Marketing the Business of YOU By Alexandra Chambers

Job-interviewAs a performer, you run your own business and you employ people, generally more experienced in certain areas, to help you get work.  These people include agents, teachers (dance, singing, drama, voice), other members of our field, a headshot guy, maybe even someone to cut together a show reel for you.  All of these are people that can help you to get work and I have bundled up suggestions from all of them to help you get on your way, regardless of how far along the journey you may be at the moment.
I’m going to start with teachers because this is usually where the passion for the arts begins, a class that you went to as a kid.  Many performers started off going to a dance or drama class in primary school, maybe they were in a school or church choir but they found that it was more than a passing fancy.  Going to regular classes for dance, music or acting can do you the world of good, I’m coming from a Musical Theatre point of view at the moment and strengthening that skill that you’re not so hot on should be your first priority.  I can’t tell you how many workshops I have been to where the person running it says that you must invest in the skill you’re not so good at.  Make sure you attend regular dance classes, it doesn’t matter where, just as long as it is a class that you find a little bit too hard, not so hard that you want to cry, just hard enough that you have to push yourself.  Not only will you learn new skills and improve but you will get that wonderful thing called muscle memory so that when you walk into an audition and see a familiar step, you body will already know what to do.
Singing lessons, you may not have to have one of these each week but you need to have a singing teacher who will help whip you into shape for any sort of audition.  You need someone who can help you put together a repertoire of songs that you can sing on demand with minimal preparation and just as importantly someone who can tell you what NOT to sing at an audition, for example, have you ever been told not to sing a song from a musical that is currently playing in Australia? Why? I hear you ask, because everyone who is a singer and goes to that show will probably also love the song and go and sing it.  Your goal is to try and find a fantastic song that the panel hasn’t heard before (or at least hasn’t heard that day).  There are of course exceptions to every rule but unless you seem to have a compelling reason to sing that song, then pick another.
Developing your acting skills can be more complicated, there are many different places out there and many different styles.  My advice on this is to find something that works for you, do that, then find something that’s a little different to what you already know.  If you end up in a straight play then the acting in that could be very different to a musical, and again with television.  Try something new, challenge yourself and a little similar to the dance class, make sure it is a little hard for you so you are always learning something.
For many people reading this article, your goal is to be in the industry right?  Well here are a few things that you will need to help you get there, a Showreel and headshots, they are very important, because they will help you with you search for agents and jobs.  Now, you DO NOT have to pay top dollar for these things, an overdone glamour shot or montage can harm you just as much as a happy snap that your little brother took of you two days before the audition.  Then again if your brother is the next best thing in photography maybe that’s perfect; however, there are plenty of places out there that are perfect for performers that are just starting out and wanting some good quality shots to use.  Like anything else – do your research, go on the photographers’ website or even facebook page, look at the work they have already done, if you see an image of your friend, ask them how they found the experience, and see what kind of a deal you can get for what you need.  Don’t just go somewhere because it’s popular but make sure you know you want to go there and they will give you the best deal and, MAKE SURE THE PHOTO LOOKS LIKE YOU.  With your showreel, try and get footage from old shows you have done in the past, many schools record things that have happened. You are going to have to source your own material for it but again you can find someone to put it together for you if you don’t have the know how to do it yourself.  If you need more footage, grab a bunch of other theatre friends and put together a few scenes as well as you can, that way you can all use the footage for your showreel without it being a monologue filmed in your kitchen.
Now, once you are equipped with a repertoire, headshot(s), showreel, you need to find out what’s for you; Do you want to dive into the industry?  Do you want to study more? Have you written or designed something that you are itching to try out in public?  For this I recommend what I call ‘Lockdown Week’, this is where you spend a week doing nothing but working on where you want to be, of course you have to go to work or the other compulsory commitments you may have in your life but nothing else.  If you take yourself seriously as a performer you want others to do the same and for that you have to put yourself out there into the big wide world.  For that week you might trial some dance or acting classes you have been dying to try, trawl the internet for a troupe you could join or an audition you could go to (you’d be surprised), make a five year plan to decide what your next step is.  Use this time to construct your applications to schools or full time programs or to agents.  Make lists of who you would like to represent you or what courses you might like to do, finish that script you were writing or apply for that grant, or find a grant, scholarship or piece to act in.  Follow your heart.  For ideas on where to start looking, I have included a list of resources and links that you can explore.
Networks, something I have written about before, but this time I’m referring to the group of friends, peers and mentors that you have in the industry.  Everyone’s looks different but I’m talking about people who you share your experience and career with.  Use these people to help you out when you’re getting a little tight on cash but still need to perfect a technique, use these people to showcase what you have and make sure you trust and respect them so you actually take on board what they say.  With these people you can share your casting briefs and audition opportunities as well as laugh about your failings and collectively build your talents.  It is fantastic, for someone who is may not yet have an agent to have a friend who will pass on casting briefs, but make sure, even if you think they know about an audition, to tell them what you know of that is coming up because you will soon find that you stop getting given all of these wonderful briefs if you don’t reciprocate where you can.  The industry may be competitive but we’re all in the same boat wishing for a paying job, not to mention that many of your friends will be so different to you that you may not ever be going for the same roles as each other.
And finally a few words to inspire you (because inspiration is one thing that you need a constant supply of), use some of these things and find your own ways of inspiring yourself to work even when you don’t feel like it. “Success is planning plus opportunity plus determination” I nicked that one off Offspring, and three words that have begun to rule my life; Passion, Persistence, Preparation, use these and you’ll go far.
Resources and links
Looking into full time?  You’re already a few clicks away from a fantastic, comprehensive guide to help you decide if full time is for you, what you should study and even, where you should study it. DanceLife’s Online Guide to full time:
Also, keep checking out websites, just like this one who all have dedicated audition pages, with notices for auditions and even tips on how to audition well.
The MEAA (Media, Entertainment, Arts Alliance) website has some really handy information including a list of agents and some hints on getting yourself on their books: and head to resources.
For Musical Theatre performers, look at The Rob Guest Endowment, it’s too late for 2011 but have a look at what is happening this year so you can be well prepared for next year.
If you are a writer, performer or ANY FORM of emerging artist who is looking for a bit of cash to get them overseas, into a course, published or an exhibition, check out the Art Start Grant and other available government grants at: