How to Become a Young Actress

Updated September 27, 2019
Young woman holding film clapper board

Many teen girls want to become a young actress on the big stage. Actresses such as Millie Bobby Brown and Maisie Williams started at a young age and became very successful as they grew older. While not all young actresses are going to be as successful as somebody like Sophie Turner or Zendaya, acting can still be a good hobby for teen girls.

How to Become a Young Actress

If you've decided you want to get into acting, you'll have to go through several steps before becoming a celebrity or award-winning actress. CEO and Co-Founder of AGENT, Inc., Mark Willingham, offers his tips and advice from a background in model management and branding to help you get your acting career started.

Step One: Consider Your Motivation and Goals

Think about why you want to become an actress. Is it for fame and money, or because you truly respect and love this art form? Do you want to be a on Broadway, the Disney Channel, in movies? Those who aren't passionate and focused about this job typically aren't very successful. Mark emphasizes the importance of taking this process seriously in his advice to "Make sure you understand the time commitment that is required to seriously pursue an acting career. Take into consideration life balance when it comes to acting, school, friends and family time."

Step Two: Get Professional Headshots

"The first step across the board for becoming a young actress? Headshots," says Mark. He explains that your headshot as an aspiring actress is most often the first thing that will get an agent or client's attention. It speaks volumes about your personality and versatility. Tips for modeling in headshots are:

  • Keep the focus from the chest up.
  • Look directly at the camera in all shots.
  • Go light on makeup.
  • Take a variety of shots to show your personality.

You can have headshots taken at a local photography studio, but Mark suggests researching to make sure the photographer is both experienced and reputable.

Girl sitting for photoshoot

Step Three: Take Acting Classes

"Acting classes are a great way to gain raw experience without booking jobs," says Mark, and they are available for all types of acting from theatrical to on-camera in traditional or summer camp formats. His pro tip is to audit as many classes as you'd like first, then choose the ones that feel right to you.

  • Think about what type of acting you want to pursue then look for classes in your area.
  • Try to connect with other young actresses on social media to see which classes they recommend.
  • Most acting classes allow first-timers to audit the class for free to make sure it's the right class for you.

Acting classes can be expensive, but Mark says "They're worth it so teens can gain some experience and learn the ropes before going out into the real world."

Step Four: Build Your Portfolio

Mark suggests aspiring actress keep their portfolios updated because clients and agents "normally expect to see samples of work like acting reels, plays, clips, etc." He advises keeping these items and your headshots on hand at all times to show "professionalism, preparedness, and what you are capable of." Clients and agents will want to work with you because of your acting abilities and your attitude, so be prepared to present your best self at all times. Keep in mind that agents and clients will sign you because they see something special in you.

Step Five: Research Agents

When it comes to pursuing an acting or talent agent, Mark "always recommends getting a referral." This involves thorough online research for any agents you are considering. Look to see if they have more complaints or positive reviews, if their website seems professional, and if they have an overall good reputation and track record. The process of finding or landing an agent can look different for each individual.

  • You could get discovered at a play, class, or workshop, or even on the internet and land a meeting with an agent that way.
  • You may have a mutual connection that can help you get a meeting with an agent.
  • You can reach out directly to agents to ask for a meeting.

Step Six: Choose an Agent if You Want One

After you've done your homework and met with desired agents, you'll need to decide if hiring an agent is the right move for your career.

  • Always have a parent or trusted adult accompany you when meeting agents.
  • Have a lawyer look over any contracts you are asked to sign.
  • Most reputable agencies don't ask for any money from you up front.
  • If you do choose an agent, they'll set you up with all the resources you need to find jobs.
  • If you don't choose an agent, you'll have to look for open casting calls on your own.

Mark suggests the ultimate way to choose an agent is to pick one who is not only reputable, but "is excited and eager to sign you. You want to make sure this person will really go to bat for you and believes in your raw talent." If the agent doesn't have these attributes, they're not going to work as hard to land you work.

Step Six: Go On Auditions

One of the most common ways for a teenager to become a young actress is through auditioning for television commercials and small roles, such as an extra, in movies. As you gain experience, you'll get more opportunities to audition for larger roles. When going on auditions or casting calls:

  • Be on time, prepared, and looking your best for the part you're auditioning for.
  • Bring a parent or trusted adult.
  • Don't sign any contracts without legal council.
Young woman auditioning for part

Typical Costs Associated With Becoming a Young Actress

While many aspects of becoming a teen actress cost nothing at all, there are general expenses as with any other hobby, extra-curricular activity, or career training.

  • According to Backstage Magazine, the average cost for headshots is anywhere from $400 to $1,500 depending on the area you live in and the photographer you choose.
  • Acting classes for kids and teens can cost about $30 per class and usually require a commitment of something like 6 weeks, which ends up costing anywhere from $200 to $400.
  • Talent agents typically take 10 percent of what the actor makes especially for union jobs, but can take up to 20 percent. If your job pays $2,000, expect to pay your agent about $200.

Mark shares that "Wages will vary depending on the level of experience you have and the type of job your're landing," so keep that in mind when spending money on photos, classes, travel, and other expenses.

Parent Role in Teen Acting Careers

In general, teens under the age of 18 are not legally allowed to enter into contracts on their own, so parents play a huge role in a teen's desires to become a young actress. According to Mark, "Parents should be involved in all aspects of a child's pursuit in acting" because safety should be of utmost concern to you.

  • Talk with your teen about their goals and motivations along with reasonable expectations and warning signs of danger.
  • Research everything about agents and clients your teen will be working with.
  • Attend all meetings, casting calls or auditions, and jobs with your teen.
  • Read all contracts and consult a lawyer before signing them.
  • Assist your teen with transportation and costs where you see fit.
  • If you're ever on set with your child and something questionable takes place, remember that you are in power and can always leave with your teen if you don't feel good about a situation.

Mark warns that "The industry is filled with powerful people, some of which may not have the best of intentions, who know that there are young people out there willing to do anything to make their dreams come true."

Follow Your Dreams to the Big Stage

Becoming a young actress involves a lot of forethought and work. For many teen girls, acting and modeling follow similar paths that may intersect, so be open to opportunities that can further the career of your dreams. Thing about your own talents, skills, and ultimate goals then build a team of trustworthy adults who can help you on your career path.

How to Become a Young Actress