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From Surviving to Thriving [Part 1]: 7 Truths About Supporting Yourself As An Actor

supporting yourself as an actor

This is Part One of a two-part series on supporting yourself as an actor or how to go from surviving to thriving in your acting career.

Part 1: [You Are Here] –  7 Truths About Supporting Yourself As An Actor
Part 2: 10 Ways to Support Yourself As An Actor

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There’s a big ol’ LIE you’ve been told about acting…

And you might have even bought into it!

Here it is:

“To be a successful actor, you have to devote yourself to it 100%.”

You’re told that if you’re serious about it, you must make the pursuit of acting your full-time career.

But how are you supposed to survive this way?

How do you pay for the car that will take you to your auditions?

How do you afford rent in the city you’re trying to build your acting career in?

Many actors choose to pursue acting as a second career, meaning they do it on the side of a “day job” that pays the bills.

Others pursue acting full-time while leaning on survival jobs—like bartending or Uber driving—to bring in some extra cash on the side.

And is figuring out how to merely “survive” really on your bucket list?

Nevermind surviving…what about THRIVING?! Living…enjoying your life AND your acting career?

So, what solution is right for you?

Should you treat acting as a job, or as a second career?

Should you seek to survive or find a way to thrive?

Let’s explore the seven truths about supporting yourself as an actor so you’ll finally know the answer to these questions.

Ready?

Let’s do this…

TRUTH #1: There Is No Right Or Wrong Way To Support Yourself As An Actor.

Here’s the thing. As an actor, you're probably really good at making yourself wrong for things.

And it’s not exactly a skill you want to be practicing.

But every time you tell yourself things like…

  • “I’m doing this the wrong way.”
  • “She’s doing it better.”
  • “He’s moving faster.”
  • “I’ll never have what she has.”
  • “This isn’t working.”

… You’re feeding the negative mind chatter that isn’t doing you, or your acting career, any favors.

You need to understand this one simple truth: there is no right or wrong way to support yourself as an actor.

There is no right or wrong way to support yourself as an actor. Click To Tweet
There are many different ways, and every situation is different.

Why?

Because there are so many variables at play. For example…

  • Where you live…
  • What your skills are…
  • What kind of life and responsibilities you have…
  • Where you’re at in your development as an actor…

The list is endless.

And guess what?

The list of solutions is pretty long too (we’ll get into those in Part 2 of this blog series). But you’re not going to be able to grab on to all of them.

Not every option is going to be right for you.

So please, stop beating yourself up about the “right way” to go about creating a successful acting career…

Because the answer is never going to be as black and white as that.

TRUTH #2: Acting Is A Business, And You Need To Support It.

It’s time to start thinking of your acting career as a business.

What does this mean, exactly?

It means it requires a plan. It requires a revenue stream. And it requires an investment, of both time and money.

Think of it this way…

Nobody goes on Shark Tank looking for passion and a streak of good luck.

They are there for an investment, because they have a business. And your acting career should be treated the same way.

Often, when you find you’re struggling to support yourself, the real problem actually stems from your beliefs and viewpoints about your career.

You have to switch your mindset.

Stop treating yourself as a “starving artist.” You’re an actor, with a real business you need to support.

If you keep thinking of yourself as a “starving artist” then that’s where you’re headed.Click To Tweet

TRUTH #3: You Need To Support Yourself, Too.

Yes, acting is a business and you need to support it.

You get that, now.

But guess what?

You’re human, and you also need to support yourself.

This seems fairly obvious, but I want to make sure you’re able to differentiate between the two.

In order to invest in your acting career (AKA YOUR BUSINESS), you need an income stream to support you.

Still with me?

You’re not going to have anything to invest in your business (your acting career) if you don’t have some money coming in to support your life (you).

It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.

And this leads me to the next point…

TRUTH #4: You And Your Business Are Two Separate Entities.

That’s right…

These two things are different.

And you need to treat them as such.

The real problems happen when you try to mush your personal needs and your business needs together, as one.

You and your business are separate entities, so stop treating them as one in the same.

Acting is a business, and you need to support it.

You’re human, and you need to support you.

And just as these beings are different, the way you go about supporting them may be different too.

So, how exactly do you go about doing this?

TRUTH #5: Cultivate A Thriving Income Stream, Not A Survival JoB.

Nobody intentionally creates a successful business with the goal of simply surviving.

If that were the case, their businesses would never actually survive.

Why?

Because surviving is holding on by a thread.

It’s just getting by.

It’s the state of living one millisecond away from crashing and failing.

No one wants to live that way.

So let’s retire the phrase “survival job.”

I want you to stop speaking surviving (aka “struggle”) in existence with that dis-empowering phrase.

Let’s just put that one to bed.

Your goal should be to do much more than just survive as an actor.Click To Tweet
You’re not going to be able to fund your acting business – the entity that exists separately from you – with the instinct to just survive

Instead, focus on cultivating living and thriving.

And yes, I’m going to get into specifics on how to do that, too (in Part 2).

But I cannot stress enough how important it is to make this shift so you can give yourself the chance to build an amazing acting career AND a fulfilling life, too.

This is how you give yourself a chance to work in a way you truly enjoy…

Where you have a life you love – one that exists beyond the struggle to make your car and rent payments.

TRUTH #6: The Best Kind Of Income For Actors Is Steady/Flexible Income.

That’s right.

You want the best of both worlds when it comes to your income: steady and flexible.

How do you achieve this?

It really depends on where you are in your acting career.

If you just started acting, for example, you might not want to just quit your job and say, “Hey Hollywood, I’m here!”

First, you want to make sure you have the pieces in place to actually create an income for yourself as an actor.

And this depends on where you are in the trajectory of your acting career, what kind of income stream you’re currently bringing in, and what kind of thriving income stream you intend to cultivate.

If you’re looking for another income stream to support your acting career, choose something that is steady and flexible…

That brings me to one final truth…

TRUTH #7: Have Patience And Create A Long-Term Plan.

Here’s the thing… you’re an artist.

And I want to speak to the artist in you right now.

I highly encourage the artist in you to think as a business owner, and to invest in the business side of your art.

When you think about “investing in your business”, you’re opening new doors of possibility for yourself.

Be your own “angel investor”.

The future of your acting career depends on it.

So, survive or thrive?

One takes you to struggle the other to the red carpet life.

What do you choose?

Next, we’ll look at 10 specific ways you can support yourself as an actor, So if you want some actionable strategies to help you support yourself as an actor and THRIVE, make sure you come back here and check out Part Two of this two-part series!  

Your turn! Were these seven truths helpful? What do you do to support your acting career? Is it working?? Tell me about it in the comments below… :-)

You DESERVE the Red Carpet!
~Amy

Did this post on going from surviving to thriving in your acting career help you? If so, I would greatly appreciate if you commented below and shared on Facebook.

Amy Jo Berman - Acting Coach
Amy Jo Berman's Tips On Acting & Auditioning Blog
Email: Asst@AmyJoBerman.com

“I show actors how to be better, book more jobs and live The Red Carpet life!”

If you enjoyed From Surviving to Thriving [Part 1]: 7 Truths About Supporting Yourself As An Actor, retweet and comment please.

  • Archie Cogollos

    Thanks for all you do…

  • Evette Murphy

    Amy asks: Were these seven truths helpful? What do you do to support your acting career? Is it working?? Tell me about it in the comments below… :-)

    My answers: Thank you Amy! Yes, these 7 truths about Supporting Yourself As An Actor are helpful. Unfortunately I have bought into the survival mode.

    I am a Freelance Bookkeeper. It is flexible and could be a lot more lucrative than the current level at which I have it frozen. I have never enjoyed it, and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years. I have extreme debt due to raising my daughter, and basically my bookkeeping pays for monthly bills, and that’s it! I have managed to arranged an exchange, bookkeeping-for-acting class. This is amazing! Except I struggle to keep up with it because I hate the bookkeeping so much at this point.

    I look forward to future blogs in hopes that some ideas you present may work for me as an alternative.

    I really can’t believe how much you give for free Amy! You are very generous! Thank you!

    Cheers!
    Evette

  • Theresa M Ihrig

    Thanks for this great blog, Amy! I am an actor pursuing my career later in life. Growing up, I always knew I was born to act, but I knew there was no way I would be happy waiting tables while waiting for my big break. I decided to go to college for business and work in an office environment while eventually pursuing my acting career once I was financially stable. Today I am married with children, work full time as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator for a hotel & conference center and I’ve been actively working as an actor since 2009. I’ve had agent representation since January 2015. My family understands that Saturday mornings are my time to attend Master Acting classes, and I am training my husband and 13 year old daughter to assist me with my self-taped auditions. This will really cut the cost of using taping services. Thanks again and I look forward to reading part 2! Best regards, Theresa Gause (my actor name) 😊

  • What an amazing article, Amy Jo. You really are a godsend to those of us on the path to an amazing acting career :D I love, love love, what you have to say. I personally work a 9-5 type day job to support myself and my career. I also have been learning about things like investing, the entrepreneur mindset and embracing minimalism. Once my consumer debt is paid off in the near future I will be funnelling even more of my money into savings and investments. I can’t wait to watch my money GROW! Making more money from the money you have is something that so many people don’t seem to even think about! It’s so amazing to learn how to grow your wealth. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series! xoxo

  • Darci Maurer

    I got a lot of this in the free Facebook Live you did on this same issue. It changes a lot of how I look at my career and what I’m doing to support myself, both as an actor and as a person. I cannot tell you how timely this was for me. The best thing was retiring the phrase “I just need to survive.” Thanks Amy!

  • Clifford Neil

    Hi Amy,
    Thanks for sharing your valuable insight, wisdom and experience from being in the Entertainment business so many years with all of us ! It’s truly a blessing. Have a blessed day and week!
    Clifford Neil

  • Ronald Patrick Thompson

    Great post, can’t wait till part two!

  • Linda Ann Eknoian

    Very optimistic!! Thank you AmyJo!! I look forward to part 2!!

  • Hannah Logan

    Yup. Amen. And a hardy halleluyer!!

  • Whitney Duff

    I really needed to be reminded of this. What a great read. Thank you!

  • Lori Bajares

    I really enjoyed Part 1 and am looking forward to Part 2!

  • OhSumyr

    I enjoyed reading this post and found a lot pf parallels in my own life with it. My only concern is that the job I have now pays the bills but is not flexible (hotel job) so I’m often left to decide between going to audition and keeping my job. 😖

  • Cindy Miller

    Thanks Amy this was very helpful !🙂

  • Peter Estrada

    Very helpful Amy. One can’t get further along, unless one changes their mindset. I have had some health issues that almost killed me. But i kicked their asses. I sometimes sing, teach/tutor to pay the bills. It keeps me healthy and thriving. And it gives ME control of my time, schedule and life. It also keeps me Artistic. I am almost done paying some Medical bills and have lost 100lbs. I feel great for a guy who came close to death three times. I DID die for two minutes and was brought back. I am now looking forward to my brass ring. This coming birthday, in May, will be the first time i will be under 200lbs in over twenty years. Since college. I escaped death three times and am in better shape than most of my friends.

  • HBJ

    Good points each an every one Amy Jo, look forward to part two, having done 95 roles in background I am eger to move to principal.

  • Cynthia D Perry

    I loved it! It helped me see that I fo need to find viable employment for me do that I CAN SUPPORT “my Actor”, and be successful. It put a few ideas in mind. Thx Amy!!

  • Lamont James Brown

    Thanks AJ!