How to Work a Full-Time Job and Be an Actor
Every young actor is faced with a difficult choice at some point in their career—do they hand in their notice at work to focus on acting or do they try to juggle a full-time role with the busy life of an actor?
In fact, this is a question that we’re often asked by actors who have just signed with the agency. They want to know if a part-time and flexible position would be a better option for them as they get ready to launch their acting career.
In an ideal world, we’d say that yes, part-time work with an understanding employer who is prepared to change your hours at a moment’s notice would be the best possible scenario. But that’s not always possible, especially if you have financial responsibilities beyond the usual living expenses.
Now, we’re not in the business of destroying an actor’s hopes and dreams so with this in mind, we’ve created this brief guide on how to keep working full-time and continue to work as an actor.
Bear in mind though that this will only work for the immediate short-term or for those actors who are happy to work only on smaller projects and don’t necessarily want to become a full-time actor.
So without further ado, here are your tips including any potential downsides—after all, we gotta be realistic about this.
Honesty is always the best policy
First things first—you need to tell your employer what your plans for the future are.
This might be a scary prospect for some, but the truth is that you’ll need to have a good relationship with your employer if you’re going to make this work. And all good relationships are built on trust. So whether you have dreams of landing a role on a major TV show or you just want to work in commercials, you need to tell your employer what those plans are.
You never know, your employer might even be able to suggest something such as flexible hours or even doing some of your work from home if at all possible.
The thing is, you’ll never know how your employer might be able to help you if you don’t tell them your plans. So be honest and upfront and who knows what might happen.
The only downside we can see here is that your employer may be unsupportive. However, if that’s the case then they probably would have made a big deal about you taking time off anyway. The way we see it—it’s best to know where you both stand from the off.
Cutback on vacations
Yes, it’s an absolutely horrible thing to suggest, but if you’re serious about acting and want to keep your full-time job for now, you’ll have to cut back on the vacations. Those 20 paid vacation days will come in very handy when you land an acting gig and you won’t have to feel bad about taking the time off work.
The obvious downside to this is that you’ll miss out on some much needed downtime and those paid vacation days could run out very quickly if you land a few roles in a year.
But the thing is, if you do manage to land enough acting work that you’re in danger of using up all your personal days at work, then it might be about time to consider taking the plunge and moving to acting full-time.
Now, that would be a nice decision to have to make, right?
Be specific about what you can do
And by this we mean what type of acting work you genuinely have the time for.
For example, theatre work is hugely demanding. There’s a lot of rehearsal work and you’ll be expected to spend a great deal of time in the theatre during usual office hours. This makes theatre work an impossible fit for anyone with a full-time job, so make sure you let your agent know that this is off the cards.
You can also limit yourself to specific locations for auditions and/or work. Say you live in Melbourne, then you might tell your agent that you only want to be put forward for roles that will be shot in Melbourne. The idea here is to limit your travel time so you’re not wasting any time off sitting on trains or driving for hours.
The downside with placing limitations on what you are prepared to do is that you will no doubt miss out on some opportunities. And, in all honesty, the last thing you want to do is limit your opportunities.
Take advantage of the internet
If the global pandemic has taught us anything it’s that the internet truly is a wonderful thing. Although cities went into lockdown, the entertainment industry trundled on. While the shooting of some productions was postponed due to restrictions, casting directors still needed to find talent for upcoming projects. This led to online auditions and castings growing in popularity.
Now, we’re not for a moment suggesting that you only attend online auditions, but if it or self-taping is an option, then you need to let your agent know that this is your preference.
Another way that the internet can help is through online acting classes. If you’re an actor with no experience continuing to develop your acting skills (you always should be), then online and on-demand acting classes are a great option. You can study at your own pace while cutting down on the cost and time required for scheduled in-person classes.
There are none. Using the internet as a tool to help you launch your career has no downside whatsoever. The truth is that even if you don’t have a full-time job, online auditioning and classes are still a great benefit that you should take advantage of whenever possible.
So can you work a full-time job and be an actor?
Like we said earlier, we’re not going to tell anyone they can’t do something, but the truth is that acting is a very demanding profession. It’s also a profession where casting directors often expect you to be available at the drop of a hat—something that is virtually impossible when working full-time.
If you really must work full-time as you launch your career, we recommend that you only do so for a short period of time. While it’s impossible to predict if and when you will start acting regularly, one thing we can be sure of is that if you continue to work in a full-time job, it will certainly take you much longer to hit your acting career goals.
So can it be done? Yes.
Do we recommend it? Not, really.
A better idea would be to take a part-time job that allows you a little more freedom to attend auditions and take time off if you land an acting gig. With a bit of luck and plenty of effort on your part, at some point in the future you’ll be able to quit your part-time job and focus on your acting career.
If you’re serious about your acting career and looking for representation in the industry, then we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions or you can go right ahead and apply to join the agency right now.