What Do Actors Do If They Don’t Make It?

Filed under:
What Do Actors Do If They Don't Make It title card in front a young actress looking at a street scene

Acting is a highly competitive and insecure career, so asking what do actors do if they don’t make it is a crucial question if you’re thinking about acting as a career.

Being an actor is a dream for many individuals who aspire to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry. However, the reality is that not every actor succeeds and lands the desired roles.

So, what do actors do if they don’t make it? Let’s explore some of the options and challenges they face.

How Does Acting Work?

As an actor, you need to find a talent agent. They will put you forward for suitable acting jobs. Casting Directors audition you for a job, along with a group of other actors, and one will be chosen.

You could have several rounds of auditions, even for a few lines. Unless you are one of the few who are highly successful, you’ve got to stay on the audition treadmill. 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to drama school or are about to become an actor with no experience, this grind cannot be avoided. 

The big exception is having famous parents, because they are surrounded by the key industry decision makers. And being a famous pop star is also helpful, because your name is bankable, bringing finance to the production.

For just about everyone else, you’ll struggle to make a living for many years, and most never do.

Rejection & Unemployment

It’s important for actors to understand that the journey towards success may involve facing countless rejections. Rejection is an inherent part of an actor’s journey. Even the most talented actors face numerous auditions without securing a role. 

Every actor has experienced being told no multiple times. However, it’s crucial to maintain a positive mindset and continue striving for their goals. Actors should not let rejection discourage them but rather fuel their determination to succeed.

Actors frequently find themselves in periods of unemployment. This is called ‘resting’. Acting jobs can be scarce, especially for those starting out or working in competitive markets. During these times, actors may take on casual work to make ends meet. 

Some actors even create their own work by writing scripts, producing short films, or collaborating with others. That rarely brings in much money, but it builds your portfolio and provides networking opportunities.

“In this industry, in this business, rejection is the name of the game.”

In this video, The Actors Academy talks about Why Most Actors Don’t Make It.

Key points and Insights:

  • Maintaining a positive mindset, avoiding self-deprecating thoughts, and smiling can help overcome challenges.
  • The acting industry is tough and highly competitive, leading to a low booking percentage.
  • Taking control of reactions and responses can make the journey more manageable.
  • Recognizing personal growth and embracing the journey are essential for success.
  • Rejection is a normal part of the business and should not be taken personally.
  • Self-doubt can hinder an actor’s performance and progress.

Casual Work for Resting Actors

Unemployed actors may take up various jobs to make ends meet.

Here are some common options:

  • Waiting tables or working in restaurants as servers or bartenders.
  • Retail jobs, such as working in shops or supermarkets as cashiers.
  • Freelance work as voice actors for commercials, video games, or animations.
  • Event staffing, like working as ushers, ticket sellers, or event coordinators.
  • Temp or seasonal work, such as office assistants or warehouse workers.
  • Teaching drama or acting classes.
  • Taking up jobs in the hospitality industry, like hotel concierge or tourist guides.
  • Working as extras in films, TV shows, or commercials.
  • Pursuing other creative endeavors, such as writing, photography, or painting.

It is worth mentioning that these jobs might differ based on individual skills, previous work experience, and availability of opportunities.

You also have to be available for auditions at short notice. Casting directors really don’t like being told you can’t appear tomorrow morning because your temporary employer won’t release you for a few hours. And you need time to learn your lines from the sides they send too.

Balancing Acting and a Job

Actors are often balancing the bill paying jobs with auditions and odd days of acting work. It can be a lot to organise and manage. Hear how one actress manages her portfolio of work.


When faced with rejection, actors may choose to continue honing their craft by attending acting schools or workshops. These opportunities allow them to refine their skills, learn new techniques, and network with industry professionals.

If you can gather the funds, look at continuing training. Consider your weaker skills, and work on them.

For example, are you technically trained in the Meisner technique, but are lost when it comes to performing for a self-tape? Or do you find it difficult to perform a monologue well when you haven’t seen the full script?

Find near by acting classes or an acting coach to work on those important things for getting a job in the acting profession.

Create Your Own Work

Generate Ideas: Brainstorm concepts for projects that you could create. Consider writing a screenplay, developing a web series, or creating a short film. Think about what kind of stories you want to tell and what message you want to convey.

Research and Planning: Once you have a concept in mind, research the industry and the logistics involved in bringing your idea to life. Study successful independent projects and learn from their approaches. Create a detailed plan outlining the necessary steps, timelines, and resources required.

Writing and Script Development: If your project involves a script, start writing it or collaborate with a screenwriter. Ensure your story has compelling characters and a strong narrative structure. Seek feedback from trusted peers to refine your script.

Assemble a Team: Surround yourself with a team of talented individuals who can contribute to the project as volunteers, because they are also trying to build a creative career. This may include finding a director, producer, cinematographer, production designer, and other key crew members. Networking events, online platforms, and acting classes are great places to meet like-minded collaborators. You can also connect with creative people on Facebook.

Fundraising: Determine the budget needed for your project and explore various ways to finance it. This may include personal savings, crowdfunding platforms, sponsors, or grants. Prepare a compelling pitch and create a detailed budget to present to potential investors.


Building a sustainable acting career requires persistence, resilience, and a strong hustle. Actors often rely on self-tapes and in-person auditions to showcase their talent and secure roles. They collaborate with directors, producers, and fellow artists to refine their performances and bring characters to life.

So if you’re on set, you need to quickly build connections. Be a hard working, reliable, and talented performer

If you’re not on set, you need to be involved with other people’s projects, or bringing them into your own, to build a portfolio and also relevant connections.

The social aspect may seem like an impossible task if you’re not socially confident, but remember many people living with autism have successfully built an acting career.

What actors do when they don’t make it

It’s important for aspiring actors to understand that an acting career is not a linear path to success. Rejection, unemployment, and financial hardships are common challenges that may arise. When you’re an actor, you’re constantly seeking the next gig.

However, with perseverance, continuous improvement, and a positive mindset, actors can overcome these obstacles and work towards achieving their goals.

It’s crucial for actors to remember that a successful career in acting requires dedication, hard work, and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing entertainment industry.

More for Actors