What's holding you back? | How to get motivated as an actor

What’s holding you back?

Written by on | Acting Tips

I often find myself in conversations with actors which involve a lot of “buts”…. “I’m doing really well, but I’m just not getting any auditions,” “I want to get more work, but I can’t afford to update my showreel or get new headshots”, “I wanted to send in that tape, but I had a crazy week at work and didn’t have time to prepare properly.” Actors are insanely good at coming up with excuses for not doing the work, for not being prepared, for not facing their fears, for not following their dreams. And this is holding you back! So I wanted to unpack this a little bit, because as they say, the first step to recovery is awareness… 

Let’s dive into some common excuses for not following our passion as actors, and some remedies to solve them.

Lack of Motivation

If the idea of spending 8 hours every day, 6 days a week on your acting sounds daunting, then you could probably do with a motivation boost. 10,000 hours is what it takes. There’s really no exceptions to this rule. You might do okay on 5,000 hours, and maybe just get by on 3,000 – but you certainly won’t have an illustrious career or an Academy Award, let alone a sustainably flow of work. 10,000 hours is what is necessary to sustain a career as an actor.

How do we find motivation?

  • You have to make a start. A lot of us get stuck on “I’ll get to it’s” and “Eventually’s”. Pick a date, put it in your calendar and make a start. Otherwise you can put it off for weeks, months, years – and before you know it, it’s probably too late.
  • Books, Film, TV, Theatre. Go out in search of inspiration. For me, taking some time to check out 10-15 films at Sydney Film Festival is just the kick up the butt I need. I leave the cinema feeling super inspired, motivated and excited about the work. A lot of the time seeing and experiencing great art, motivates us to make our own.
  • Find a mentor. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. In fact, I recommend it. Find someone who can help you move towards your goals, someone who can offer advice, who will encourage you and will provide some accountability. This could be a director friend, an acting teacher, a voice coach, an older, more experience actor – start by sending them an email, and offer to buy them coffee.
  • Class. Get your butt into class! Getting up and doing some acting every week is extremely motivating. It’s the perfect cocktail of accountability, learning, experience and motivation. Couldn’t promote this one enough.
  • Community. Use your mates, get motivated together. It’s super fun and a great opportunity to learn from each other. Start a scene group, or a self-taping club, or a writing group. If you don’t have a community – you could always join ours.

Lack of Time

Madonna schedules her day in 3 hour blocks. 3 hours of Voice, 3 hours of Physical, and 3 hours of Business. Not having enough time is an illusion. Because you do have enough time, you just need to make time. And in order to make that time, you need to be willing.

So my answer to this is scheduling.

Get a piece of paper, and write out all of the major activities that take up time in your week. Gym, cooking, casual/part-time/full-time job, cleaning, walking the dog, social events, acting class, yoga etc. etc. Now go through and prioritise – highlight the parts of your week which are most important to you and that you want to dedicate the most time to. I know work is a necessary evil, so try not to worry too much about that one. If you need to take 6 shifts a week to pay rent and live comfortably, then take those 6 shifts a week. Acting is a career not worth starving for I’m afraid. BUT maybe you’re spending too much money on rent, and moving to a cheaper apartment will mean less shifts at work, more time acting.

Prioritise, and then write it down. I love Google Calendar, my acceptance speech will first thank Google Calendar. Honestly, a life saver. Find a system, and stick to it. Schedule in voice warm ups 3x times a week, schedule in social events, schedule in research, and even schedule in relaxation time. It might sound rigid and difficult, but I actually believe it’s the rigidity that will give you more freedom and less stress. 

Lack of Financial Flexibility

“I need to work more to make more money so I can take time off.” Sounds pretty counterintuitive right? I understand we all need to make a living, I am certainly not advocating for you to quit your side job and wing it acting full-time. It probably won’t work. You’ll probably be side-hustling for years and years to come. So that’s why it is imperative you find a GOOD ONE.

What is a good side hustle?

  • A position that is flexible, or outside of normal working hours. E.g. a bar job – whilst it’s exhausting working nights, it means you have all day free for auditions and acting training. Alternatively, you can find a day job, but it needs to be flexible and allow you to duck out for auditions when necessary, and take days off for shoots. This is why casual jobs are preferred – full-time and part-time jobs lock you into a contract, and you’ll likely struggle to meet the demands of the job, as well as pursue your acting.
  • The higher the wage the better. More money per hour, means working less hours per week. Simple! Maybe it’s worth getting qualified in some other area so that you can make more money per hour. For me, it was marketing. I equipped myself with social media and marketing skills so that I was able to charge more money per hour in my side hustle, therefore making me enough money to live on, in less time and granting me more time for acting. I’m not saying go back to Uni for 3 years, but it is something to consider. Cafe wages will always be the same…
  • Jobs which require minimum brain power and the least amount of emotional stress. If you’re working a job which yes, may pay well, but is super stressful, and you get home every night completely exhausted that the last thing you feel like doing is working on your acting – maybe it’s time to reconsider. Hospitality jobs are relatively low stress – customer service can be a drag, but it beats child care! Spend the time finding a job which you enjoy and isn’t stressful for you.
  • A job which is in the industry. Now this is the best case scenario. If you can find work within the industry, you are in a fantastic position. Casting assistant, camera assistant, production assistant, working at a theatre or a cinema even – these are great side hustles. The pay is usually pretty good, and it also means you are meeting and interacting with people in your industry, and it is also very motivating.

Lack of Training

This one’s pretty simple. Take a second and evaluate your skills objectively. Do you find you’re coming up against a lot of blocks in your acting? Do auditions terrify you? Do you feel stiff and out of practice? Get thee to an acting class, or if you haven’t been to Drama School – consider auditioning for Drama School. In this career, no one makes it on luck alone. It takes luck, AND talent. Talent is learned, and thus it is imperative to get proper acting training. Either you commit to a full time acting course, to weekly classes, or to an online scene club – what kind of training do you need to feel confident in your acting?

Which brings me to my final point –

Lack of Confidence

This is a hard one, and likely most of us feel like we’re lacking confidence when it comes to acting. The actors that are working consistently and winning awards, and the ones who back themselves 100%. If you don’t believe you can do it, then certainly no one else will. For this one, I’ll direct you to another article we wrote not long ago about becoming a more confident actor.

Ask anyone who “made it” and they won’t tell you how they don’t deserve to be where they are, they’ll tell you how hard they worked, and how they gambled and took risks and believed in their abilities. Finding your own source of confidence is a huge step towards achieving success as an actor.


Well, that’s all from me. I hope that those couple of paragraphs helped you achieve some sense of clarity, and has given you some ideas for remedying those buts

StageMilk Drama Club

Finding motivation is hard, as is making the money to afford to work on your acting, and not to mention finding the time!! It’s struggle street, for sure. That’s why we created the Drama Club – to provide a platform for actors from all over the world to come to work, be inspired, get motivated, have some accountability and become better actors for it. Actors need to be working on their craft consistently, this makes you more prepared for any audition that might come about, and therefore more likely to book jobs. Actors who are in class, are 10x more likely to book roles. Simple as that. Check out the club, see if it’s for you.

About the Author

Indiana Kwong

is an actor, filmmaker and sometimes social media manager based in Sydney. I trained as an actor and filmmaker at the International Screen Academy in Waterloo, and everything else I learnt from Google and sheer willpower. You can find me in short films, web-series, TVC’s or Instagram (I spend a lot of time there.)

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