Step 6: Focus On The Craft -- Not the Agent
There are many actors I know who spent years worrying more about getting an agent than becoming a well trained actor.
Agents are a necessary evil, but they do not make you or break you (as much as they like to think they do). As many actors will attest, simply because they have a powerful agent does not guarantee their success.
The happiest actors are the working actors. And just because you might not be getting paid for your acting, doesn't mean that you can't be a working actor. Every experience is experience. So, spend less time seeking out an agent and more time seeking out acting opportunities yourself. From small plays to student films -- you'll be happily surprised how many seemingly insignificant opportunities are the ones that make your entire career.
Besides, when the time is right, an agent will come and seek you out.
QUICK NOTE ON AGENTS: If any agent makes you pay for their services up front than don't walk, RUN away from these guys. Legitimate talent agents only get paid when they get jobs for their clients. After all, what incentive do they have to find you a job if you've already given them their share in advance? No matter what they try to tell you, or however they try to validate charging you up front (e.g., personalized service, guaranteed jobs, headshots, etc.), do not under any circumstances pay these individuals a cent.
STEP 7: Take Some Improv
Regardless of what you may think of improvisation theater, it is one skill that most actors that I've worked with count on in a time of need. Especially for you theater actors who might be stuck with someone who freezes midway through their lines.
Beyond a crisis situation, improv is one of the few styles of acting where you have absolute freedom to discover what things you're good at, and which things could use some work.
As one actor friend told me, "improv is a way to discover your range as an actor while at the same time, it forces you to explore new territory while having to commit wholeheartedly to the situation at hand."
So, where you can find an improv class, consider adding it to your repertoire.
STEP 8: Know Your Range, Then Break Through It
We've all seen those actors who seem to constantly be working in a particular range of roles. For years, Clint Eastwood epitomized the "tough guy" image, Meg Ryan, the "cutesy, girl next door" even Tom Hanks was once the "goofy, nice guy." These actors made their name playing certain roles because they found a range they made work for them and stuck with it.
But then, as many of the better actors will often do, they decided to challenge themselves and break through the mold that audiences, producers and their agents had put them in.
Initially, it's somewhat important to find a range that works for you. It helps people (meaning, casting directors) know who you are and often when you're starting out, it's those memories that get you paid work.
But that doesn't mean you stop developing as an actor. Use the character traits you've discovered to get yourself working. But continue to learn new facets of your person. From voice characterization to exploring a wide variety of acting techniques. You will find that everything you learn in the acting realm will be put to use someday.
STEP 9: Be Persistent
In my article 8 Rules Every New Actor Should Know I discuss at length the need to develop persistence.
There is one general rule in Hollywood -- talent won't get you there, but persistence just might. If you are a dog with a bone, then Hollywood is the town for you. Those who are gritty and willing to give it their all day in and day out will have a much greater chance of success than the Juliard trained actor who waits around in his apartment for opportunity to come knocking.
The trick is, you have to get out there. Meet people and let them know what you are doing. It's absolutely essential to your success.
STEP 10: Have Patience
Rare is the true "overnight success." Sure, there are those actors that seem completely unknown one day, only to dominate the limelight the next. But the reality is that there were years of hard work and preparation that led them to that "sudden discovery."
Hollywood is a strange town. There are actors who have literally been working for decades when all the sudden, they're in a role that gets a bit of attention and suddenly, they're famous.
Patience is not only a virtue in Hollywood, it's an absolute must to keep from going insane. So develop your patience and you will enjoy the process of rising to stardom that much more even if you never end up getting there.