How Much Money Can You Make As An Actor?
If you’re considering a career as an actor, or you’ve just committed to one, money is likely to be something that you will be focused on.
While the promise of fame and fortune as an actor is very alluring, how much you can make and what influences this on your way to the top can vary significantly.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at acting salaries, factors that influence your earning potential, tips for surviving salary fluctuations as an actor and more.
Let’s dive right in.
How Much Money Do Actors Make?
This is a bit like asking ‘How long is a piece of string?’ – the answer is that it depends! There are so many variations in what actors get paid and several factors, which we’ll delve into below, that determine the pay on offer.
To give a broad indication, statistics collected by Talent.com show that full-time, working actors in Australia earned between $83,000 to $197,000 annually in 2023.
However, these statistics were based on less than 20 reported actor salaries and do not indicate the types of roles, experience or other factors. Earning at this level will take some time and commitment to achieve.
The Upside Of Acting Salaries
While starter salaries can be quite low, the good news is that acting as a career has no cap on how much you can earn once established.
Think of where Margot Robbie started – she first worked in a Subway sandwich outlet while acting on the side. She then progressed through with a role on Neighbours and now onto a global stage where she commands millions for each role.
So how much do actors make? The answer is the sky’s the limit! It’s really down to your persistence, dedication and a little bit of luck.
Factors That Influence Acting Salaries
When determining what pay is appropriate for an actor, most studios work off minimum pay rates as outlined by the Australian Media and Arts Alliance as well as in consideration of other factors.
Experience & Profile
Generally, the more experienced you are and the more well-known or famous you are, the more money you can command for a role. Ideally, you have both and can secure a substantial paycheck for your work.
However, these two things do not always go hand-in-hand and a relative newcomer with a large fan base may earn more than a less well-known actor with experience.
A low-budget Indie film or small TV production is going to have a smaller budget for salaries in comparison to a major motion picture.
This will directly influence how much they can afford to pay you for a role and is indicative of how much wiggle room there is in terms of negotiations.
Small projects have to stick to their budgets as much as possible otherwise they simply won’t get made whereas bigger projects often can flex a little in this area.
The more important the role and the more time you spend on stage or screen, the higher your salary will be.
For example, a leading role is going to command a higher rate of pay than a supporting role, minor role or an extra, as more work is involved.
Platform & Distribution
If you’re acting in roles for film or television, how this is distributed and on which platform will impact how much you get paid.
Many streaming platforms such as Netflix have significant budgets and distribute content globally, meaning a bigger audience, greater income and therefore more to invest in actor salaries.
Residuals & Royalties
Not always on offer, residuals and royalties may form part of an actor’s salary package. This sees them receiving additional funds each time their work is rebroadcast or redistributed for viewing on new platforms or channels.
If residuals and royalties are offered, the initial salary may be adjusted to account for this.
Can You Negotiate A Higher Salary Than What Is Offered?
Absolutely. Salaries for actors are almost always open to negotiation, however, this needs to be done carefully and with a measure of skill to be successful.
Always consider the above factors and how these may be impacting the salary on offer and adjust your expectations accordingly.
For instance, if you’re in a minor role in a budget production, you may not get very far asking for more money and it may even see you being recast.
If you’re on a big-budget film and you’re highly experienced, well-known and in a leading role, then your negotiating position is much better.
Ways To Boost Your Earning Potential
While it can take many years to build up to better earnings as an actor, there are some steps you can take to help this process along, including:
Attending Acting Classes
Even the world’s most famous actors still invest in acting classes and one-on-one sessions with an acting coach.
Just as your earning capacity as an actor has no cap, the same can be said for learning your craft. Consistently attending acting classes not only builds your skills but teaches you essential techniques.
It also helps build your industry network which can be vital to discovering new opportunities and getting your name out there.
Those little roles, the ones that may seem barely worth the pay…they’re actually incredibly valuable. How? They give you real experience working on a production and are a great learning opportunity.
Experience counts on your resume and taking on roles of all kinds demonstrates your willingness and commitment as an actor.
Possessing greater experience can translate into higher pay at a later stage, so remember that it’s okay to start with a crawl and work your way up to a run!
Engaging An Agent
There are no hard and fast rules about when to engage an agent, some actors do this early on in their careers and others wait until they are more established.
Whenever you decide to take this step, finding the right agent can help you advance your career and earn more. Agents will actively seek out roles, put you forward for them and use their industry connections to your advantage.
Not only this, they are expert negotiators, they collect a percentage of your salary for their work, so they are highly motivated to get you the best rate of pay possible.
Building Your Online Presence
Fame – where once this was hard won for actors through roles on stage and screen, it can now also be achieved through online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and more.
Spend time working on your online presence and take time to engage with your fans and followers. This can significantly boost your public profile and make you a more sought-after talent – with this notoriety, your bargaining power for a higher salary increase.
Tips For Surviving On A Beginner’s Salary
As an actor’s salary can fluctuate and work is not always guaranteed, it can be challenging to survive, especially in the early years of your career.
Rather than become despondent about this or be forced to abandon your dream career, there are ways to help manage your finances and keep you on track.
1. Create A Budget
Often considered boring, but absolutely essential, creating a budget can help you be more aware of your spending habits and essential living costs.
Understanding what your minimum earnings need to be can also guide you on what salary you can accept, help you stretch your money further and aid in navigating quiet times with less stress.
2. Be Prepared
You should ensure your budget includes setting aside funds for savings. This emergency fund can be used to cover unexpected expenses or during times of extended unemployment between roles.
3. Consider A Side Hustle
Most budding actors work a casual or part-time job on the side to help supplement their earnings. Hospitality work is a popular choice as it tends to offer greater flexibility around acting commitments.
4. Invest In Yourself
Make sure your budget allows for ongoing attendance to acting classes and if possible, work on diversifying your skill set into related fields such as writing, producing or directing.
This can help open up more opportunities and will make you more employable across the industry.
5. Be Proactive
Don’t wait for work to come to you, consistently check for casting calls and auditions, stay up to date with industry trends and continue to network as much as possible.
The more you put yourself out there the quicker you stand to gather experience and notoriety which as we know is directly related to how much you can earn in this field.
Invest In Your Earning Potential With The Actors Pulse
Offering a variety of classes delivered by skilled acting coaches, the team at The Actors Pulse can help you grow and realise your potential as an actor.
Whether you are a beginner or have been acting for years, we support you to hone your skills and advance your career for more fulfilling roles and higher earnings.
Enquire about our flexible class schedules and learn why we are the leading school in the Southern Hemisphere for the Meisner technique today at 0414 475 515.
Billy Milionis is one of the few Australians to have ever studied under the legendary master teacher, the late Sanford Meisner. Billy has also studied story structure and scene analysis techniques with John Truby and later at UCLA. He has also spent several years doing improvisation in Hollywood with the L.A. Connection. In addition, he trained in the technique of Stella Adler, Practical Aesthetics and Lee Strasberg’s method.