In any acting career, talent is of course your springboard, yes. But don't underestimate the importance of also being business savvy.
There are so many talented people out there who never get the opportunities they deserve, simply because they don’t know how to play their cards right, or they suffer the common misfortune of being misguided in this complex industry. There are obvious tips on finding success as an actor that any competent Google user can locate online: Have good headshots, find decent representation, blah, blah, blah. Rather than regurgitate the obvious, let's talk about those less-discussed habits that are equally important for the successes - and failures - of actors I have worked with over the years.
You've been self-submitting for a year and you've built a nice foundational resume for yourself. You may even have some nice clips or have cut a reel. You're at the point where you're ready to start reaching out to agencies for potential representation.
Treat it like a job application. Show that you've done your due diligence! You've reviewed the agency web site, so you should know their submission protocol and include the requested materials and information. Agents want to work with professionals. How will you indicate to them what it would be like working with you on a day-to-day basis?
Agents are busy. They don't have time to hold anyone's hand. They may need you just as much as you need them, but inventory on both sides is plentiful. So make your value proposition apparent, both in your submission and when you sit down to meet. Telling an agent you play 20-25 and you're a semi-good looking Caucasian guy is not a value proposition. For that very congested category, an agent is going to want to know what you're doing to make yourself competitive with every other actor out there in that same category – and what you're doing to go above and beyond to differentiate yourself from your competition. Don't create obstacles for yourself – make a clear pathway to obtaining what you want.
A rookie approach to representation is kicking your feet up once you've signed, thinking your hard work is done. Remember, your agent is making 10 percent of your earnings; that means you should be doing 90 percent of the work. If you aren't immediately getting auditions from submissions, your agent will want to know what you are doing to further your career. Are you self-submitting? Are you going to casting director workshops? Are you writing and producing your own content? Are you continuing your training? Are you still working out so that full body shot that shows your six pack stays current? Everyone has their own interpretation of what "working hard" means. But if your agent, at any point, is feeling like they are working so much harder than you are, it's a bad place to be.
Take responsibility for every aspect of your career. When you book a job, whether you're represented or not, be in the know about what it means to be working that particular job. What's it for, where will it run, how long will it run, is it holding a conflict, can you post this booking on Twitter - or was that an NDA you just signed? Hold yourself accountable for knowing these details. This is a business you are running where you are the product, and to be the best salesperson for your product, you've got to know every little detail.
It's a tough business, and following this advice is no guarantee of success. But if you do follow it, and understand how much of your career depends upon hard work and how you represent yourself, then you're at least ahead of the game.
Melissa Mangum is a commercial agent for Minc Talent, a boutique talent agency offering representation for commercial, print, film and television.