To be a successful actor you really have to have a passion for the craft and the patience to wait for the big break. Although being an actor is extremely rewarding, finding work can be a challenge. The profession requires great commitment and fortitude.
Decide whether you want to be a professional actor (addressed here) or an amateur. If you want to be a professional, read on.
Move to a major city. Eventually, New York or Los Angeles will be your destination, but as you build your resumé of experience you can work in other major metropolitan areas that have good theater or film communities.
Enroll in acting class. Good actors study their entire lives. To choose a good class, ask trusted, successful professionals for references.
Get a headshot (see "How to Get a Headshot," below).
Compose a resumé of all the work you have done so far. As your body of work grows, drop the less professional work (such as school plays) from your resumé.
Send your headshot and resumé with a brief cover letter to all the casting directors and agents in your area. Follow up with postcards every four to six months, updating them on your current acting projects.
Read the trade papers regularly: "Backstage," "Dramalogue," "The Ross Reports" and "Variety," as well as online publications such as newenglandfilm.com, as appropriate. Know what is being cast where, and send headshots and notes directly to directors and producers whenever possible, requesting auditions.
Always accept invitations to industry events and parties, and meet industry professionals whenever possible. Who you know is extremely important.
Acting is a tough business; make sure your personality is suited for the ups and downs. If not, amateur theater is also a good way to practice your craft. Ignore negative clichés about actors and the entertainment business.
Be skeptical of shady services offered to actors; there are many scams that prey on the dreams of actors.