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Where to start  

Whether you want to be an actor, comedian, musician, circus performer, dancer or any other kind of performer, the starting point is to develop your craft. Practice, ask for honest feedback from knowledgeable people, and find out if you will be able to make a living from performing.  




How to know if you’re suited to this sector

Can you cope with a largely freelance career? You need to be resilient, able to take constructive criticism, and prepared to take on work even when it’s not your ideal job.

Do you have the skills that will support your performance? As a freelancer you will need to pitch for work, do your own marketing, tax returns etc.

Get objective opinions about how good you really are. Feedback from those with no vested interest in being nice to you is valuable - but don’t rely too much on just one person’s opinion, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.

How to get the experience to be credible

Student societies are a great place to gain experience, pitch your talent against others, and experiment.

Some other ways of getting experience include:

  • busking
  • amateur-level public performance
  • social media - many performing artists post their performances to gain a following, and use  feedback to develop their craft.
Further study or certification required

The dream is to be talent spotted and this does still happen, but rarely. A Cambridge degree doesn’t generally leave enough time to intensively develop an art form to professional levels.

Actors – Drama school training can be very valuable for gaining skills and practical experience, networking, and getting the attention of agents. A UK drama degree will also make you eligible to create a profile on the website Spotlight, one of the major sources of work for actors in the UK (professional acting credits are required otherwise). If you are 25 or younger and have an agent, however, your agent will be able to put you on Spotlight as a ‘young performer’ even without acting credits or an acting degree.

Music/Dance – Postgraduate study at music and dance academies opens doors to the world of classical music.

Circus performance – formal qualifications are rarely required, but part-time courses and professional training is available, and may enhance your employability.

For other performing arts such as comedy, a formal qualification is not required. Learning in community venues and working your way up is the norm.

How to find employers or training courses

The Performing Arts Yearbook is available at many libraries, and online by subscription.

The Stage chronicles developments in the world of theatre.

Entertainers Worldwide Jobs is a dedicated website for musicians and singers to find auditions, jobs and other opportunities to get work both locally and around the world.

You should build a personal network, and proactively seek out work.

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

As with any other job, research the criteria for each job, and tweak your application accordingly. 

Be resilient: rejection is a big part of these careers. Sometimes you just won’t be quite right for a part. Don't focus on immediate success: rather, concentrate on processes that are within your control and which will ultimately pay dividends. These processes include improving your performance skills, regularly auditioning or searching for opportunities, and making/keeping in touch with useful contacts.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

Student societies are a great way to gain performing experience, start new projects, and make useful connections.

Arts and Heritage Panel catch up recordings

Other things you should know

You should have a plan B to support you in the early stages of a performing arts career. 

A clean driving license and car is useful. Many performances aren’t in venues by train stations. You might have a lot of equipment to carry and performances usually finish late at night.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: