How to Survive as an Unemployed Actor

You just wrapped up a job on a TV commercial, and now, nothing. You realize you don’t have any new acting jobs lined up.

Now what?

Every actor is unemployed at times. It’s a part of the lifestyle. Acting jobs ebb and flow, which can be hard on you emotionally and financially.

But, it’s how you use that downtime that matters most.

People who spend their time between jobs wasting time or complaining about the lack of work tend to burn out and eventually leave acting behind. People who use that time to be productive about their career are the ones who survive and succeed.

Try these strategies to make the most of your time between jobs.

Be Proactive: Apply to Casting Agencies

The best way to have minimal downtime between acting jobs is to apply for acting work regularly. Keep searching and applying. Follow casting agencies on social media.

Don’t forget to network. Update your social media profiles that you’re currently looking for work. Be upbeat. Don’t act desperate (because you’re not). Use this time between jobs to strengthen your network connections and look for new ones.

As an actor, you’re always going to be looking for work. It’s part of the process.

Be Frugal: Have a Survival Job

You know there’s going to be times when you don’t have an acting job, so be smart financially. It’ll pay off with less financial stress and less worry about finding the money for food or rent.

Find a flexible, survival job that fits with your unpredictable acting schedule. There are lots of options for survival jobs. Some ideas include working with a temp agency, bartending, trade show modeling, or using your skills to freelance as a writer, a video editor, or website designer. Be creative.

Also, learn how to save for lean times. Take a percentage of each paycheck, 5% or 10%, and set it aside for emergency use only. Wanting a latte at your favorite coffee shop doesn’t count. Having this emergency fund will give you peace of mind if you have a medical emergency, need extra money for rent, or you need to travel home to help a family member.

Remember, just because you’re an unemployed actor doesn’t mean you have to starve.

Be Prepared: Have a Plan

It’s your career. Take charge of it. If you’re between jobs, so what. Think of that time as an opportunity to grow as an actor.

Use that time to update your resume and portfolio.

Next, take a close look at who you are as an actor. Identify your strengths. Then determine what you’d like your career to look like in the next year or two. Identify what you think you need to do to make that vision happen.

Do you need to work on a particular acting skill? Do you want to act and to write a play that you will perform in? Do you tend to get cast in comedy roles, but what you want is to be in a drama?

Whatever it is, be honest and open with yourself. Be mindful and respectful. Your goal is to work on furthering your skills so you can reach your goals, not to put yourself down.

When you know your goal, take the end goal and break it down into manageable, small steps. Then make a plan to complete those steps. Write it down. Set deadlines and tell a supportive friend of your goals.

Then do the work.

If you miss a deadline, don’t worry. Reassess and adjust the plan, but keep working and stay positive.

Being an actor is hard emotionally and financially. But you love it. So embrace all of it—the ups and the downs. You’ll not only survive as an actor, but you’ll succeed.

Aaron Ayhan