Why are you a professional actor?

Interesting question, huh?

Has anyone ever asked you this question?

Have you ever asked this of yourself?

If so, how long ago?

And – importantly – have you ever dug deep and found the answer that truly resonates with you?

So, how can we respond to this question? Let’s identify what the term ‘professional actor’ means to you.

‘Professional actor’ – What does this mean?

Sometimes it’s easier to explore answers to questions and ideas by flipping to the other end of the scale. Let’s start by examining the reverse definition. What could the term ‘non-professional actor’ mean for you?

Drama_Rehearsal_03_MPWe could call people who perform – but not for monetary income – hobbyists; amateurs.

This doesn’t mean that these actors necessarily have any less skill, talent, dedication or drive for their craft than actors who have chosen to pursue a professional career.

These actors have simply decided to earn their monetary salaries and income in alternative ways and to utilise their skillsets and talents in other avenues. They satisfy their creative needs and their ‘acting bug’ in their spare time.

Defining the term ‘professional actor’

So, how could a ‘professional actor’ be defined? Perhaps as someone who:

  • Applies regularly for paid performing opportunities
  • Is registered with their country’s tax department as a self-employed actor
  • Is a member of one or more industry unions
  • Has industry-standard marketing materials, including –headshots
    • CV
    • showreel
    • voice reels
    • biography
    • elevator pitch
    • website
    • casting site profiles
    • representation by an agent
    • an audition monologue portfolio
    • strong self-taping skills
  • Continues to keep their marketing materials up to date and available to casting professionalsman-and-woman-with-a-hand-holding-a-film-slate
  • Networks regularly with industry professionals and keeps connections with past employers and colleagues
  • Has invested in training and continues to keep their skills sharp and evolving through individual rehearsal, group workshops, short courses and coaching
  • Has a deep understanding of how the 
  • professional performing arts industry works – past and present
  • Has a deep understanding and expertise in, and passion for, all genres of the acting craft – past and presentblur-books-close-up-159866
  • Perceives their acting career as one of the highest priorities in their life and is willing to prioritise their acting work around and/or above other life commitments when necessary
  • Has the intention of being a paid actor – whether paid opportunities have occurred yet in their career or not

What can you specifically identify from the above list – and indeed from your own additional definitions – that enables you to express yourself as a professional actor rather than someone who just enjoys acting?

Reasons for being a professional actor

So, you’ve now established a more solid definition of the term ‘professional actor’ and what it means to you. So, WHY are you a professional actor?

Let’s explore some responses that you – or other professional actors – may have:

Speech bubble - I have TALENT.JPG


But so do many amateur actors – who choose not to pursue acting as a career, but as an art form they can devote their free time to.

So why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - I am creativeBrilliant!

But what is it about acting that overrides any other creative medium for you? There are so many artistic and creative avenues that we could pursue as a career.

So, why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - Obsessed with the industry.JPGGreat!

But what stops you from following that interest in your spare time through reading, watching TV and movies, attending theatre?

So why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - Its what I do bestFantastic!

But we live in an age where we have access to so much information, education, resources and training opportunities.

Anyone can train and develop experience in any chosen industry and – if they put enough time, energy and devotion into it – become an expert in any subject that they study.

So, why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - Tied downUnderstandable. Variety is indeed described as’the spice of life’.

But the uncertainty of existing on a variable, self-employed income to pay rent and bills each month can be too much of a financial and emotional weight for many talented actors. The need for stability can override these concerns.

Therefore, many actors decide to pursue acting as a hobby to reduce financial uncertainty.

So why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - I want to be RICH.JPGWho doesn’t?! I’m sure none of us would turn down the opportunity to add a few zeros to our bank balances!

Professional acting is an unpredictable profession – guaranteed income of any amount is a challenge that all professional actors face.

Also, there is a plethora of ways to become a millionaire if one of your life goals is to earn a phenomenal monetary income.

So why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - I want to be FAMOUS.JPGOh…

If this is a primary motivation for you to pursue a professional acting career, are you really in the right job? Research the statistics of how many working actors there are in the business at any one time.

And if widespread public recognition and attention is what you crave, what is your real reasoning behind this?

There are also far easier, quicker and more guaranteed ways to achieve ‘fame’ if this is something you truly desire.

So why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - I went to drama schoolCongratulations on your training!

But drama school training teaches and provides us with an enormous range of skills and opens up dozens of pathways that can result in so many other opportunities, industries and jobs outside of, as well as in, professional acting.

So why are you a professional actor?

Speech bubble - Let down If this statement resonates with you, well done on acknowledging it.

Yes, the opinions of others are always important to us but there is no shame in deciding to change your career path at any point in your life. People do it all the time – and very successfully.

If you do choose to change your career path to something that gives you more stability, fulfilment, certainty etc then you will be making that choice for the reasons that are right for you and your life’s needs. That’s fantastic!

WHY are you a professional actor?

Career or hobby?

Do you currently treat your acting work as a career or a hobby?

Is your motivation for your performing arts work to create income, artistic growth and ongoing career progression?

And do you hold your acting career with the same importance and commitment levels that you do with the other jobs that you may have?

Now, the word ‘job’ may hold negative connotations for you – especially if you perceive your acting work to be a vocation or ‘calling’.

You may have other financial income streams in your life that you are not connected to in the same way as your acting work (or that you even dislike). These responsibilities may, therefore, taint the meaning of the word ‘job’ for you.


If this is the case for you, what other word(s) could you use in place of ‘job’ that best fit your passion for your acting craft and career but that also describe your professional ambitions and aims for monetary income and career growth from acting engagements?

Professional actor = Business owner

Professional actors are self-employed. We are freelancers. We are not continuously employed by an organisation or other person – we work on a contract-by-contract basis. We are technically regarded as working for ourselves. Therefore, we have to work both ON and IN our business.

Working ON our business means we have to:

  • source our own work (regardless of whether we have an agent or not)
  • produce our own marketing material
  • get that marketing material and ourselves seen by the relevant industry folk
  • and do all the usual business admin that a business owner in any industry does.

Woman in pink top studying - shutterstock_64648147

We don’t just show up to work like employed people do and have all our resources and connections there for us as part of our employment. We have to work hard to create them.

Working IN our business means doing the job that we’re cast for – performing! We’re busy people!

Behind-the-scenes work

The work you undertake ON your business is what separates you (a professional actor) from amateur actors. You, a professional performer, run a business – which is You The Professional Performer.

And like business owners in any industry, emphasis, energy and resources need to be placed on both sides of your business: you need to work ON your business in order to work IN your business.

Us professional actors have NO guarantee of employment in our chosen field. We have to increase the chance of making opportunities happen by placing importance and working hard on all the marketing, networking and business skills in the same way that any other entrepreneur, freelancer or business owner has to do.


And like any other freelancer or business owner – and unlike people who are employed in ‘regular’ jobs – we don’t get paid to do these ‘behind-the-scenes’ tasks. We do them with the faith that the results of our hard work will generate income and career opportunities.

We therefore may find ourselves juggling our time, energy and resources when we simultaneously have to undertake other jobs that DO provide a monetary income.

We do these other jobs in order to financially survive whilst we’re waiting to be booked for the next paid acting employment.

Investing in your business

Like any business owner, we also have to financially invest in our acting career in order for it to grow – whether that be through marketing, networking opportunities, training, coaching etc.

Having alternative income streams outside of acting work is essential for us professional actors. But sometimes it’s hard for people outside of the acting industry to understand why professional actors haveother jobs which are unrelated to acting.


Having these other jobs doesn’t make us any less of a professional actor – we are merely meeting our financial needs so we can not only pay our everyday bills but also invest in the growth of our acting careers.


For some actors, all the above just isn’t what they want for their lives. The business, marketing and networking side of being a professional actor – working ON your business – can be too much of a distraction from the IN part of the business – the performing.

design-desk-eyewear-313690.jpgIt can be exhausting.

It can be overwhelming.

It can be lonely.

Especially if you don’t exactly know what direction to take with the business, marketing and networking aspects of your acting career. Or if you are uncertain of what the industry expects from you in these ways.

Some actors drift away from the craft and industry altogether when they realise the huge commitment levels and constant hard work that is required to be active in the professional performing arts industry. They decide to pursue acting as a hobby instead so that they can solely focus on the performing side of things.

It’s a job…

The professional actor sees their work not only as a vocation and creative service but as a job (or whatever such word that resonates better for you!). Just as pilots, car mechanics, doctors, hairdressers all see their services as jobs.

Professional actors know they are hired and paid to do the acting work they do because they possess the correct criteria for that particular project – whether that be experience; training background and level; specialist skills etc. The same as any other type of job or career.

This mindset can be EMPOWERING!adult-background-casual-941693.jpg

There are many reasons why us professional actors can find joy and energy in thinking about our acting work in this way – but here are two main reasons:

Firstly – it makes auditioning far less stressful! Just like any job interview, if we perform our best work in the casting suite, then we know that everything else is out of our hands. The person who is considered most appropriate for the job will be hired – the same as in any industry sector.

Secondly – once we realise we are in the business of show business, then we can approach our work – both the business side and the performing side – with a new and exciting vigour. It means that we can be CONSTANTLY working on our career outside of auditioning, rehearsing and performing.


A professional actor never sits around twiddling their thumbs whilst waiting for the phone to ring. Us professional actors are continuously working to make new opportunities happen for our careers. There is so much we can do to drive our opportunities forward and keep focused and motivated – it’s so exciting!

You – The professional actor


What is it that drives you to be a professional actor?

What is it about the craft and industry that gets you out of bed each morning ready and excited to be working on your acting career?

Why are YOU a professional actor?

Actors’ Career Coaching helps undiscovered actors perfect their business, marketing, networking and presentation skills so you can increase your visibility to casting professionals – and audition for more paid acting work.

To find out more about how Actors’ Career Coaching can help turn the dreams you have for your acting career into realities, you can:

Circle - Working at laptopCheck out the Actors’ Career Coaching website to explore the various ways Actors’ Career Coaching can support you in and throughout your acting career.


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