Make $10,000 / month acting? How I did it in June

10K_Month2

Total acting income for the month of June 2015: $10,085.00

Well, that was unexpected. Let me first say that June was not a typical month for me. I don’t earn $10,000 acting on a regular basis. Not even close. My highest month prior to that was less than $7,000. In fact, my average over the past twelve months (even including the extreme outlier in June) is under $4,000 per month.

Many things just seemed to work out in my favor in June. The pieces all fell neatly into place. I’d be lying if I said luck didn’t play a role. It did. Not because I think I booked some jobs out of luck, but because none of my bookings had date conflicts or product conflicts, which lately, feels like it happens ALL THE TIME. Plus, there were a couple of shoots that could have occurred any time this summer but just so happened to occur in June.

All that being said though, none of the events from last month seemed out of the ordinary. The jobs all felt like pretty typical bookings. It’s not as if I booked one huge gig that accounted for 90% of the earnings. No, the amount was spread out over 9 jobs, out of which the highest single booking rate was $2,200. I didn’t even realize until about three weeks in that I was having a pretty big month, income wise, which makes me optimistic that another $10K month in the future is not out of the question.

cleveland

What’s still amazing to me is that this is happening in Cleveland. Not LA. Not New York. Not Atlanta, or Chicago, or Toronto, or any of the major markets. When I first started, I, like most people, thought that the only professional acting occurred in Hollywood. That making money acting anywhere else was a fairy tale. Not the case, obviously.

I’m not the only person doing this either. And I certainly don’t pretend to be doing it better than everyone else. I have met multiple actors from my region that book two to three times as much as I do. Some of them have more bookings than I have auditions! But those people aren’t writing about it. They aren’t telling their story. So I’m telling you mine. Not because I want to gloat, but because I want to change the narrative about acting in smaller markets.

So many young actors want to make the move to LA as fast as humanly possible. If you’re one of these people, I’m writing this for you. Consider taking some time to get your feet wet in your home town before doing so. There are plenty of opportunities out there. And if you book a few jobs, that’s just helping you fund your move, right?

Now, before we go any further, I need to make a confession.

If I’m going to be completely honest here, I have to say that my total earnings in June was actually slightly under $10,000. I fudged the numbers a little bit by including the first six days of July to push it over the line.

Why would you do this?!

You monster!

Well, for starters, the headline “Make $9,400 a month acting…” doesn’t look as cool. And if you know me at all, you know that looking cool is my first priority in life. Second, I could argue that I still sort of did make $10,000 in a month. My first gig in June was on June 5th. So in the 31-day span from June 5th to July 6th, my total income was $10,085. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that the fiscal month of the acting industry starts on the 5th? It’s true. I read it on the internet two sentences ago.

Anyway, now that the cat is out of the bag, if you feel like you’ve been duped/betrayed and want to stop reading, I completely understand. For the rest of you, let’s dive in!

I want to take a closer look at each of the nine jobs and examine what went into booking each of them. Sometimes it was an audition, sometimes it was a relationship, sometimes it was a combination.

*I’ve omitted the names of a couple projects due to non-disclosure agreements.

June Bookings (plus six days in July)

6/5 – Philips Respironics – I first auditioned for Philips Respironics back in March of 2014. That was for a demo video of one of their products. This job was my third booking for the same client as a direct result of that one audition.

6/11 – Ohio Lottery – Another repeat client. I originally auditioned for and booked an Ohio Lottery commercial back in December of 2014. That commercial ran for about six months. The production company contacted my agent in June to do a follow-up commercial in the same series. Again, while I didn’t audition for this particular job, it was a direct result of an audition for a previous commercial. I don’t believe the new ad is on the air yet, but here is a link to an extended cut of the first spot.

6/14 – Civista Bank – This Columbus, Ohio based bank was a new client for me. The audition actually took place back in March and when I didn’t hear anything for a month, assumed that I didn’t get it. Turns out that either the client or the ad agency completely rewrote the entire spot and finally decided to shoot it three months after auditioning the actors. Even though the new commercial was nothing like what we had auditioned for, they still decided to cast it based on our original videos, which was nice.

6/21 – A global healthcare company – I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention this product by name so I’m just going to play it safe and not say anything. This was a print shoot and also a repeat client. The first time I shot with them was back in 2011. That was another print campaign for a different product. Funny thing is that even though it was print and not video, I had to audition for it. It’s actually not uncommon for clients to audition actors for print jobs. Often, they are lifestyle shots that capture a moment in time rather than some ridiculous model pose (Blue Steel!). So it makes sense that photographers would want to hire actors who are able to improvise scenes organically and believably.

6/24 – Goodyear – Sort of a repeat client, sort of not. While I’ve done videos for Goodyear in the past, this was for a different branch of the company with a new production crew, none of whom I had worked with before. I didn’t audition for this job either. So how did I get hired? I used to take acting classes with the girlfriend of the producer. She was kind enough to recommend me to him (thank you, Lindsay!). Another example of networking and relationships playing a big role in getting work in this industry.

6/25 – Stand-in for a character in a TV show – I know for sure that I can’t give away details about this project. This show is in its second season so people already know about it. But they had a big celebrity guest star in this episode so they want to keep it hush hush until it airs. I got the stand-in gig through a casting director who I’ve auditioned for and booked a job through in the past. If you’ve never been a stand-in before, I recommend doing it if you get the opportunity. You get to see all the work that goes into setting up and lighting a scene on a high budget set. This production had no fewer than 100 crew members working their asses off to get things right on every take. I found it fascinating. I also got to meet Mike O’Malley, the host of one of my favorite Nickelodeon shows growing up, GUTS.

6/29 – United States Army training video – Back on May the 4th (Star Wars day), I auditioned to be one of the hosts of a US Army training video shooting in Virginia Beach. I did not have high hopes of getting this job. While I felt like I had a strong audition, many of the expected shoot dates overlapped with a three week vacation to China I had planned. As luck would have it, the Army shoot got pushed back a few weeks and I was able to do it.

7/2 – Subway residual check – This was not an actual booking but rather a residual check for a commercial I did way back in February. This check actually caught me completely by surprise because I had no idea they were still airing the commercial. They did tell me that I would be paid each time they expanded the commercial to a new market. So maybe they are testing it in different cities across the country. Still haven’t seen it in Cleveland yet. Here’s a link to the commercial on Vimeo.

7/6 – Software company – Another company that I had done a video for years ago but, like Goodyear, the clients and the production company were completely different this time around. So not really a repeat client. Plus I did have to audition for this job.

So there are the nine bookings in 31 days. The first thing that stood out to me as I was analyzing this list is the number of repeat clients. Since I started doing this in 2009, I’ve developed relationships with dozens of production companies and clients. I think every working actor would tell you that their professional relationships play a major role in their success.

Speaking of relationships, let’s not forget the most important relationship of all, the actor/agent relationship. An actor and his/her agent are business partners. In order for that partnership to be successful, it needs to be built on trust. Like most relationships, the beginning stages are kind of a feeling out process. During this time, it is absolutely imperative for the actor to demonstrate that he/she is dependable, professional, and trustworthy. I’ve spent the last six years developing and reinforcing that image within my professional network.

takeaway

Ok, I’m tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading. So, let me conclude with a few takeaways from the events that happened in June.

Acting can be a “real job”, even in smaller markets like Ohio – Like I said before, I’m not the only one doing this. I’ve met plenty of people from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky who have been able to make acting their full time job.

That being said, It will take time – I don’t think any actors just getting started, no matter how talented they are, will be able to book consistent work right away. I certainly wasn’t able to when I first started. So much of this business is built on relationships and reputation. As you could tell from my bookings in June, repeat work made up half of my jobs.

Learn how to act in commercials and corporate videos – Most college acting curriculums and MFA programs don’t spend any time teaching commercial acting. This, to me, is unfortunate because it can be extremely lucrative. In a small market, you can spend 20 days shooting an indy film for no pay and IMDB credit or you can spend 4 hours on a commercial set and get paid $2000.

Learn commercial acting. You won’t regret it. If you can look directly into the lens of a camera and look like you are having a genuine conversation with a real person, you will be in high demand.

At the end of the day, it’s still all about the audition – Out of the $10,085 earned last month, $8,600 of it was either a direct or indirect result of an audition. Even though relationships played a big role in multiple bookings, those relationships would never have been formed had it not been for strong initial auditions that booked the first jobs with those clients.

Actors don’t act for a living, we audition for a living. If actor A is a great actor but gets nervous and fumbles around in auditions and actor B is an average actor but can deliver strong, confident auditions, I’d put money on actor B having a longer, more successful career.

Well, this was much more than I had intended to write when I first started. If you got through it all, thanks for reading! Feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

-Kurt

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