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Non Union Actor Pay Scale: Rates, Guidelines And How To Negotiate

Landing an acting gig without union membership can be tricky when it comes to pay.

If you’re an aspiring actor looking to break into the business, you may be wondering what kind of rates you can expect as a non-union performer.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Non union actor pay rates typically range from $125 to $750 per day, depending on the size and budget of the production. However, pay can vary widely based on role size, production location and other factors.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about non union actor pay, including average day rates, how pay is typically structured, standard guidelines across different markets, how to negotiate fair compensation and more.

Average Non Union Actor Pay Rates

When it comes to the pay rates for non union actors, there are several factors to consider.  The rates can vary depending on the type of role, experience level, and other factors.

Here, we will explore the average pay rates for different types of non union actors.

Entry-Level Background Actor

The pay rate for an entry-level background actor can vary, but on average, it can be around $100 to $200 per day. Background actors are usually hired to fill in the scenes and provide a realistic setting.

While the pay may not be as high as other roles, it can be a great way for aspiring actors to gain experience and get their foot in the door.

Background Actor

Supporting Actor

Supporting actors play a more significant role in the production and often have lines and interactions with the main characters.

The pay rate for a supporting actor can range from $500 to $1,500 per day, depending on the budget of the production and the actor’s experience.

Principal Actor

Principal actors are the main characters in a production and carry the storyline. These actors usually have the most lines and screen time.

The pay rate for a principal actor can range from $1,000 to $5,000 per day, depending on the budget of the production and the actor’s level of fame and experience.

Factors That Influence Daily Rate

There are several factors that can influence the daily rate for non union actors. These factors include:

  • Experience level – Actors with more experience and a strong portfolio may command higher pay rates.
  • Budget of the production – Productions with higher budgets often have the ability to offer higher pay rates.
  • Type of production – Pay rates can vary depending on whether the production is a film, television show, commercial, or theater production.
  • Location – Pay rates can also vary depending on the location of the production. For example, actors working in major cities like Los Angeles or New York may command higher pay rates compared to actors in smaller towns.

It’s important for non union actors to understand their worth and negotiate their pay rate accordingly. Researching industry standards and consulting with professionals can help actors negotiate fair and competitive rates.

For more information on non union actor pay rates and guidelines, you can visit websites such as Backstage or Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

Common Non Union Actor Pay Structures

When it comes to non union actor pay, there are several common pay structures that actors may encounter. Understanding these structures can help actors navigate negotiations and ensure they are being compensated fairly for their work.

Per Day or Per Project

One common pay structure for non union actors is a per day or per project rate. This means that actors are paid a set amount for each day of work or for the entire project.

The specific rate can vary depending on factors such as the production budget, the actor’s experience and the type of project.

It is important for actors to research industry standards and negotiate their rates accordingly. Websites like Backstage and Actors’ Equity Association can provide helpful guidelines and resources for determining appropriate rates for non union actors.

Overtime and Other Considerations

Another important consideration for non union actor pay is overtime and other additional compensation. Just like any other job, actors may be entitled to overtime pay if they work more than a certain number of hours in a day or week.

It is important for actors to familiarize themselves with labor laws and union guidelines to ensure they are being compensated properly.

Additionally, actors may also negotiate for additional perks such as transportation and accommodation allowances, especially if they are required to travel for a project. These extra considerations can significantly impact an actor’s overall compensation.


Residuals and Royalties

Residuals and royalties are another aspect of non union actor pay that can provide ongoing income even after the initial project is completed.

Residuals are payments made to actors for the continued use of their work, such as when a project is syndicated or released on home video.

Royalties, on the other hand, are payments made to actors based on the sales or revenue generated by their work, such as when a project is released on streaming platforms or in theaters.

While residuals and royalties are more commonly associated with union actors, non union actors may also negotiate for these types of payments depending on the project and their level of involvement.

Understanding the potential for residuals and royalties can help actors negotiate fair compensation and plan for future income.

Pay Rate Guidelines for Major Production Hubs

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of the major production hubs in the United States, known for its thriving film and television industry. As a non-union actor, it is important to be aware of the pay rate guidelines in this competitive market.

The pay scale for non-union actors in Los Angeles can vary depending on factors such as the type of production, the role, and the experience of the actor.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors in the entertainment industry, the minimum daily rate for a non-union actor in Los Angeles is $125.

However, it is important to note that this is just a starting point and rates can go much higher depending on the project and the negotiations.

New York

New York City is another major production hub with a vibrant theater and film industry. Non-union actors in New York can expect higher pay rates compared to other regions.

The pay scale for non-union actors in New York may start at $200 per day and can go up significantly depending on the project and the actor’s experience.

It is worth mentioning that the cost of living in New York is higher than in many other cities, so the higher pay rates are often justified. Actors in New York should also consider joining organizations such as Actors’ Equity Association to access additional benefits and resources.


Atlanta has emerged as a major production hub in recent years, attracting numerous film and television productions. Non-union actors in Atlanta can expect a range of pay rates depending on the project and their experience.

The minimum pay rate for non-union actors in Atlanta may start at $150 per day.

It is important for actors in Atlanta to be aware of the local industry standards and to negotiate their pay rates based on the specific project and their value as an actor.

Other Regional Hubs

Aside from the major production hubs mentioned above, there are several other regional hubs across the country where non-union actors can find opportunities in the entertainment industry.

The pay rates in these regions may vary significantly depending on the local market and the size of the production.

It is advisable for non-union actors in regional hubs to research and understand the local industry standards and rates. Connecting with local casting directors, agents, and fellow actors can provide valuable insights and help in negotiating fair pay rates.

Remember, negotiating pay rates as a non-union actor requires careful consideration of factors such as the specific project, your experience level, and the local industry standards.

Being well-informed and confident during negotiations can lead to fair compensation and opportunities for growth in the industry.

Negotiating Fair Compensation as a Non Union Actor

When it comes to being a non union actor, negotiating fair compensation can sometimes be a challenge. However, with the right approach and a bit of preparation, you can ensure that you are getting paid what you deserve for your talent and hard work.

Here are some tips to help you negotiate fair compensation as a non union actor:

1. Know Your Worth and Do Your Research

Before entering into any negotiations, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your worth as an actor.

Research and compare the pay rates for non union actors in your area or industry. This will give you a benchmark to work with and help you determine what you should be aiming for.

There are several resources available online, such as industry websites and forums, where actors share information about pay rates for non union work.

Take advantage of these resources and gather as much information as possible. This will give you a solid foundation for negotiating fair compensation.

2. Build Your Acting Resume

Having a strong acting resume can greatly enhance your negotiation power.

The more experience and training you have, the more valuable you become to casting directors and producers. Take the time to build up your resume by participating in local theater productions, student films, and community events.

Include any relevant acting classes, workshops, or certifications on your resume. This will show potential employers that you are dedicated to honing your craft and have invested time and effort into improving your skills as an actor.

theater productions

3. Hire an Agent or Manager (Optional)

While not necessary, hiring an agent or manager can be beneficial when it comes to negotiating fair compensation.

These professionals have experience in the industry and can help guide you through the negotiation process. They can also provide valuable advice on what rates are fair and reasonable for non union actors.

If you choose to hire an agent or manager, make sure to do your research and find someone who has a good reputation and a track record of success in representing non union actors. They should also be familiar with the specific market or industry you are targeting.

4. Ask Questions and Advocate for Yourself

During the negotiation process, don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself. Clarify any uncertainties about the terms of the contract, such as the number of hours required, overtime pay, or any additional compensation for travel or accommodations.

If you feel that the initial offer is unfair or does not match your worth as an actor, politely express your concerns and provide reasons for why you believe you deserve more. Back up your arguments with your research and the value you bring to the project.

Remember, negotiation is a two-way street. Be open to compromise and find a middle ground that both parties can agree on. With confidence, preparation, and a clear understanding of your worth, you can successfully negotiate fair compensation as a non union actor.


As a non union actor, negotiating fair pay for your work can seem daunting at first.

But by understanding average rates, pay structures, regional guidelines and effective negotiating strategies, you can set yourself up for the best compensation possible early in your career.

With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be well equipped to navigate any non union acting job opportunity with confidence.

Just remember to always do your homework, know your worth, ask questions and advocate for pay that reflects your skills and experience level.

Stay persistent and keep sharpening your craft, and the paydays will grow over time too!

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