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The Essentials
Female financial manager giving advice to a couple

Image credit: Kerkez / iStock

Advice from industry professionals on agent fees, invoicing and tax for actors.

As a performing artist, it’s your responsibility to manage your business. Sharpening your script analysis and attending auditions is one thing, but developing your financial understanding is equally essential for your career.

Things like accounting, filling out self-employed tax forms and negotiating agent fees aren’t exactly the aspects of the job that enticed you to a career in acting, but they are still important parts of the business. Rather than seeing them as a chore, view these as new skills to learn. 

In our webinar – in partnership with The Engagement Appealwe spoke to Karin Schulte DipPFS (financial adviser), Mildred Yuan (agent), Emmeline Armitage (artist ambassador) and Jo Dare FCCA (Blinkhorn’s accountants’ partner) about financial advice for actors. Here’s what they had to say:

Discussing Agent Fees

Acquiring an agent will open doors to business opportunities in the industry, but it’s important to stay financially compliant. The first step should be finding an agent who you feel comfortable talking to about money, contracts, and business affairs, and, ideally, one who can also give you advice on these things.

You’ll need to negotiate your fees with your agent, with typical agent commissions ranging between 10-20%. Make sure this is finalised in the terms of business in your contract, and it’s good practice to get it reviewed by an accountant or solicitor. 

It’s vital that the deal is right for you and that you understand the agreement. Getting an acting agent is such an exciting prospect, but you need to be aware of your money. An agent will be responsible for negotiating your pay.

Please note: you can also represent yourself. Whether you choose to go down this path or sign with an agent, you should also consider registering with the union Equity

Self-Billing and Invoicing as an Actor

You may need to complete a self-billing form or send invoices for the fees you’re due at some stage. This means alerting your employer that you have to be paid – as stated in the contract you signed with them. 

On the invoice, you need to state the role/service you undertook, your fee, the agreed payment date and your account details. It’s best to refer to the fee agreement in your contract. You can download free invoice templates online.

It’s a good idea to keep your invoices in a folder. It’s also wise to use a spreadsheet to keep track of your invoices and include a column marking stating whether it’s been paid or not. This way, you can chase anything that isn’t paid on time without losing track. 

Managing Your Money with a Money App

A range of money apps are available to help you monitor your finances. Apps like Emma and Wave can be very helpful for keeping tabs on your income and outgoings, which you’ll need for expenses and tax returns.

How to Pay Tax as an Actor

If you’re self-employed, you’ll be responsible for filling out your own tax return at the end of the financial year. This can be done online on the government website, or by getting a tax self-assessment form from HMRC. Make a note that this needs to be done by 31 January each year. 

Many actors hire a tax accountant to deal with this side of the business for them. They can assist with the process and clarify everything for you. 

Take a look at our guide to tax returns for more information.

Acting Expenses and Receipts

Anything you pay for related to your job is classed as an expense. Make sure that it’s stipulated in your contract that you can expense your lunchtime sandwich and train fare back to your employer. Again, keeping note of this via a money app is good practice. You’ll need to keep receipts as proof for when your employer processes them. 

Financial Planning for Actors

As an actor, income isn’t always regular, so planning for the future is imperative. Chances are you’ll have worked a side job at some stage in a theatre or coffee shop, so you know the importance of maintaining financial stability. One of the best decisions you’ll ever make is looking ahead and developing ways to make your money go further. 

The State Pension you may receive will depend on the years you’ve contributed to National Insurance. In addition to the State Pension, it’s a good idea to consider setting up your own personal pension. This is a private scheme where you save money in a tax-efficient environment, and you can typically access funds from age 55. It might seem a long way down the line if you’re younger, but a personal pension can give you peace of mind to live the life you want to in retirement. 

Another saving initiative you can set up tax efficiently is an Individual Savings Account (ISA). There are two main types: 

  • Cash ISA 
  • Stocks and Shares ISA 

To find out the best ways to save and invest, it’s best to talk with a financial adviser.

Have a look at Spotlight Contacts to find a list of performer-friendly accountants who can help with all things account-related. 

Take a look at our website for more tips and advice about finance and industry news.