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To Spend or Not to Spend…That is the Actor’s Question

February 15, 2013

It’s no secret that job security is quite a commodity in this industry and that occasionally, actors need to be great budgeters. I’ve been brought up with a pretty frugal approach to life, but with a career that requires things like headshots, training, and marketing, it seems like you have to put a lot of money into a job to get money out of it. Here’s a short list of some actor-related fees that I feel you can save on, paired with another list of fees that I feel are worth the extra cash and why. Bring on the comments, guys! I’d love to hear your feedback about ways that you save money and survive this dynamic industry!

When to Save:

Sharpening your craft:

I’m all in favor of keeping your skills sharp and constantly training, but this doesn’t need to break the bank. I sign up for a semester of dance at a community college and end up paying less than a hundred bucks for 2-4 classes a week over the course of several months! Compared to the $15-20 bucks to take one single class at a studio, this makes a monumental difference in my checkbook, and since it is an actual course, I feel much more incentive to go on a regular basis. If you’d rather go to a studio, ask about discount rates for working professionals (Ex. SAG or AEA discount) or sign up for classes in bulk to get a discount. Same thing goes for singers. If you feel the need to keep your site singing skills up or keep building your vocal range, join a community choir, a caroling group, etc…anything to keep you harmonizing and force yourself to practice on a regular basis…all for free or cheap.


In this industry, I have stumbled upon countless aspiring photographers who are trying to build their website or portfolio and need models. Some actors may be wary of this because they think they will get drastically better shots from established professionals. The trick is to be choosy and do research. I’ve received a lot of business cards/contact info from photographers over the years and recently, when new headshot time came around, I extensively looked through all their websites until I settled on one that I thought was most impressive looking. This photographer specialized in stunning wedding shots but wanted to get into portraits as well. I told him I’d be happy to let him use as may of my photos as he wanted for his portfolio and/or practice if he gave me a discount on a headshot session. The result was the best looking headshots I’ve ever gotten for a total of $50. To top it off, the session itself was a dream come true. Since he was new at headshots, he let me change outfits as many times as I wanted and he let me look through the pictures every few minutes to make sure I was getting the exact looks, angles, and lighting that I wanted. Because he was someone I was somewhat familiar with, the mood between us was very laid back and easy going, bringing out a relaxed and confident expression in all my photos.


Discount Dance Supply. If you don’t know this store, get to know it. I’m constantly destroying dance shoes, wearing out character shoes, or needing new dance clothes. This store has the cheapest stuff I’ve seen and their website is great too if you don’t live near it. If you need business cards to help market yourself, make some for free at I’m a huge fan of Backstage West and other audition subscriptions like it, but if it gets too costly, share the subscription between friends or just follow a company/theatre/etc. on Facebook or Twitter to find out about upcoming auditions.


Take advantage of the gargantuan number of people in this industry. Get all your singer/actor friends together for a day with their audition portfolios and a copy machine, and expand your audition material exponentially by trading. Trying to find something in particular? Don’t buy a full audition book, a quick online search can provide you with nearly any song or monologue you need for free. I look up almost a song a week to learn on the piano and have almost never been unable to find music for free.

When to Spend:

Getting there:

I spent a good chunk of time living in Orange County, but only finding auditions in Los Angeles and San Diego. The time and money spent on driving to auditions every day was really hard to swallow, but if you don’t go, there is no way to get the job. No matter how much gas I have to use, or how much I don’t want to sit in traffic, I make myself go to each and every audition that falls on a day I have free. It’s worth spending the gas money in order to actually land the job. If public transportation is not an option for you (like in my case), try to carpool or plan multiple auditions into one day as often as possible, but don’t let gas costs deter you from auditioning!


In my opinion, going into an audition prepared can mean all the difference in landing the job and making money. For a vocal audition (or even a monologue), having a session with a professional pianist or coach can make or break your auditions for the next several months. It can be quite expensive to attend this kind of session but if you come in with a large amount of material prepared, you can make the most of your time and only need one or two sessions a year. Come in with your entire audition book in case you have extra time or the coach requests something. Choose 5-10 songs of differing variety that you have prepared and want to focus on. Treat this like a practice audition and you will get the feedback and experience that will prepare you for all your upcoming auditions. I have gone into one too many auditions having never sang my song with a pianist before and have been unpleasantly surprised that the accompaniment sounds vastly different. Not only will you be prepared, but you’ll have a professional giving you feedback about what does and doesn’t work in your performance.

Don’t forget to spend some money on yourself! Having a little fun on a regular basis will keep you sane and spirited which will reflect positively in all your work!

The Reckless Artist sig

One Comment leave one →
  1. California Triple-Threat permalink
    February 19, 2013 4:59 pm

    Remember how we meant to switch audition books and never did? Come back soon!!!
    I would add to the Spend list: taking care of your physical appearance. Hair coloring, teeth whitening, nice audition clothes, good makeup. Being a girl is so expensive!

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