As I build up my acting career, I have to watch every penny I spend. Unless you’re from a famous family or have a golden ticket into Hollywood, you may have to spend quite a bit of money to get your resume (and yourself) right where you want to be. Here are some tips to stretch your money as far as you can.
Agent Shouldn’t Cost You Money Upfront
This is a BIG no-no. If your agent is wanting money up front to represent you, run! This is normally a scam. Before picking an agency to audition for, do your research. I’ve known some actors to switch agents as many as five times in a year before realizing their mistakes. Also, when you do settle on an agent, they shouldn’t be getting no more than 10% of your earned income from projects (mine is this way). 15% should be the top amount. Find out to see if they are SAG and BBB registered, but also how long they’ve been around and what others have to say about them.
Auditions, Projects, and Portfolios
Check for free auditions wherever you can: Facebook, Craigslist (be careful!), On Location Casting, or your state’s film office. See if it is possible to combine auditions or projects for the same day and same area. This doesn’t always work, but can happen. Try to send an online audition (or mail) if the option is available Your auditions shouldn’t have to cost you anything, however, some casting networks may charge. Never spend more than a $1 to submit an audition piece.
Keep your projects and auditions as local as you can! If they pay for travel and lodging, go for it. If you don’t have the money to travel, push for online auditions. Also, check to see if you have to bring clothing or anything like that. In some cases, you can get a clothing bump on your check for bringing in your own wardrobe.
When it comes to marketing your work, utilize the internet as much as possible. If you want to showcase your portfolio, try to do it on a free webpage or site. If using an online portfolio (IMDb Pro, etc.), just be wary of your costs and save receipts for taxes. Use ones that charge only when necessary.
Good Car and/or Carpool
When I started out as an extra, I wasn’t making much money at first. To make matters worse, my vehicle was a gas guzzler. When my husband and I had the chance, we sold our car and managed to get a car with better mileage (Ford Focus). I skipped the extras and opted for a basic car that would get me to my auditions, even if they were out of state. Plus, checking up on my car – tires, oil, etc. – keeps my car in top running condition.
As for carpooling, learn to make friends on set. You might just be able to ride with someone to set, letting you split the cost of traveling. Some local extras I know set up a group on Facebook dedicated to carpooling with those in their area.
This was advice I received not only from my agent, but also from several casting directors: your headshots should never cost more than $250! A top photographer will run you about $150. I talked with a couple of friends to find a local photographer and found one for $75. When the shoot is done, I send digitals to my agent so she can pick out the best ones for printing.
If the pictures are for a child, remember that children grow quickly! This is why you want to keep the costs down because you will constantly need new photos for them every few months. If you have a good camera or a friend willing to take awesome pictures for free, do it. As for adults, unless you’re having a dramatic change done, you should only update your pictures twice a year.
As for bulk printing, I would never print no more than 50 photos at a time. You may not have that many auditions to go on before having to change your pictures again. Only use single-time printers (like Walgreens) for emergencies. They can end up costing you $3.99 and up per 8×10. Bulk printers, such as Jive! Digital (Nashville) can do as many as 50 at a time for about $65, depending on what you choose.
Clothes, Hair, and Makeup
These three things can get very expensive when needing them for auditions or even for film parts based on low budgets. When it comes to clothes, I make sure I have a select wardrobe strictly for shoots, auditions, and filming. I look for pieces that I can mix and match. Constantly I check out clearance racks and even at times, thrift stores. If I’m ever in a pinch, I have a couple of friends that I can borrow from.
As for hair, find a local stylist that you’re comfortable with that won’t cost you a lot. If you need your hair dyed, dye it yourself or ask a friend to. Always be cautious what kits you buy so you don’t mess up your hair.
Just after Christmas, check out Sephora and Ulta for clearance specials. They will usually have gift packs up to 75% off. Once, I found a pack of ten lip glosses for $20. Six months later and I haven’t used them all yet.
Keep a record of what you spend for acting. Did you have to buy a particular costume? How much did it cost to drive to set? Save all receipts for classes, photos, gas, and so forth. They can be deductible as long as you can prove what you spent the money on.
Casting directors are constantly pouring over resumes, sometimes looking for a particular set of skills. Are you wanting acting classes? Did you ever want to take piano? Do you have a family member that can teach you? What about picking up a kit from Hobby Lobby or a book to learn from? I’ve started learning American Sign Language and found a kit at a library sale for .50. I also study free online tutorials, including ones on YouTube. Keep an eye out for specials for any other classes you may want to take. Sometimes other actors or casting directors will give workshops for free online or even as little as $20
Traveling and Other Tips
It’s time to get out the rewards cards! Do you have one for hotels, flights, and gas? Check up on hotwire.com for deals.
Make sure to stay healthy and take care of yourself. The better you feel, the less projects you will miss. Also, you don’t have to necessarily have to have a trainer to get in shape. I use a Danskin dvd and weight ball, plus use a cheap gym membership. I take advantage of any classes that they offer. If the weather is good, I’ll hit the local walking trails or the tennis courts with a friend.
Finally, learn to budget! Set aside a specific amount of money each month strictly for your career. I also do freelance work and surveys to earn extra money or gift cards for gas and clothes. You can check out Survey Spot, Valued Opinions, MyView, and more for reputable survey companies. Just remember that you won’t get rich off of them and it takes time to build up your money with them.
You also don’t need to pay for a manager or assistant while starting out. Unless you’re a big-name actor, you should be fine handling any important details in regards to your career. If you’re wanting to market yourself, post your work on blog sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. Until you hit the big-time, save and spend your money wisely!