Actors: Focus Less on the Show, and More on the Business - StageLync

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Actors: Focus Less on the Show, and More on the Business

Dear actors, there are two fundamental qualities that you must have to earn that title of Actor: talent and organization. The skills of performing vary from person to person, and developing our talents is certainly important. But honestly, the level of your talent is merely a baseline for where you start but not the truest indication of where you’ll end up. Because talent only comes into play once you’re in the audition room, but first you’ve got to get in that room and have something to show them.

So it’s time to shift your perspective and place a greater emphasis on organizing the financial and business aspects of your career. Cultivating a healthy relationship with your finances and understanding the importance of calculated risks can turn an actor into a working artist. Unfortunately, financial matters and business strategies aren’t discussed as often as they should be in the world of acting, and neglecting this side of your career can be detrimental. So let’s dive into the hows and whys of transforming a talent into a career.

Transition from Aspiring to Working Actor

One undeniable fact about acting is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to successfully balance it with a 9-5 job. Attempting to do both often leads to burnout, which can derail your acting career no matter how dedicated you are. However, leaving a steady paycheck prematurely isn’t advisable either. Before making this leap, carefully assess your financial situation. Calculate your monthly expenses, including rent, bills, medical costs, and acting classes, as well as personal expenditures. Create a rough budget that covers at least three months’ worth of expenses. This safety net will provide a cushion for unexpected events, like illness or family emergencies, allowing you to pause your career without financial distress.

Actors: Focus Less on the Show, and More on the Business - StageLync

Choose the Right Career Direction

With some financial security under you, the next critical step of your acting career is developing your brand and a clear career direction. Your brand is what distinguishes you, makes you unique from any other actor. It guides your talent agent or manager’s marketing efforts, and helps you identify roles that not only fit your abilities and talents but also align with your core values. This should help you avoid just accepting any available project that comes your way. This approach is unsustainable and might force you back into traditional employment. The most successful actors and performers build a brand around themselves and from there were better able to transform into other types of roles. Think Robin Williams or Audra McDonald and the way their careers expanded as they established themselves first and built on top of that. Now, most of us will not reach their level of fame or fortune, but success comes in many forms. So in much the same way, you too can build your career on a solid foundation that’s not rooted in desperation or a scarcity mindset.

Overcome the Scarcity Mindset

An abundance mindset is when you believe there are plenty of resources for everyone. A scarcity mindset is when you believe there are limited resources, so if someone else has something, you feel there is less of that resource available for you. According to psychologist and professor Tabitha Kirkland, “That is one theme in psychology, our perceptions of things matter more than what is true.” And this can certainly be a significant hurdle for many actors. This mindset can lead to jealousy or envy when a fellow actor books a Broadway show while you are barely getting by as a waiter, but it also extends to our finances and time management as well. Start by addressing your own financial insecurities and use that energy to devise creative ways to increase your income. Rather than fixating on scarcity or someone else’s seeming abundance, focus on expanding your own opportunities.

Actors: Focus Less on the Show, and More on the Business - StageLync

Reevaluate Investments in Education and Location

Actors often invest in expensive acting schools or dream of moving to Hollywood or New York. However, these decisions should be made with careful consideration. While acting classes and coaches are valuable and certain colleges can help you get a foot in the door, traditional acting schools may not provide the essential business and financial knowledge needed for a successful career. Additionally, relocating to big cities is no longer a prerequisite for success. Chicago is called ‘second city” for a reason, and there are growing markets in places like Atlanta and Louisiana that offer alternative opportunities. Consider your career strategy, budget, and local market before making hasty or significant commitments in larger (and more expensive) locales.

Develop a Business Plan

It can be easy as an actor to focus solely on upcoming auditions and classes but neglect planning for the long term. An acting career plan should encompass your goals as an actor and the path you take to achieve them and show an understanding not just of the craft of acting but also the industry itself. This can be a written document or a mental checklist, but the key is to have a clear roadmap. Know where you are heading and precisely how you intend to get there. This plan is crucial for navigating the complex world of the entertainment industry effectively. Successful actors don’t rely on mere talent or wishful thinking; they meticulously plan their journey, avoiding the pitfalls of short-term thinking.

**Master Networking**

In an industry where relationships can be as valuable as talent, building a robust network is the key to unlocking opportunities and advancing your career. Connecting with individuals on various tiers within the entertainment industry, from actors and casting directors to producers or filmmakers, can be potential stepping stones towards your goals. Building these relationships can open doors to auditions, roles, and collaborations that you might not have access to otherwise. Remember, networking isn’t just about making casual acquaintances–it’s about joining with like-minded professionals who share your passion for the craft and will allow you to exchange ideas, share experiences, and stay informed about industry trends and opportunities. Moreover, it fosters a sense of community and support, helping actors navigate the highs and lows of their careers. Conversely, it’s also essential to avoid individuals who will hinder your progress and lead to roadblocks. Instead, connect with those who share a growth mindset and uplift others, which will lead to more valuable opportunities and meaningful connections.

Embrace Marketing

Marketing is the key to promoting yourself as an actor, and it’s an integral part of the business of acting. Understanding your brand, creating compelling materials like demo reels and headshots, and effectively articulating your career goals are crucial marketing skills. Auditioning is even a part of marketing and how we present ourselves and make impressions. And yes, social media is a part of this too, whether we like it or not. Most of us aren’t going to reach 100,000 followers, but we can still be engaging and creative in the ways we showcase ourselves personally and professionally. This doesn’t meant to put glitz and glam on every post, being authentic and natural is just as effective and important as showing our best self online. Remember that effective marketing is an ongoing effort. It requires consistency, adaptability, and a commitment to building and maintaining your brand. By investing in your marketing efforts, you can increase your chances of success and longevity in the competitive world of acting.

Take Control Through Production

Actors who produce content for themselves and others demonstrate a profound understanding of the business side of acting. It’s a crash course in learning the various jobs and roles that happen offstage or behind the camera as well. Producing your own content offers other advantages, including independence from waiting for opportunities, the ability to say “no” or “yes” on your terms, and creative control over your career. Moreover, it allows actors to showcase our talent, explore diverse roles, and build a portfolio that impresses both industry insiders and audiences. Ultimately, self-produced projects empower actors to take ownership of their careers and pursue their artistic vision. Consider creating short films, demo reels, one-person plays or cabaret acts to showcase your talent and expand your opportunities.

These are just several ways to shift your focus away from just the performance aspect and place greater emphasis on the business and financial sides of your careers. We actors can pave a path to longevity and even success in this industry. All by remembering that our acting career is like an iceberg, with only 10% of it showing and the rest of it behind the scenes supporting the entire business.

Patrick Oliver Jones
Actor, Producer -UNITED STATES
Patrick Oliver Jones has been in the performing arts on stage and screen for more than 30 years. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama he brought his Southern charm and hospitality to New York City, where credits include off-Broadway world premieres and classic musicals. He was in the original casts of First Wives Club in Chicago and two North American tours The Addams Family and Evita. He’s currently on the road with the Beetlejuice North American Tour as Otho. In regional theater, Patrick has been recognized with acting nominations for such roles as Bruce in Fun Home (Henry Award) and Bela Zangler in Crazy for You (SALT Award). On camera there have been numerous national commercial appearances (including voiceover work) as well as co-starring roles on primetime television dramas like Blue Bloods and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. As a producer, Patrick has three shows on the Broadway Podcast Network: Why I’ll Never Make It now in its eighth season, a theater history podcast Closing Night, and The Spotlight Series focusing on those making a difference in the arts and beyond. In 2022 and 2024 he received Communicator Awards of Distinction and Excellence from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts for his work in podcasting. His producing efforts also include stage works at various off-Broadway spaces, theater festivals, and concert venues in New York City.

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Patrick Oliver Jones

Patrick Oliver Jones has been in the performing arts on stage and screen for more than 30 years. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama he brought his Southern charm and hospitality to New York City, where credits include off-Broadway world premieres and classic musicals. He was in the original casts of First Wives Club in Chicago and two North American tours The Addams Family and Evita. He’s currently on the road with the Beetlejuice North American Tour as Otho. In regional theater, Patrick has been recognized with acting nominations for such roles as Bruce in Fun Home (Henry Award) and Bela Zangler in Crazy for You (SALT Award). On camera there have been numerous national commercial appearances (including voiceover work) as well as co-starring roles on primetime television dramas like Blue Bloods and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. As a producer, Patrick has three shows on the Broadway Podcast Network: Why I’ll Never Make It now in its eighth season, a theater history podcast Closing Night, and The Spotlight Series focusing on those making a difference in the arts and beyond. In 2022 and 2024 he received Communicator Awards of Distinction and Excellence from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts for his work in podcasting. His producing efforts also include stage works at various off-Broadway spaces, theater festivals, and concert venues in New York City.