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I get a lot of questions e-mailed to me. Most of them are of the “will you look at my reel and pictures and websites and help me get an agent?” variety, but some are actually smart, non-obnoxious ones the answers to which would benefit most actors. Like the one about how much time to spend on marketing each week. The answer is…it depends: on how much time you have to spend, on what needs to get done, on where you are in your career. But I would say that everyone should be spending a half-hour per day on some marketing- or promotion-related task. Here are 10 ways you can spend those 30 minutes wisely.
You can do it solo, you can do it with a buddy (or several—read Bonnie Gillespie’s newly revised “Self-Management for Actors” for her system, along with lots of other great ideas). The thing is, DO IT – at least once weekly, or better yet, break your 30 minutes into five six-minute segments and do it daily.
If I were an actor working now, I would be doing everything I could to leverage the amazingly cheap and powerful tools available for putting myself out there in the new media world. I don’t mean that you should turn on your webcam and get all LonelyGirl15 (although if you can come up with the 2009 version of an attention-grabber like that, more power to you). I mean coming up with a clever, interesting way to showcase what you do (i.e., act) online. Back in my day, some poor actors paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to get some crappy tape of themselves. You have no excuse not to be doing 10 times better.
No one can go see everything. But there’s no reason you can’t know about most of it, including who was in it, what it was about and what people are saying about it. This is not a free pass to go spend a half-hour on the online Lost forums, either. This is about you learning the whole landscape, not gorging yourself on stuff you’d watch anyway.
Yes, schmoozing. Yes, even if it’s just your dumb friend’s dumb play and there’s no one there “worth” meeting. (A) You never know who’s “worth” meeting, and (B) you most likely need the practice in a low-stakes environment.
Read through these old columns. Look over your own bio. Is it up-to-date? Does it show you in the best light? Is it user-focused (i.e., interesting for the reader)? Here’s a hint: a bio can almost always be better. And shorter. And by the time it is, you’re usually overdue for revising it again. Always be writing.
How do you work on scenes? Are you watching how you look on-camera? Getting more comfortable with working small? I’m a big fan of actor play-reading groups.
You get auditions. You go to seminars and workshops and classes, meet with casting directors, read acting columns (ahem!). You could easily fill 30 minutes this week writing thank-you notes to people who have somehow, in some small way—even a very, very small way—helped you move the ball forward. Be brief, be genuine and be polite. But be grateful, out loud. It will make you more aware of all the goodness in your life, and it will make the day of the person on the receiving end.
This one is self-explanatory. Don’t be a dummy actor with no awareness of your industry or the world around you. Even if you’re not in a union yet, educate yourself on the issues. Even if you’re not going out for A-list parts yet, know what’s going on in the business. You don’t have to know the minute details of every last deal, but you should have some understanding of what’s going on in and around your chosen profession aside from what you read in OK! magazine. And you should have some idea of what’s going on in the world around you, if for no other reason than having something besides the latest celebutard DUI scandal to talk about over lunch on a shoot day. You are your own best P.R. agent; don’t feed into the Dumb Actor stereotype.
Missing shirt buttons. Run-down heels. Stained suit pants. It’s a good idea for any business person to have a good, working wardrobe; for an actor, it’s indispensable. Do not give them any reason to not hire you; do not let yourself go out looking anything other than your best.
I have a standing request here at Act Smart! HQ, which is to send me your questions on acting: where you’re stuck, where you’re clueless, where you are eager to know more. This very column came out of an e-mail sent by a curious reader. (And hey! Curious Reader? Thank you!)
If you want more tips, tricks and inspiring stories about how to put yourself out there better/smarter/faster, please sign up for my newsletter. Every issue covers one aspect of communication (i.e., you getting your word out there) and includes actionable steps; I also share the best of all the many, many inspirational, how-to and otherwise useful links I come across in my nerdly travels.
Colleen Wainwright is writer-performer-consultant who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good and not evil by helping actors and other good, hard-working people with a dream uncover their unique fabulosity and get it out there in the world.