If you're confident that it's an actor's life for you but don't want to resort to the casting couch to get your big break, you're going to have to start laying the groundwork for your new career, and the sooner the better. Although there are actor's who become overnight successes, many have to spend years doggedly working for very little money and suffering multiple rejections. It can be a tough business.
Think about whether you have the right qualities to become an actor. It's an incredibly competitive profession, so there'll be no point in pursuing a career in acting if you haven't got what it takes to make it in the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics advises that actors need to be creative, persistent, have good memorization, reading and speaking skills and possess no small amount of physical stamina. Be honest with yourself.
It's possible to become a successful actor without any formal education, but most thespians acquire some formal training through an acting conservatory or a university drama or theater arts program, according to the BLS. As well as teaching you the craft of acting, a few years at a good drama school will also furnish you with the knowledge required to find work and set you up with some useful industry contacts.
Resume and Showreel
The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts recommends that an actor's resume should never be longer than one page and should include a head shot taken by a professional photographer. You'll also need to start working on your showreel or demo to show off your range. This can include footage of amateur productions or professional gigs you've landed. You should have your showreel in a digital format that can be emailed to casting directors and agents. Consider setting up a website to promote your acting skills or posting footage of your performances on video hosting sites.
Audition and Perform
Go for as many roles as you can. Doing so will add to your resume and showreel and keep your acting sharp. An actor who has "rested" for too long can soon become rusty. Getting turned down for parts is useful too. You'll need to develop a thick skin if you're going to be a successful actor. If the roles just aren't coming, put on amateur shows yourself.
Get yourself an agent. The commission a good agent will take from your performance fees will be money well spent. A well-connected agent can increase your chances of getting work substantially. This will be especially true if you want to work in film or television. Send your resume and showreel to agents who specialize in the type of acting you want to do or use your contacts to get representation.