Twelve Rules for the Working Actor

The Actor's Lab Logo

Developing your craft and orchestrating a successful acting career is an on-going and ever-changing venture. It requires great focus and determination. There are some rules that appear to never change and can help on the way to that success. I’ve made note of a few key points that the working actor should really take into consideration:

  1. Work on your Sense of Personal Power and Self-Worth
    Confidence as an artist is paramount. Having a sense of Self assures the casting director and director that you have the wherewithal to do the job. Knowing who you are will be the key to career longevity and self- preservation in this business.
  2. Define your ‘Castability’
    Be honest with yourself about the roles you are capable of booking. Marketing yourself correctly is essential. Knowing your niche helps your agent and the casting director get you work. Plus this allows you to better define the type of work you aspire to book.
  3. Get your Picture/Resume, Reel, and Marketing Materials in Order
    Let your picture represent how you really look. It should be a reflection of your ‘castability’, not a glamour shot. Have credits on your resume! The combination of picture and resume is your calling card. In addition, a reel of your body of work is necessary. Only put work on the reel that is outstanding. Mediocre work on your reel will get a mediocre response. And have an online presence with a personal website and/or a presence on premiere casting websites.
  4. Fall in Love with the Craft
    If your desire is only to be famous, you are howlin’ at the moon. The love of the craft is everything. I have always said, “You can’t keep great actors from getting work.” It’s true. Love what you do and focus on the craft. If you do that, you will become the great actor that directors want to hire.
  5. Stay Committed to Your Training
    Once you find a place to study the craft stay there and go through the fire. So many actors go from workshop to workshop. I always use the analogy of going from psychotherapist to psychotherapist every six months. Once you are about to break through something, you are moving on… Find a coach that focuses on the craft and who pushes you to be great. They should also encourage the business of acting.
  6. Learn that a Note is a Gift
    Taking direction is so important. Often actors consider direction as an indication that they are doing something wrong. Acting is a collaborative experience between an actor and director. Trust the director to be a second set of eyes. Learn that you are on the same team, and that the director has the best interest of the project in mind.
  7. Identify Your Trajectory and Commit to the Path
    Putting a pinpoint on the horizon as far as specific career goals is crucial. So often actors come to me and say, “I’ll do anything”, or “I’ll do whatever my agent can book me on.” My response is always, “Having a vague vision creates vague results.” Know where you are heading and stay the course.
  8. Find the Agent that is Right for You
    The actor / agent relationship is so vital. I often tell the story of me being a top commercial booker in L.A. in the 80s. It wasn’t that I was the best looking, greatest with commercial copy, or had great networking skills. I had an agent who loved me and she pushed me like crazy. Whenever a client was on the fence, she went to bat for me.
  9. Become Your Own Manager
    If you are placing your career solely in the hands of an agent, you are missing a huge piece of the puzzle. An agent is certainly part of the equation, but make sure that you are doing your part in targeting casting directors, networking, creating projects, etc.
  10. Align Yourself with People who are ‘Getting It Going On’
    Often we don’t realize we are staying stuck by hanging out with people who come up with all the reason why they aren’t working. Look at whom you spend time with. Make sure you surround yourself with like-minded people who nurture and support your ultimate success.
  11. Create Your Own Magic and Projects
    In this day and age, it really is important to be a self-starter. Creating your own content is a great way for people to take you seriously. I tell my students that we are artists and artists create art. Always be in the midst of creation.
  12. Work Harder Than Anyone Else
    This goes without saying. Be an artist of action, rather than words. Challenge yourself constantly to be the best. Work with the best, socialize with the best, and become the artist people admire for an outstanding work ethic.


J.D. Lewis, Founder and Artistic Director of The Actor's Lab
Twelve Rules for the Working Actor is from one of the top acting coaches in America, J.D. Lewis of The Actor’s Lab.

With a career spanning three decades and studios in Los Angeles-CA, Portland-OR and Charlotte-NC, J.D. has worked with some of the most recognizable names in television and film.

Thanks so much for sharing!