Overcoming the 3 Biggest Obstacles to Acting Career Success

Written by Sean Pratt

As if understanding the concepts of self-promotion weren’t hard enough, actors have at least three additional problems to surmount.

When it comes to advancing your career, generating interest in your projects and calling attention to your unique abilities, you must realize that you’re faced with three common, yet difficult, obstacles. These impediments are: what our society teaches us about the idea of calling attention to yourself, the ill-informed mistakes actors make when they begin to market themselves and finally the insidious effects of “group think”. But don’t despair, there’s an answer to each of these problems.

No One Likes a Showoff, Dear

From childhood we are told that “showing off”, “tooting your own horn” or “bragging” was uncouth, arrogant and prideful. It was taught that to crow over our attributes and accomplishments was simply wrong. But while your parents were right in the main they, and perhaps you, failed to understand an important distinction; promotion and advertising are essential to the success of any business and the product/service you are promoting, or in this case self-promoting…is you!

The first and most important step, or you could say adjustment, in being a successful actor is getting over your feelings of guilt, apprehension and fear about promoting yourself. The ability to step outside you and your ego, to look at your talents and achievements with an eye for using them as stepping stones to something better, is essential.   But Enough about You, Let’s Talk About Me

Another hurdle to overcome is your own naiveté and inexperience at the subtle art of self-promotion. There is a fine line between promoting your work in an engaging and informative way and being heavy-handed and boorish. You may be one of the most sophisticated, intelligent and talented actors around, but telling everyone this, without a trace of modesty or charm, is neither sophisticated nor intelligent and is, rather, quite artless.

The best praise you can have is from a third party. A great review, a glowing letter of recommendation or having your colleagues and peers praise your work are worth their weight in gold. When included in a review sheet, a cover letter, or assomething known about your reputation, they will give credibility and legitimacy to your efforts at self-promotion.

Mediocrity Loves Company

The last major barrier for you to overcome is a phenomenon that sociologists have studied for quite some time. Within any group, be it students in a classroom or workers on the factory floor, there exists an expectation to achieve a certain level of success and no more; those who would try to shoot for something higher, meaning better grades or faster production, are kept in line through peer pressure…those who stand out, stand alone.

If you find yourself hanging out in a circle of actors who all seem to be content in their world of struggling to jumpstart their careers while complaining about their day jobs and commiserating about their fate, then you need to realize something. The potential for your future success far out ways the comfort you now feel with being “in the group”. In fact, it may be time to find a new group of friends who are just as driven as you are; who will inspire you, through their peer pressure, to achieve more.

Breaking Free

They say that you must have a thick skin in order to survive in this business, but not enough consideration is given to these inner conflicts and their ability to create roadblocks to your success. Ultimately, you must break through and resolve these issues in order to create and maintain the focus you’ll need to really promote your career the way it should. And don’t worry about how it might be perceived by those outside the industry; this is your career, your life, your chance.

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley


Sean Pratt, (AEA / SAG / AFTRA), has been a working actor for over 20 years. Sean was a member of the resident acting company at The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory theatre and has also performed at numerous regional theatres around the country.  Major films include – Gods and Generals, Tuck Everlasting and Iron Jawed Angels. Television work includes – The host of HGTV’s, Old Homes Restored, and supporting roles on Homicide, The District and America’s Most Wanted.  Audiobooks – He’s narrated for 15 years and has recorded nearly 550 books in just about every genre.  He also teaches classes on and writes articles about the business of the Biz.

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