The first-year blues
The first year you decide to seriously pursue acting as a career will likely be your hardest year. Don’t get discouraged. Success in anything, but especially in the arts, is as much a matter of patience and persistence as it is a matter of ability.
Like just about every career path, acting comes with a catch-22: no one wants to hire you without experience, but you can’t get experience if no one will hire you. Every actor has big dreams, but it’s a good idea to have reasonable standards. You may even have to accept jobs that dip below them. Never do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, but keep in mind that sometimes getting that all-important first role requires performing under less than ideal conditions, say for an inexperienced director or without pay.
In the end, the sacrifices you make allow you to create handholds with which you can climb to a higher station. Some of the biggest pitfalls a starting actor can stumble into are impatience and self-doubt. Don’t lose resolve or faith in your own abilities just because you’re struggling. Sometimes luck is as much a factor as anything.
Artistic tunnel vision
Be open-minded. You may have one specific goal in mind when becoming an actor, such as being on stage or screen, but don’t rule out any means of broadening your horizons and deepening your knowledge. Just because you prefer acting on camera doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try acting on stage, or vice versa.
Take advantage of whatever opportunities come your way. Take acting classes or attend a college with an acting program if you can. Become an entertainment hire for an event-planning company. Act in plays, commercials, live TV, short films, feature-length movies. Act in small roles and big ones. Try your hand at serious drama, comedy, silent acting, anything, everything.
The more diverse an actor you are, the more skilled an actor you are. You can often learn important lessons about one form of acting from trying a seemingly unrelated one. And who knows? You may even find yourself falling in love with a type of performance you’d never previously considered.
Failure to network
The most important thing in determining an actor’s success is his or her ability. But that’s not the only thing. As much as we’d all like to believe that a performer can get by on talent alone, the fact of the matter remains that you can have all the skill in the world, but it won’t do you any good if no one knows it.
So put yourself out there. That doesn’t just mean going to auditions and acting classes, but also getting to know the other people at those auditions and those classes. Introduce yourself. Try to make friends. The wider your network, the easier it is to meet people who can help you achieve your goals. View your fellow actors as collaborators, not competition. That doesn’t mean you should be manipulative or demand quid pro quo, mind you. Just be friendly.
Being amiable is just as important as being talented, so keep your ego in check. No one wants to work with someone who makes everyone around them miserable. Especially early on, knowing the right people and having a good reputation goes a long way. It may not get you the starring role you’ve been fantasizing about, but it might land you that one bit part that gets you noticed.