How do working actors manage an acting career and pay the bills?
Well, aspiring actors asked this question on Reddit and the working actors shared some incredible insight on how they make money to pay their bills, head shots and acting classes.
Don’t be desperate
This is the single hardest and most impossible thing navigate for almost every actor trying to go pro.
My advice is to have a survival career instead of a survival job. It’ll keep you grounded, and you have a much better chance of getting through those first 5-10 years when an acting career costs more than it nets.
Desperate actors don’t book. They can smell desperation on you. And nothing makes you more desperate than a shitty job that pays just enough to sink you slowly into debt. This is what sinks most careers before they start.
Become a standardized patient
I’m in DC not NY, so I’m not sure wages are the same, but I get between $18 and $25 an hour for standardized patient work (generally I get a case in advance and learn my “part” which includes my symptoms, medical history, family history, etc. — there’s lots of memorizing — then I go and portray the case in an exam room with a medical student who is acting as my doctor, then I grade them on a computer after they leave), and I get from $35 to $45 an hour for teaching medical students how to perform a physical exam (that is something that special standardized patient instructors do here in the DC area — not sure if that work is available in NY or not and it took me four years of standardized patient work to be offered that work). It’s very flexible, I’m contacted about dates in advance, and I let them know if I’m available for the project.
As far as how much work is available it can be kind of seasonal — there are times when I’ve got 50 hours a week of work, and there are times when I’ve got a month with virtually no work at all. As far as flexibility for auditions goes, we are all actors, so it’s understood that once in a while we will need to cancel for an audition or to film something or whatever, but the nature of the work is such that you do affect other people in a bad way if you cancel last minute.
It’s awesome work though. I find it extremely rewarding — so much so that I’d probably keep doing it even if I won the lottery or something. And I’ve gotten two industrial films from it, one for a medical licensing board prep course and one for the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants.
Drive for Uber/Lyft
I’ve been driving for Uber/Lyft, and while it’s been good, it can be tough to make a profit. Also, I can’t sit for more than 4 hrs at a time. BUT it is available and easy to signup and very doable. Stick to a designated time to work as if working a regular job – then you won’t get lazy which can happen since Uber/Lyft leave it to you to work your own hours.
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