How Actors Can Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

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Photo Source: Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

As actors, we’re all passionate about our art and careers. We love what we do and don’t work hard at something we don’t particularly like so we can play on our days off. For an actor, every day is a day of play and finding joy in our work. The problem is making a living in this challenging and competitive career. 

Freelance work and unpredictable incomes are the bane of our existence. We normally can’t just show up 9–5 to act in something somewhere and get a weekly paycheck. Even the most popular TV series have a limited number of episodes and often get canceled. Some actors thrive while others seem to be on a continual journey of struggle. But if you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you might gain more control of your career and struggle less. I call these individuals actorpreneurs! Here’s a comparison of the actor’s mindset versus the actorpreneur’s mindset so you can try to start thinking in an entrepreneurial way.

Actors spend time looking for an acting job, looking for an agent, looking for a better agent, and looking for a personal manager to round out their team with the thinking that they’ll get more auditions if only their agent had more clout or was at a larger agency or their manager was more powerful to get them in the room. Actors count on a team or a rep to make things happen in their careers and hope to get auditions. If you’re an actorpreneur however, you have a business mindset. You’re in it to win it and make money. You see an audition as a business opportunity to discuss a partnership. “I can be your partner in success. Cast me because I bring value to your project. Cast me and together we’ll win a Tony, an Emmy, an Oscar!” 

You look for a team, agent and manager, but spend more time marketing yourself to the industry movers and shakers like screenwriters, producers, network executives, and the folks who can hire you, not just the casting director who auditions you. Actorpreneurs want not just more auditions, but more roles and a piece of the pie if they write, direct, or coproduce.

Actors are creative and dreamers. You often make a vision board where you get a new Porsche and win an Academy award starring opposite an A-list actor in a blockbuster. You know you’ll succeed...someday. You accept roles in low-budget, student, and indie films for the experience but rarely make very much or no money. You create a one, three, or five-year plan with the goal of being a working actor but make no specific follow-up steps or marketing plan. Actors can see a vision of their future but don’t always take the action steps to get there.

Actorpreneurs are focused on developing a network of people who can hire them. You avoid the free showcases or student films but offer to read a role at a backer’s audition, meeting major producers, screenwriters, and directors, or offer to help promote a highly rated young director’s film at a film festival because that’s a guaranteed step to getting a role in the future. Actorpreneurs are continuously promoting, meeting, and developing their network by activating their contacts to get acting jobs.

Actors also continually study and develop their craft even if it’s with an acting teacher who can’t further their career and is someone who only applauds their scene work in class. You usually just expect to audition for other’s projects. Actors don’t always invest in their careers or feel confident about creating their own projects. Actorpreneurs don’t wait for an audition. You activate, investing in your career seeking out teachers and mentors who have a track record and can refer you to top industry contacts. Actorpreneurs create their own projects like a short film, standup comedy routine, pilot for a series, or solo show, and produce them.

Actors follow a traditional pattern. You are content to stay in your home market thinking that when you’re successful there, you’ll move on while actorpreneurs think outside the box. You seek to get agents and meet and work with casting directors in other markets where there are major markets for TV and film production.

Actors focus on the art, always developing new acting techniques, learning dialects, voice and dance training, stage combat, and continually studying. Actorpreneurs consistently evaluate their business progress and income. Does that class or seminar help build my career? If not, you put your time and energy into specific activities that will.

Actors really care about their talent, training, and goals but are focused on their art. Actorpreneurs are confident in their talent as an art, but are equally focused on building their business so their income is higher, their network is bigger—global—and their opportunities to work at their art are unlimited. Which are you?

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Gwyn Gilliss
As the “Foremost Marketing Coach for Actors,” Gwyn was a successful actor herself working in all mediums. An Emmy Award nominee, she appeared on dozens of network daytime and primetime series. Her film scripts won awards from Beverly Hills to Cannes. She’s the premier role model with winning strategies and first-hand knowledge of the TV, film, and theater industries which she shares to help actors succeed. Request a complimentary 15-minute career session:
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