ($25/Month-$155/Month); Average Monthly Dues - $ 50
  • Union Initiation Fees and Dues
    The Initiation Fees for the three unions are posted under the 2nd year expenses
    • SAG (Screen Actors Guild) -
      • Initiation Fee $2085 + basic semi-annual dues of $65 = $ 2150
        Average Dues
        $65.00 semi-annually - $ 130
        After joining, a member's dues are based on earnings in SAG's jurisdiction during the prior year.
    • AFTRA (Actors Federation of Television & Radio Artists) -
      • $1,300 plus initial dues of $60.90 covering the first dues period - $1360.90
      • Average Dues - $ 130
        After joining, a member's dues are based on earnings in AFTRA's jurisdiction during the prior year.
    • AEA (Actors Equity Association) -
      • Initiation fee - $ 1100
      • Basic Dues per year $ 118
        Working Dues 2.25% based on earnings in AEA's jurisdiction during the prior year.

    (You will find a lot more information about the Unions in chapter 8.)

  • Networking Organization Membership
    Six months
    (Join in the last 6 months of this 2nd year) - $ 300
  • Photographs - $ 375
  • Photo and Resume Duplication (Commercial & Theatrical)
    600 copies - $ 450
  • Postcard and Business Cards - $ 100
  • Mailings
    Includes postage, mailing labels and mailing envelopes - $ 260
  • Gym Membership or Dance and/or Yoga Classes - $ 500
  • Audition Wardrobe
    (Clothes and props that you buy to wear at auditions) - $ 175
  • Cell Phone and Voice Mail - $ 500
  • On-Line and Printed Directory Casting Services
    • LA Casting Network -
      • Represented Talent - FREE
      • Or per year fee - $120

      • Monthly Fee for six months - $10
    • Now Casting -
      • Union and Represented Actors Only - Free
      • or per year fee -$120

      • Average cost per year for non-represented actor - $120
    • Showfax Inc (in conjunction with Actors Access powered by Breakdown Services); Actors Access
      • Actors Access Registration - Free
      • One year subscription to Showfax - $ 68
    • Academy Players Directory -
      • Used for casting purposes on The Link
      • Registration Fee per Category per year - $ 75

      In order to list in the Academy Players Directory you must be a paid member of a professional actors union.
  • Graduate Films and Theatrical Productions
    (Your personal expenses, i.e. wardrobe, make-up, props, gas, parking, etc.) guesstimate - $375



These potential marketing expenses and union initiation fees really kick up the expenses to more than double in the second year. (Most actors will usually only join one of the unions the first year. So, for most, the total will be less.) Don't be stopped by the sum of all these costs. This is just what could be spent if an actor started actively looking for work and landed acting jobs in all the mediums right away. Find solace in knowing that once the union initiation fees are paid, this 2nd year is usually the most expensive time.

Most new actors will not need to or be able to afford all the elements that could be available to them during this time. In order to get a more realistic idea of what you might be spending, factor in the below mentioned Variables and Ways to Save Money. If you plan ahead and are creative and resourceful, you will find that you can greatly reduce your acting expenses.


Here are some of the expenses that might be deducted or put off to the 3rd year:

  • If you are approaching acting as a hobby you might not take as many classes.
    (If you are doing this as a career, classes are the wrong place to cut back). Deduct $1000
  • Join only one of the three unions. (The one will be determined by where you start to do your professional work, i.e. Film, Soaps, Sit-coms, Commercials or Theater). It will probably not be necessary or realistic for most new actors to join all of them. I listed all three to give you an idea of what all the initiation fees and dues cost. Deduct $ 2600 OR
  • If you choose to stay non-union (whether you do this as a career or a hobby) and decide not join any of the unions during this second year. Deduct $ 4214.90
  • Join just one of the on-line or printed directory casting services. Deduct $ 263
  • Hold off until the 3rd year to join the Networking Organization. Deduct $ 300
  • Reduce the number of Photo and Resume Duplications, Postcards, Business Cards and Mailings. Deduct $ 350
  • Work out regularly on your own so that you can go without a Gym membership or dance/yoga classes. Deduct $ 500




I bet this still seems like a lot of money and for many they will believe it's not doable. You mustn't be na´ve. Acting is a career (for those who choose it) and needs to be treated like a business. Investing in any career you pursue would probably cost you at least this much if not a lot more; but if you: save money (either before you start or in your first year), plan carefully and are resourceful and creative, you should be able to do this right in your second year. My suggestion is that you amortize the costs of the second year into the money you put away monthly during the first year.

DISCLAIMER: Spending all this money does not guarantee you one job, nor does it mean that you won't succeed if you don't spend this money. This is just the approximate amount that could be spent for the activities and purchases that I have designated. And I truly believe that what I have outlined in my three year plan will give you a better chance of becoming a quality actor as well as creating better opportunities for getting work and becoming successful.


Although this book primarily covers the first two years, I believe it would be valuable for you to know the potential 3rd year acting expenses so that you will be prepared. (Again all costs are approximated).

  • Acting Classes
    • $250 per month for approximately 11 months - $ 2750
  • Cold Reading Workshops
    • 1 Eight week session - $ 425
  • Specialty Workshops (Sit-com, Soap, Shakespeare, Theater)
    • 1 Eight week session (in one of these mediums) - $ 425
  • Showcases and One-on-One Casting Director Workshops
    • Two Showcases
    • OR Three workshops a month for eleven months
    • OR One Showcase and 12 Workshops. Average cost - $ 1050
  • Theater Company dues
    • Monthly dues - $50 per month - $ 600
  • Union Initiation Fees and Dues
    The Initiation Fees for the three unions are posted under the 2nd year expenses
    • SAG (Screen Actors Gulid) -
      • Average Dues $65.00 semi-annually- $ 130
        After joining, a member's dues are based on earnings in SAG's jurisdiction during the prior year.
    • AFTRA (Actors Federation of Television & Radio Artists) -
      • Average Dues - $ 130
        After joining, a member's dues are based on earnings in AFTRA's jurisdiction during the prior year.
    • AEA (Actors Equity Association) -
      • Basic Dues per year $ 118
        Working Dues 2.25% based on earnings in AEA's jurisdiction during the prior year.
  • On-Line and Printed Directory Casting Services
    • LA Casting Network -
      • Represented Talent - FREE
      • Or per year fee - $120
    • Now Casting -
      • Union and Represented Actors Only - Free
      • or per year fee -$120
    • Showfax Inc (in conjunction with Actors Access powered by Breakdown Services); Actors Access
      • Actors Access Registration - Free
      • One year subscription to Showfax - $ 68
    • Academy Players Directory -
      • Used for casting purposes on The Link
      • Registration Fee per Category per year - $ 75
  • Networking Organization Membership - One year $ 600
  • Photographs - $ 375
  • Photo and Resume Duplication (Commercial & Theatrical) 600 copies - $ 450
  • Postcard and Business Cards - $ 100
  • Mailings
    Includes postage, mailing labels and mailing envelopes - $ 260
  • Gym Membership or Dance and/or Yoga Classes - $ 500
  • Audition Wardrobe - $ 250
  • Cell Phone and Voice Mail - $ 500
  • On-Line Casting Services and Academy Players Directory
  • Graduate Films and Theatrical Productions
    (Your personal expenses, i.e. wardrobe, make-up, props, gas, parking, etc.) guesstimate - $700



Here we are with the variables again. As you can see, this is where you have to do your creative planning and make choices for yourself:

  • Take only six months of acting classes. Deduct - $ 1375
    I suggest (if at all possible) you stay in your acting class unless you are doing a theatrical production, working on a film or if you just need to take a break for a short time to do another project or program that is acting related.
  • If you just take either the Cold Reading or the Specialty Workshops: Deduct - $ 425
  • If you join one or more unions in the 2nd year and join the other one or two this year: Add $1406 - $ 3867
  • Join just one of the on-line or printed directory casting services. Deduct - $ 263
  • If you are already a member of one union and only pay dues to one union: Deduct - $ 225
  • If you choose to do half the Showcases and One-on-One Casting Director Workshops: Deduct - $ 500
  • Subscribe to only one of the on-line or printed directory casting services: Deduct - $ 263
  • Work out regularly on your own so that you can go without a gym membership or dance/yoga classes: Deduct - $ 500
  • Plus, whatever other ways you can find to save money like bartering and/or doing class assistant work.




After this year there will continue to be expenses depending on the classes you choose to take, the marketing you do and how well you clothe, house and take care of yourself. The good news is your major acting expenses, at this point, will be behind you. You have done a great deal of your preparation and career groundwork; now pursue your career with all of your focus and energy.

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Since having the money you need to train and market is so crucial for most, an important key to your success can be how you save money. Here are a few ways where you can cut back on some expenses:

  • Manage your apartment complex
    • When you are the manager of an apartment complex, you get your apartment for free. Often you can earn a small salary depending on the size of the complex, your skills and the responsibilities you assume. If this interests you, I recommend you take the course for Apartment Managers and get the certification. Once you finish the course and get certified, you will get a list of apartments that are looking for managers or you can check the want ads.

    TIP: I suggest that you do not take on a building that has more than 24 units. Larger complexes will probably take too much time to oversee and might make it difficult to pursue all you need to do for your acting career. Also, I suggest that you negotiate with the building owners to pay for all or at least half your phone and/or cell phone bills. You will be on the phone a lot for this job.

  • House Sitting, Caretaking or working as a Nanny
    • Three ways to get a free place to live.
      • House Sitting: If you don't have a lot of personal possessions or furniture, watching other peoples homes while they are out of town could be a great way to get your lodgings free. Often the places you stay are really nice and if there are responsibilities, i.e. taking care of the pets or plants, there might be a small stipend. The disadvantage to this living arrangement is that there may be times when you are between house sitting assignments and you may have to sleep on a friend's couch.
      • Caretaking: Often elderly or disabled people prefer to have someone living with them to help them with, driving, cooking, shopping, errands, cleaning, carrying things, etc. If you have references and are licensed though an agency, you could also make a small salary as well.
      • Working as a Nanny: Live-in caretakers of babies or small children normally are provided with a place to live and meals. Often your employers will want you to be licensed through an employment agency. There is always a salary for this work. The amount is negotiated and depends on your employer and the strength of your references.
  • Start your own Networking Group
    • Select 10 -15 actors that you know or that you have worked with in classes or on projects and put together your own networking group. Set up a regular meeting day and time for several hours each week or every other week or at the very least once a month. At these meetings discuss teachers, photographers, networking opportunities, agents, casting directors, acting work, etc. and ways you can help each other. There could also be assignments for the members to bring back desired research, information, or industry speakers to your next meeting.
  • Create a Cold Reading practice group
    • Organize a group of actors to get together on a regular basis. (If you have put together a Networking Group, the same people could do cold reading workouts). Bring in all kinds of scripts and practice doing readings. You might even hire a cold reading teacher to come in once in a while to give you instruction. Then you could continue to practice what you learned when your group meets.

    TIP: You also have the option to pay a casting director to come in to work with your group for an evening. Unless you can get a casting director to volunteer (which is rare), this will cost between $100 to $200 dollars. It is better if you have at least ten to fifteen actors in your group to make it financially feasible for each participant.

  • Get a camera and practice auditioning
    • If you absolutely cannot afford to take a commercial audition technique or an on-camera cold reading workshop, then somehow buy or borrow a video camera and practice. The camera can be an inexpensive, basic model with none of "the bells and whistles". Most teachers will let you audit a class at least once. Audit several top recommended teachers and take copious notes then at home in front of your camera work with their information. Actor friends who take these classes might be willing to teach you what they have learned. (It is good for them to teach the information they receive so that they understand it even better and this will give you more techniques to practice). When you watch back your work on camera, you get the necessary feedback to see what works and what doesn't then you can make adjustments and practice some more.

      The key elements to saving money here are: a camera, good instruction and PRACTICE. Then as soon as you can afford it, take a commercial audition technique and/or an on-camera cold reading workshop. If you have practiced well, you should be able to skip the introductory level and get into a more progressed class thus, saving some money. Plus, practicing correctly on-camera could speed up the training process and improve your auditions so that you might start getting work sooner.

    TIP: Be sure to get a signed statement from the "test shot" photographer saying exactly how they will be using the photos they take of you. Also, if you would like to have your make-up done for the shoot and you can't afford a make-up artist or one is not provided by the photographer, go to a make-up counter at a department store. Sometimes you may have to buy some make-up, but at this time Sephora and somer department stores do make-up for no charge.

  • Find a photographer who wants to shoot "test shots" for their portfolio
    • Search for student photographers looking to shoot pictures for their classes, new headshot photographers needing to create sample work and established photographers starting to include headshots into their services. They are usually willing to shoot pictures for actors (which they refer to as "test shots") at no fee. The photographer will give you an agreed upon number of prints, but they will own the negatives. Some may charge you for developing the film or printing the pictures but there should be no fee for shooting the pictures. (Get the receipt from the lab to make sure you are being charged correctly). Good ways to find these photographers is through agents, mangers, universities, other photographers and friends.

    TIP: Being your own teacher for any kind of acting or auditioning technique training is only good for a limited time. If you are not sure when you are ready to get into a professional class, then that is when you should get in one.

  • Buy Drug Store 4X6 Proof Prints
    • Instead of getting a proof sheet or 4X6 proof prints from the photographer who shoots your headshots, ask him/her for a CD disc and then take the disc to a major drug store that develops photographs. Most of these places now have a machine that will give you 4X6 prints at a fraction of the cost you would have to pay if the photographer's lab had done them. Then, use these prints to select which you want your photographer and/or their lab to blow up to 8 X 10" photos.
  • Work-study or be a class assistant for an Acting, Improv, Coldreading or Commercial teacher
    • Most every teacher has someone in their class that is a work-study, an assistant or a monitor. Their job is to take care of the class paperwork, monitor the attendance, make phone calls, do data entry, etc. In exchange, they take the class at a discounted price or for free. Once you have found an acting, improv, cold reading and/or commercial teacher you love (and possibly have already studied with for a short time) talk to him/her about being an assistant. If that position is not available, ask if you can clean, baby-sit, run errands, etc. in exchange for the class or at a discount. If the answer is no and if you continue to study with them, ask again at a later time. (Or look around for another teacher you love who might be willing.) It is always worth a try.
  • Barter your work skills in exchange for membership in acting organizations or services
    • You probably have skills that you might be able to barter with some professionals or organizations for services you need. When dealing with networking organizations, theater companies, photographers or with specific businesses, check to see if they would be willing for you to do designated work for them in exchange for their fee.
  • Have your hair cut and colored at beauty schools
    • Businesses that train beauticians usually have their more advanced students cut and/or color patron's hair for free or a minimal fee. They are trained but not experienced. There is normally no reason to be concerned about their inexperience because their instructors are supervising them. (I have heard of some people who have had problems with hair color or bad cuts. I suggest you ask questions and pay careful attention while they work on you, just to play it safe).
  • Work Out on your own
    • If you are a disciplined, focused and creative you can get the physical exercise you need to keep yourself in shape, stay healthy and look good. Jog around your neighborhood, buy exercise tapes and workout with them, stretch, create your own weight workout, do sit-ups and push ups, etc. Put a daily routine together and stick to it. It is difficult for most but if money is an issue don't jeopardize your health, work out on your own.

    TIP: You should change your workout every eight weeks. Get a copy of "Shape" or another fitness magazine and try a new regiment that is featured.

  • Buy your clothes at Thrift, Charity, Outlet and Discount stores as well as Garage Sales;
    Buy your groceries, gasoline and home necessities at membership clubs
    • You can save lots of money and get great clothes (even designer fashions) when you shop at Thrift, Charity, Outlet and Discount stores and garage sales. You may have to hunt around and sometimes do some altering, but the money you save is often worth the time.

      Membership clubs like Costco, offer incredible savings on groceries, gasoline and many necessities. Most items are oversized or you have to buy them in bulk. I suggest you divide your purchases among roommates or friends. There is an annual membership fee, but it is only a fraction of the money you will save. (Maybe the fee could be split up among those sharing your purchases).

    TIP: There are stores in New York and Los Angeles that specialize in wardrobe that was bought for actors (and not always worn) in films, TV shows and commercials. Many times it is designer wardrobe and costs half of what is charged in department and specialty stores.

  • Put Coupons to work for you
    • In newspapers, magazines, mailings and handouts there are coupons you can use to save money on all kinds of items. Look at them, cut the ones out that can work for you and use them. It might surprise you how much money you can save.
  • Utilize Referral Discounts
    • Often times acting teachers, photographers, photo duplicators, etc., give discounts to agency clients, networking organization members, class students, etc. Depending on whether or not there is a referral discount set-up with a person or business you are affiliated with you might be able to save money on a class or service you need. So, don't hesitate to check out who takes referral discounts.

    TIP: Again, don't let the discount be the only criteria for choosing a teacher, photographer or service. You only save money if it's a service you truly want. If not, you are wasting money.

  • Take Advantage of the Public Library
    • Join the library, which is free, and check out copies of books or scripts you want. Libraries also have copiers and often Internet access. Although, these savings may be small, they can add up.


Most of us are always looking for a bargain or creative opportunities to save money. Realize it is crucial to weigh and measure what you are getting against what you might be saving. Many times in an attempt to save money, it will cost you more money or more importantly valuable time. Here are some specific examples:

  • Saving money on a house or an apartment that is a good distance from where you will be working, studying and auditioning is not really going to save you money. The expense of gasoline as well as wear and tear on your car will oftentimes end up costing you a lot more than the higher priced apartment or home closer to the hub of your activities. Plus, the time spent driving (usually in traffic) a long distance could be used working at your "survival" job making you more money so that you can afford the more expensive abode closer to where you need to be.
  • Choosing a teacher only because they are less expensive, willing to barter with you or make you a class assistant could end up costing you more money and more importantly your time. A barter only benefits you if it truly serves you. Select a teacher who you are willing to pay not just any teacher who would be willing to work out a deal for you. Your time should not be wasted and your craft should not suffer just to get a free or less expensive class.
  • Networking groups are about building your career. Even though I suggest starting your own group to save money, realize that professional groups with their established contacts, tried-and-true tactics and networking opportunities are definitely more valuable if you can afford it. An established and reputable networking or career guidance organization will be able to move your career along faster (especially after 18 months into my plan) and might help you find more acting work.
  • Saving money with a less expensive photographer does not always work. Do your research and if you find that a more expensive photographer is the one you prefer then wait a little longer, save the money you need and shoot with your first choice. If you choose a photographer primarily because they are inexpensive and you don't get photos that serve you well then you will need to go shoot with the better photographer (usually the one that you wanted to shoot with in the first place). In an attempt to save money, you will have spent almost twice the amount and lost valuable time.

These are just a few examples of mistakes people make when they try to save money. So, look at what you are getting for what you are saving. And save wisely.

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Okay, now that you know how much money you could be spending and hopefully saving let's take a good look at occupations and/or part time jobs to help you make money. The following suggestions for jobs are conducive to actors pursuing a career.

After the first eighteen months of my plan, actors need to have a job (or a few part time jobs) that offer them the most time flexibility allowing them to get to their auditions and do acting work. It should also be a job that makes you to feel like a success. It is important to feel good about yourself and any work you do. If you are doing a job that you hate just to make money you might take that negativity into your acting work or even give up your career in order to stop doing the "survival" job you hate. So choose your "survival" job or second career carefully.

The following are many of the more popular jobs that give actors the flexibility they require:

  • $ Waiter and Bartender
    • These are the more popular jobs because most shifts are in the evening, which leaves the days free for auditions and classes. The shifts are scheduled in advance and if you need to take one off, you can usually get someone to cover or switch with you. Plus, the money (if you work for a popular restaurant or club) can be pretty good. Besides working in restaurants, caterers and party planners also hire for parties and events, which creates additional income. Depending on the cost of the meals and drinks you can make anywhere from $10 to $35 an hour in gratuities in addition to minimum wage.

    TIP: If you are thinking about supporting your acting career as a waiter or a bartender, before you move to Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, start working for a corporate restaurant that has locations in the one of the three cities in which you are planning to move. When you are ready to move, ask for a transfer. This way you will have a job when you get to your destination. Finding work as a waiter or bartender is not always as easy as one might think because these cities are saturated with lots of actors who want to support themselves doing this work.

  • $ Outside Sales
    i .e. Medical Supplies, Real Estate, Magazine Advertising, Multi-level Marketer
    • Doing sales work primarily outside an office can be an ideal job because you usually are able to schedule most of your client appointments around your auditions and acting work. You can make good money depending on the product, the territory, your contacts and your skill as a salesperson. Many sales jobs are minimal wage plus commissions and include expenses.
    • Depending on the product, some specialized sales jobs, i.e. Medical Supplies, require a license. Others like Real Estate require taking a course and passing a test, where others might require training from the company.

    TIP: When selecting a product to sell I recommend that you make sure it is something that you believe in, really understand and you feel good about selling. (It is also important to have a good work environment that will support not undermine your confidence). This will make it a job that interests and nurtures you so you succeed and make good money.

  • $ Swap Meet and Flea Market Vendor
    • Selling products that you either make or buy wholesale at weekend market places is another option. There is usually a venue to be found every weekend in a city within a reasonable driving distance. If you have a desirable product at a good price, are a good salesperson and secure a good location, you can make enough money in these two days not to have to work another job during the week. At your convenience, during the week you can handle the restocking and finances of running your own little business.

    TIP: Get a business and resale license as well as make sure your paperwork is accurate and your taxes are paid.

  • $ Retail Sales
    • Sales work in department, clubs and specialty stores or on car lots is a good job if you have an understanding boss and other sales people who can fill in for you on short notice. There is a salary and often commission. The amount of money to be made depends on the product, the clientele, the commission structure and your sales ability.
  • $ Product Promotions @ conventions, events, bars and parties
    • The purpose of this work is product promotion. Actors are hired to talk about companies and/or demonstrate products (either scripted or impromptu) at large conventions or various smaller venues. The money one can make depends on the job being done, the venue, your experience, expertise and the amount of time required. Usually, most actors can't count on these jobs for a steady income, however it is great work to supplement your money situation. Once you get positioned with an agent, party planners, caterers, clients etc., you will be able to work fairly frequently and make decent money for a day or two or possibly up to a week at a time. Most jobs are local but some require travel, (sometimes even out of the country). Again, YOU can choose to take only the jobs that your schedule permits.
  • $ Masseuse, Facialist or Physical Therapist
    • These jobs require a commitment to a training program, a certification and license. Once accomplished, masseuses, facialists and physical therapists can make anywhere from $25 to $150 a session (plus gratuities) depending on their clientele, service and whether they work at a spa or for themselves.
  • $ Physical Trainer, Yoga, Aerobics or Dance Teacher
    • Again these jobs require a committed training program and a certification. Actors performing these jobs can earn from $20 to $75 an hour depending on whether they work for a business or for themselves giving classes or privates.
  • $ Substitute School Teacher
    • This job requires a degree and a certification. Most actors who teach school on a day-to-day basis get work calls either the night before or very early the morning they are needed. If they are free that day, they take the job. It is usually a 9am to 3pm job. For six hours of work, the pay is approximately $120.
  • $ Teacher of Specialized Skills
    • If you have a strong knowledge or talent in a specialized skill, i.e. computers, arts and crafts, dog training, languages, photography, feng shui, golf, tennis, baseball, cooking, quilting, etc., etc., etc. and have a clear ability to communicate that skill, you can make either a living or supplement your income. There are always people, sometimes lots of people, who would like to learn what you know. It's just a matter of locating them or them locating you. With proper advertising, word of mouth, and/or a good location, finding potential students to start your own business is doable. You can also secure a job teaching with an established teaching institution or business. Your earnings are determined by the complexity of your skill and the demand.
  • $ Casting Assistants, Casting Camera Operator and/or Session Directors
    • Casting Assistant
      • They assist Commercial and Theatrical Casting Directors with everything from running errands, sorting pictures, setting appointments, writing letters, taking notes to running a casting session's waiting room. This job normally pays between $75 and $125 a day
    • Casting Camera Operator
      • Almost every commercial casting session is videotaped and thus a camera operator is necessary. Experience with video equipment, lighting and deck to deck editing would be pre-requisites for this kind of work. This job usually pays $100 to $150 a day
    • Session Director
      • Session directors run a casting session for a casting director. They inform the actors what is required, direct their auditions, make sure the casting tape(s) look good and the paperwork is complete as well as oversee the shipping of the casting tape(s) to the client and the director. Session directors make $100 to $175 a day
    • Camera Operator/Session Director
      • Often the camera operator and the session director are one and the same. The person who does both jobs for the same session will earn from $150 to $250 a day

    TIP: A great way to get one of these jobs is to intern or work for free for a month or two with the Casting Director that you are most interested in working with. (If you prove yourself to be good at the work, you have a strong chance to get hired.) Most people will start as an assistant. Once you start assisting, you can arrange to get training or train yourself as a camera operator and/or a session operator, thus, making more money.

    Once experienced, most Casting Assistants, Casting Camera Operators and/or Session Directors can work for several different Casting Directors. These jobs often give actors the opportunity to audition for appropriate parts they help to cast.

  • $ Nanny
    • A "Nanny" is someone who assists with the care of a baby and/or young children during the day and/or evening. This job usually requires several references from previous clients and possibly some certifications. This job is best for those interested actors in the first year of your initial training because when you are responsible for child care it is impossible to get away during the week for auditions. A weekend Nanny would be a good job after the first eighteen months of my plan. The money varies greatly depending on the hours, amount of responsibility and number of kids, if you live in or not, and the clients. (If you do a live-in situation, you can save money on food, gas and lodgings.)
  • $ Personal Assistant
    • Being a personal assistant can mean doing all kinds of work: errands, phone calls, writing letters, mailings, general office work, research, overseeing workers, shopping, walking dogs, changing cat litter, making signs, putting together scrapbooks, organization projects, data-entry, etc., etc., etc. -whatever is needed in the moment or on a regular basis. The pay can range from $10 to $25 an hour depending on your skills, the number of hours and the clientele.
    • After the first eighteen months, when you start going out on auditions, I strongly suggest that you not work as a personal assistant for a celebrity, corporate executive or major businessperson. Working for these high profile clients would make it impossible to pursue your acting career. At this point, you could only do personal assistant work with clients who would be flexible with your schedule.
  • $ Personal Shopper
    • If you love shopping, have excellent (as well as trendy, creative and sophisticated) tastes in clothes, gifts, food, etc., you may want to investigate earning an income as a Personal Shopper for individual clients and/or businesses. WARNING: You must be willing to adapt your tastes to serve the styles of others. Again, the challenging part of this job is getting the clients. You can start by working for an established "Shopping" business or high-end department store and then once you have the experience and contacts, move out on your own.
  • $ Office Temp Work
    • Those capable of doing data-entry, filing, computer research, bookkeeping, letter writing, mailings, research, receptionist work, etc. can apply with a Temp Agency or several Temp Agencies to do daily, weekly, monthly work. Sometimes these "temp" jobs can lead to a permanent position. The salary for "Temp" work is based on your skills, the going rate for that business and how much the Temp Agency can negotiate.
  • $ House Painters, Handymen and Construction Workers
    • A lot of actors are painters, handymen and construction workers. Some work for themselves and many work for companies. It is manual work that is often very demanding and sometimes creatively satisfying. The money averages from $10 to $25 and up an hour or from $75 to $200 and up a day. Again depending on the clients, your experience, level of expertise and your ability to market yourself.
  • $ Photographer
    • Many top photographers are or were actors. Most who work regularly can make $300 to $400 a day. Realize that there are a lot of photographers. Even with the great ones, the hardest part of doing photography as your main source of income is getting clients. It is a creative job that keeps you very involved in the industry.
  • $ Commercial Print Work
    • You don't have to be a "model" or even an actor to do commercial print work. All types of people at any age are right to do commercial print work. Most print work usually comes through an agent and normally requires an interview or audition with the job's photographer or an advertising agency. The fees for this kind of work are based on what your agent can negotiate per hour, day, week or for the whole job and whether or not travel is involved.
  • $ Singer, Dancer or "Fashion" Model
    • Many actors who sing, dance and/or model can get work through agents that usually specialize in each of these fields. So with proper skills, marketing and representation, you could make a full or supplemental income working as a singer, dancer or "fashion" model.
  • $ Party or Club D J's
    • This is a job that offers actors a chance to work with music, socialize, network, be in the center of the party scene and work nights and weekends so the days are free to audition. The money to be earned depends on the club or party planner. For most it is a fun and a supplemental income.
  • $ Club/Party Door Guard/Bouncer
    • This job entails approving of the patrons and checking to see that guests are on the invitation list at nightclubs and parties as well as ousting problem patrons. This is normally a nighttime and/or weekend job hiring good looking, well built, strong men. The money is negotiable based on the popularity of the club and/or the clout of the organization that hires out the guards.
  • $ Dog-walkers and Cat Caretakers
    • If you are good with animals and enjoy taking care of them, this job might be a good one. Animal owners who work full time or go out of town often need help with their pets. With dogs you would be required to feed them and/or walk them either outdoors around their residence or taking them to a public dog park or trails once or twice a day. Cats usually need to be fed, their litter box cleaned and played with once or twice daily. Sometimes you might need to take an animal to their vet. The money you make depends on: the number of pets, whether you are walking dogs or looking after cats, if it is a regular gig or just for a few days or weeks, and what you can negotiate with the clients. Normally, you could earn from $10 to $40 an hour. If you do house sitting (where you are free to do other work during the day) or stay overnight, you can make $25 to $50 a day and/or night.
  • $ Apartment Manager
    • This job usually offers a small salary, if at all; it is more about getting your apartment for free. Check under "Ways to Save Money" (earlier in this chapter) for more info on Apartment Managers.
  • $ Night time employees
    • Hospitals, hotels, police stations and many corporate businesses have nighttime employees, i.e. customers service agents, data entry people, re-stockers, security, receptionists, orderlies, nurses, etc. Sometimes nighttime employees will get more per hour than those doing the same job during the day.
  • $ Incoming Phone Sales
    • This job is the opposite of a telemarketer. It entails working in an office and taking phone orders from people who call the business you are employed by. This work normally has a base salary with commission possibilities. Since these jobs have several people working, it makes it flexible enough for actors.
  • $ Background Extras
    • The people who have no dialogue and fill up the background locations in television shows and movies as well as commercials, music videos and industrial films are "extras". It may seem easy but often they work very long hours. With the long hours of waiting-to-work (often in uncomfortable situations) and standing around for long periods once the shoot starts, the work is tedious. Once you are registered with Central Casting and/or numerous call in services, when you are right for the type of "extras" they need, you will be booked for a day, week, month and sometimes longer. There are non-union extras that usually make approximately $50 a day plus overtime (usually). Then there are SAG extras that make a minimum of $ 115 a day for film and television shows and $ 275 a day for commercials plus overtime and penalties (if there are any).

    TIP: I suggest you don't take "extra" work on a day you have class or another job in the evening or if you are expecting an audition. It is often the case that "extras" are told they will only be needed for a few hours and then have to stay on the set well into the evening. Thus, if your classes are important (and they should be) or you have something else you must do that evening, play it safe, turn down that day's work when you get the offer. There will always be other offers.

  • $ Cab Driver / Limousine Driver
    • For both jobs you must have a chauffeur's license. If you want to drive a cab, you can work for an established company or lease a cab by the day. Or you can buy a cab and it's medallion. The rates are set but additional money is made in gratuities. To drive a limousine you can either drive for an established business and draw a salary (the gratuities are yours) or get your own limo and business medallion (which is fairly expensive) and establish your own rates.
  • $ Your Own Business or any job which allows for a flexible work schedule
    • Either in a company or with your own business, if you can create a work situation which gives you the freedom and flexibility to go to auditions and take days off to do acting work, this is an ideal job for your career. It could be almost anything that you are trained for and enjoy doing. Here are other jobs and occupations for actors, -either working for an established company or for their own business:

      web designer

      on-line business owner


      golf or tennis pro

      graphic/art designer




      fireman & police

      business consultant

      animal groomer



      script reader

      event planners

      house cleaner

      book keeper

      hair colorist/stylist


      interior decorator

      jewelry maker


      security officer

      eyebrow shaper




      mobile auto detailer

      resume' writer

      personal chef

      TV/film/commercial crew

      book/copy editor

      day trader (stocks)

      pre and post-production work



      There is no reason to be a struggling actor if you are qualified to do specialized work and/or are a business entrepreneur. When you do the groundwork you can make a substantial living while being able to pursue your training and career. There is normally more time and responsibility required for the jobs listed in this bullet point than the previously mentioned forty plus jobs.

All the jobs listed are suggestions to give you choices for ways to make a living. (I'm sure there are many others). The money you earn makes it possible for you to develop your craft and pursue your acting career. (It can also help you to develop a business or a job skill that you might want to move into if you eventually decide not to be an actor.) Choose wisely. The money you make from your job(s) facilitates and sometimes can dictate the course of your career.


There are services and jobs you perform to make a living and then there are occupations, which are careers and require your full focus. The main point I want to make here is that you can perform services and jobs to make a living while pursuing your acting career but it is nearly impossible to pursue a business career and an acting career simultaneously. It is imperative to make this distinction.

Once again, those pursuing a career in acting need to have jobs that have flexible hours and structure and that are not heavy with responsibility. It is not impossible but extremely difficult to have the time needed to be a working actor, if you work a government job, or are a doctor, lawyer, psychiatrist, executive in the corporate world or even a full time receptionist. Jobs that are structured for a strict 9-5 day and often require overtime are not conducive occupations. Prioritizing your career goals and pursuits will help you to focus and serve one career at a time thereby, efficiently utilizing your time and energy plus producing more opportunities.


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