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Is being an actor a reliable job?

I love to act, sing and dance. Yet I'm also a very goal oriented person and always plan to be successful, I'm just scared I won't have the lifestyle I want if I decide to become an actor. Ive been told time and time again that being an actor isn't a realistic occupation, is this true? acting actor dance college art

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Taylor’s Answer

The short answer is, unfortunately, no. I would continue to pursue acting purely for the joy it gives you, however. You will always be proud of the work you do get, but it is smart to keep it more of a hobby than a serious pursuit UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING to be broke for the sake of your passion. Many people who have ‘made it’ resorted to living in their cars in real desperate situations before their big break, and even still I would say the industry has changed so dramatically since then that I’m not sure this lifestyle is even possible anymore (it costs a lot of money to be an actor).

I make a small income every year from acting work (I’ve been acting since I was 15 and am now 32), yet almost every other year expenses make a huge dent in my profit.

You also need to look very realistically at whether or not you see yourself living in LA or New York full time. You will not have the option for a life as a successful actor without moving to one of these places.

Acting has been great for me, despite not planning out as much financially as I would like. I have made lasting friendships and I have learned a lot about myself. It has also put me into other professional work scenarios that I wouldn’t otherwise have been involved with. Those other professional pursuits have resulted in successful day job work (I am now an Event Director, making an above average wage at about 70k yearly with no expenses for my housing). Personally, it is becoming more important to me to get fiscally ahead in life (purchasing real estate with my husband, planning financially to have a family of our own in a very comfortable way, traveling the world, being able to afford life’s little luxuries) and these feeling have now surpassed my desire to ‘make it’ as an actor- finally- and at 32 years old!

So, you must ask yourself if you followed in my foot steps, how happy would you be with your choice? Would you regret not committing to it fully? I lived in LA for five years pursuing acting full time, by the way, but still ended up coming back to my hometown for more opportunity because of my desire to be more financially stable. I moved back at 25 years old. By that age, where would you like to be, personally?

Taylor recommends the following next steps:

Write out a list of pros and cons. Be sure to include your wants and needs in life, things you aspire to, outside of acting. If there is nothing that is immediately coming to mind, imagine yourself in 5 and ten years. Who are you then? Has anything changed?
Consider going to school for theatre, as well as a teaching degree. One way to always do what you love for pay is to become a teacher. Also consider opening your own acting program, school, playhouse or agency. By helping others, you can do well financially and still keep on the pulse of the industry and take on work for yourself in addition to the talent you book!
Another great skill to have as an actor is to become a writer. Is this a particular skill set that you have? Find ways that you can make the things you are passionate about into monetary avenues to support yourself.
My best advice of all is not to rely on anyone to produce your income for you (for example, your agent). If you hustle for your salary, and expect nothing less than what you are worth, I have no doubt that you will think of creative ways to support yourself and thrive.
Pray 🤘🏻
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Katie’s Answer

Abbie, girl, of course it isn't practical. But that's the fun of it, isn't it? It's messy and unpredictable but it's so much better than predictable! Sometimes those of us who are goal-oriented and career-focused get scared off by the mysterious chasm that is this business. But here's your advantage.
You know what you want, and you can see how you can achieve it each day. Use your prowess, your drive, and determination to stay focused. As an actress who likes consistency and stability, it has always been a constant struggle to find the even ground, but the fun of this profession is that you get to dictate what that looks like and no one else.
Keep going girl, all will fall into place.
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Franklin’s Answer

First, I'll say that I am not an actor, but my wife started out as an actor when we first met. Her ability to pursue acting as a career was available to her because she had an income coming in while she pursued acting gigs. I think the big thing to consider is that this is a job that: (1) is difficult to get and (2) takes many years to develop. What I mean by that is that your chances of making it a full-time occupation is based on how many auditions you go to and how much networking you do. So you should feel comfortable and ready for hundreds of applications to get a handful of job opportunities. This is not to discourage you, but only to make you feel comfortable that you should strap in for a longer time horizon to get to do work.

We have friends who have pursued acting as a career for over 10 years and are now consistently getting 2-3 'gigs' a month. This is after 10 years of working in the business but not finding work. This person still maintains a job in the service industry to afford her expenses, and by no means lives a opulent or even middle-income lifestyle. Instead I would say she lives a very rudimentary lifestyle, but she is happy having seen the fruits of her labor coming to fruition based on a long-time of developing relationships and now more consistently getting opportunities to work.

Finally, I would say that this experience above is based on New York City as a market. I do not think I could offer the advice to someone who plans to be an actor in a different market since they dynamic of work, employment, and living expenses might be different.

I hope this helps!

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