This post may contain affiliate links, so I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Check out the disclosure for more info. And thank you for supporting free content!
“How do I get an agent?” is by far the number one question I’m asked by new actors. A lot of actors, even those who have been in the business a few years, think of agents as these magical mystical creatures that are somehow going to find you work and get you your big break.
In all honesty, at one point this had truth to it. Agents use to be the only ones with access to casting directors and breakdowns, but that’s just no longer the case. With social media today and online submissions, casting directors and even a lot of breakdowns are readily accessible.
As proof of this, although I’ve been in the business for 20+ years and have lived and worked in 8 different countries, in the last 6 years that I’ve been in LA, I’ve booked 100% of my acting and voiceover jobs myself, including a major role in a Lifetime TV movie. (My modeling agent has been indispensable!) And yes, I’ve had a team of reps made up of highly reputable agents and managers. Still, no one is more invested in my career and my success than I am.
So…. how do I book acting work myself without an agent or a manager? Below I’m going to share my top six steps and strategies that keep me working full time in the entertainment industry.
1. Hone your skills.
The first thing, and this may sound obvious, but you have to be able to act. Even after years in the business, I’m still constantly in acting classes and running scenes and monologues every week just to stay sharp. If you haven’t had a lot of training, and even if you have, get into classes. Hollywood A-Listers are always giving the advice to new actors to constantly be in class and working on your craft; there’s a few reasons for this. The first being, you actually want to be good at what you’re doing! You’re always going to feel insecure in auditions and on-set if you haven’t had the training to back it up. If you’re not in classes, keep in mind, there are thousands of actors who are, and this is who you are going up against in auditions.
Acting classes are also an excellent way to build your network in the industry and to keep you focused and motivated.
2. Get experience and build your resume.
Would you want to work with a lawyer who had never had another client? Most of us wouldn’t! And the first thing we do when searching for a new professional, or even lunch spot, is to head to Yelp for reviews. This is kind of the idea with getting experience….. very few people on bigger projects want to work with an actor with no experience.
How do you get experience? There are lots of online casting sites, job boards and Facebook groups where you can find audition opportunities. For more on this read: How To Find Acting Auditions Without an Agent ….and Where To Find Them
Create your own acting opportunities by self-submitting for projects through some of these sites, do student films and shorts or even create your own web series. You get invaluable hands-on experience, every job will help you improve as an actor, and you’ll keep your IMDB star meter up and your resume growing.
3. Know your type and do some branding.
This last movie that I booked was 2 weeks after launching a rebrand and intentionally going after that type of role. I know what my basic type is and specifically decided to expand on it. For you or any actor, it’s going to be way easier to pitch for work if you know what kind of roles you are most likely to be called in for and can portray well.
Take a honest look at yourself, or work with a branding coach to figure out what image you want to put forward right now. This will evolve and change over the years, and hey… you’re an actor you can absolutely tweak and modify this to some degree. Some examples are:
Can you easily play…..
- Quirky best friend
- Nerdy office worker
- Femme fatal
- Guy or girl next door
- Caring mom or dad
- Hot mess drug user
- Criminal or tough cop?
Initially, it’s going to be easier for you to book if you go after what comes most naturally to you, “What will the audience give you?”. What types of characters do people expect you to portray? A little type casting isn’t a bad thing. There’s plenty of time to expand your brand after you’ve booked some work.
For more on knowing your type read: 5 Steps for How To Find Your Type as an Actor
4. Have killer marketing materials!
What are an actor’s marketing materials? These are the promotional pieces, the tools you use to pitch yourself for work or auditions.
They are made up of:
You can have the best training in town and be a phenomenal actor, but if you have crappy marketing materials, or none at all, no one is going to give you a second look or take you seriously. The absolute basics and bare minimum are headshot, resume and reel.
You need a professional actors headshot, or even a few, that actually look like you when you walk in the room. Don’t make the mistake of choosing your “prettiest” shot. The purpose of your headshot is to show agents, casting directors, directors and producers how you can be cast. It’s kind of like a food brand giving us recipes; they’re showing us interesting and yummy ways of how to use their product.
Your resume should be professionally formatted to industry stands, outline past work and/or experience as well as your training. And if it “pops” a bit and is eye-catching, while still being professional, that always helps.
For more specific details on resumes read: Actors Resumes: What to Include, What to Avoid
Actor demo reels are rapidly evolving. Even a couple of years ago reels were a compilation of clips and hopefully your best work. Today, most casting professionals prefer single, short video clips. They want to see something that specifically relates to the project they are casting right now, and don’t want to have to watch 3 minutes of other material to get to it – they simply don’t have the time.
5. Be phenomenal at auditioning!
I’m not kidding about this one. Everything else is to get you in the room, but the audition is what seals the deal! For me personally, everything I’ve booked in the last couple of years has been straight from my self-tape auditions.
Auditioning is a special skill unto itself, and today, since most auditions are self-tapes, you really have to get good at this. You need to of course be able to act really well, but also to have a reader and have a good technical set up.
Auditions are such a big topic that I’ve got a bunch of resources for them here on the website.
Here are some favs to start with!
- What is a Self-Tape Audition? (And how do you do one?)
- Simply the BEST Self Tape Advice I’ve Ever Found
- 9 Simple Steps To Prep For Every Acting Audition …Especially if you are a new actor!
- Top 10 Auditions Hacks Every Pro Knows
6. Hustle, just hustle!
Last but not least, is you have to want to it. And you have to want it bad enough that you are willing to do everything above and then hustle, pitch, self-submit, reach out, build relationships, look for work and hustle some more. Today, casting directors receive thousands of submissions for every role, so the competition is stiff. And keep in mind, yes, you are an artist, but they also call this show business…. it’s equal parts show and business. And if it was any other kind of business, you would definitely be looking for new clients or opportunities every day.
Great agents or managers can open up opportunities, but no one benefits more from your success that you will, so no one will work harder fro your success than you will. You can absolutely earn a full time living as an actor, and while agents and managers help, following the steps above you can book a substantial amount of work on your own.
I hope these tips really help you! If you like or love this, tweet it, pin it, post it, or share it with actor friends. It’s a tough business and we could all use a little help out there!
As always, I’d love to read your questions or comments below, and I do respond to every single one
* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!