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Let’s face it, the road to professional acting is full of pitfalls that try to distract you from doing what you love and getting paid for it.  As a coach and mentor, I’m not big on teaching on the negative (i.e. what not to do) and greatly prefer to teach on what you SHOULD do. However, while the experience you gain as you move along in your career is undoubtedly invaluable (and often underrated), OTHER peoples’ experience can also be equally invaluable, especially in showing you what NOT to do. So given the significant amount of pitfalls along this acting road, I want to share just three DO NOTs that I believe are the top mistakes beginner actors (and sometimes experienced actors) make.

1. DO NOT Pay upfront to be “accepted” into an “agency” or for representation.

This scam is so old I can’t believe the lines for it remain so long.  A more detailed description and tips on how to avoid it can be found here.  The dream of acting stardom can be so intoxicating that it literally makes you a gullible target for scamsters. There are lots of versions of how you are lured in, but they inevitably hit you with this: in order to be represented, you need THE PACKAGE.  The “agents” then proceed to sell you some concoction of headshot sessions, acting lessons, ‘guaranteed’ time in front of casting directors (in paper form). The cost? It’s usually $1,500 or more.  The bottom line, unfortunately, is that these people are not out to find talent and represent you in the industry. They are out for your money and lure you with your own dreams.  What they don’t do is actually get you into THE industry – they got you into THEIR industry. These people give real talent agents a very bad rap.

2. DO NOT have a non-professional “friend” shoot your headshots. 

Headshots are your NUMBER ONE marketing tool as an actor. Remember this is a business – a VERY competitive one at that – your headshot MUST be competitive. Use a photographer who is known for doing headshots professionally and has a portfolio with actors who have succeeded in the business. Their portfolio doesn’t have to have Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, just actors who are represented by agents and working in the business.  Lots of people take pictures, some even professionally, few take good headshots. It is an artform and a good photographer not only knows the art and the acting business but also works well with actors to bring out the best look for you. When you hire a headshot photographer, you are basically hiring an ad agency to sell YOU. There’s more to it than snapping a camera. Most headshot photographers in Atlanta charge between $150 and $500 for a session that gives you two or more looks (you need at least 2: commercial and theatrical). Here are some headshot photographers that I recommend.

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3. DO NOT take advice from people who do not have results. We actors are more often than not, “Chatty”. As a result, we often find ourselves in conversation with someone in our field that has an opinion they MUST share. Sometimes, these opinions are very convincing and sound like good advice. Watch out! Before taking advice from anyone in the industry, check to see if they have any results on the subject they are discussing. Next, be sure they are not your competition. In this cutthroat industy, you competition may be nice, but understand that they are still your competition.