I have been a professional actor for around 2 years, though I started acting 11 years ago. I have had many conversations about finding a good rep and here's my two cents: make yourself the most professional and commercially viable actor that you possibly can, and the right rep will find you.
I just switched gears recently and parted ways with my first talent agency. Not more than a couple days later, a new agent inquiring if I would like to have a meeting/ be represented by them, contacted me. I just signed with them. Both of these agents found me because of my online presence. I did not have to do any submissions.
The first question you should ask yourself is: are you ready to play in a professional arena or are you still learning? Let me give an analogy, no matter how good a high school QB is, it doesn't mean he should go out and try knocking down the NFL's door. This is the time to sit alone and really consider where you’re at. Are you ready for an agent?
So here’s the quick and dirty of what you need to have on your resume be attractive to an agent or manager:
A foundation of diverse training. No one likes an entitled rookie or another method actor, whom doesn’t truly understand what the word means. Talent is not enough. Let me repeat that, talent is not enough. Acting is a profession, so treat it like one. An actor needs a foundation of experience (scene study, improv, stage, films), tools of the trade, and an understanding of the history of the craft to rely upon. Get a taste of many techniques to find what works for you: Meisner, Stanislavski, Adler, Hagen, viewpoints, etc. The acting tradition goes back to 534b.c., so invest in your craft, put it on your resume, and leave it there. Don’t be entitled; solid training is basic and personal to how you work. At the very least buy books by and about these methods and read them through.
Get Professional headshots. I get it, we’re all starving artists. But, this is a must have. You may think your friend taking photos with their camera looks good (I’ve been guilty in the past), but the fact remains Casting Directors can tell the difference, immediately. Also keep in mind this is a professional and immensely competitive market. Are your headshots better than the next guy/girls? "They're not looking for your high school portrait, their looking for the actor behind your eyes." -Robert Ousley
Start building credits. Do as much non-union theatre & film as you possibly can. Learn from the actors you work with. You can learn as much from a bad actor as you can from an amazing one.
Find a way to make a reel 2-3min. in length. This is essential to a professional actor’s arsenal. This goes back to the question: Are you ready to play in the professional market? If you don’t have enough footage for a solid 2min reel, it is fair to say you probably don’t have enough experience for a film production to pay you to be on their set.
Spend the time to build your online presence. What are the first three things that pop up when you type your name into Google? We live in a digital age, even if you don’t have a million followers, how you are perceived on the web, if you have a presence at all, makes a difference. Clean up your Facebook page. Make sure your IMDb is up to date with a Pro account. Do you have an official website? Be creative.
Have confidence, not arrogance. If you have truly invested in your craft (hopefully over years), that confidence in what you bring to the table should become ingrained into your being. It speaks to everyone.
Be professional. Show you are career oriented on not a fame seeker. This is a big one. Show, with all the above, that you are continually building a foundation with clear and realistic career goals. It even comes down to the little things, like email whenever possible instead of texting. If you’re only in this game for the dollar signs, go home, you’re dreaming.
(LA Actors) Have an Actors Access, LA Casting, Casting Frontier and an IMDb Pro account. Most allow yearly memberships that can make it more affordable. Also, update them, every week.
Be available for auditions, all your auditions. Find a way. Period.
So, let’s recap! How do you find an agent? You let them find you. If you’re ready for the big leagues, they will find you. If you are green, keep going, get a day job and take night classes… Find ways to be ready.
What are agents and managers looking for?
Resume: solid training, credits in film, television, commercial and theatre (or even just film and theatre to get started), correct formatting, and links to easily contact you and find you online.
Headshots: Just do it the right way the first time. Invest in professional headshots, they’re your calling card.
Reel: 2-3min. of professional footage. Unless you’re Kevin Spacey, only use the most professional footage you have or it can work against you. E.g. Don’t use your shaky cell phone videos.
Online presence: If they look you up on IMDb will they see your pretty face? Will it take them more than a couple seconds to find your reel or biography? What do your social networks say about you? That's how my agents found me.
There you go! Thank you for reading.