With every job there are the fun things and the dull things; the things that you love to do and the things that just need doing.
And while I’m sure you’d all rather be talking to Sam Mendes about your character arc, treading the boards at the RSC or even filming a commercial or doing a panto, sadly life can’t always be so. There are other things you need to do.
There are some obvious things that you need do that I’m sure are in your radar like keeping fit, working to pay your rent, and even doing your tax return, but the one thing that is often not considered by actors is marketing. And just to be clear by marketing I don’t mean updating your Twitter feed about the lack of kale in your superfood salad or re-tweeting other actors bitching and moaning. I mean MARKETING!
Something that cannot be stressed enough is that you are a business and like any other business you need to promote yourself in a positive light. There are lots of great resources on the t’interwebs about marketing for freelance creatives, graphic designers and web developers, (and no doubt some about marketing for actors too) but I thought I would add my thoughts on this too.
So if I was in business and I had a product to market, the first thing I would do is sit down and write a plan for a marketing campaign and you’re no different.
I saw you do a double take didn’t I? You just thought I said you should write a marketing plan didn’t you? By the holy Saint Leo of Di Caprio. WTF!
No, your eyes didn’t deceive you. I did indeed just say you should write a Marketing Plan.
Even if you are not a confident writer please don’t skip this. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace it can be a paragraph and some bullet points, but you do need something to refer to on a DAILY basis as you push forward to achieve your goals. Please don’t just rush in. You need to spend a little time strategising and asking your self some key questions so you are not wasting your efforts on something that will not further your ends. Then write it down and keep referring back to it.
The first questions I would ask are:
- What is my product?
- Campaign Goals: What do I want to REALISTICALLY achieve in this campaign?
- When by?
- What marketing assets do I need for the campaign?
- What channels should I use to market ‘the product’?
1. What is My Product?
Obviously in your case the product is you.
2. Campaign Goals
In traditional business and product marketing there might be loads of reasons to embark on a marketing campaign: brand building, sales and education amongst others. And guess what? You are no different so you have to ask yourself what you want to achieve from your campaign – but please bear in mind this has to be REALISTIC!
Don’t give yourself an impossible target of being the lead in the next Wes Anderson movie or starring in a play on Broadway. This has to be ACHIVEABLE and within the time frame of your campaign. If not you will just set yourself up to fail and then beat yourself up and lose confidence
Some ideas for your campaign goal could include getting:
- An agent,
- Your first role,
- On Spotlight,
- A role in a film or a short
- Or making the transition from a supporting role to a leading role.
Only you know what this goal can be, but ideally it needs to be the NEXT step up in your career. Just to nag, and this bears repeating, don’t be too ambitious and make sure it is achieveable.
3. Campaign Length
How long should your ‘Campaign’ last? It needs to be short enough to keep you focused on achieving it, but long enough that it is possible to do so bearing in mind you have a life to lead and often another job to do. Again only you will know what this time is, but 3 months feels like a good time to me! J
4. Marketing Assets
Before you set off on your marketing campaign there are certain marketing ‘assets’ that I think are vital in this current climate if you are to succeed:
Make sure you invest time (and money if possible) in a professional looking site that shows you in your best light. If you can’t afford a professional web designer consider services like wix.com that offer really great templates that are easily customisable without being a programmer. And all for less than the cost of one Skinny Latte a month! Which ever route you go down make sure that the site is ‘responsive’ and scales smoothly to different screen sizes without breaking the design.
This is IMPERATIVE. Whatever else you do invest in some great headshots. Nothing more to say really.
Make sure that this us up to date and is laid out in a manner that is both clear and appealing to the eye. I do understand that if you’re at an early stage in your career getting a compelling CV can be difficult to achieve. But if you are at this stage, then the goal of your current marketing campaign becomes crystal clear. Get more work. Even if you have to work on student films do what it takes to get some experience.
Again very difficult earlier on in your career, so the same caveat applies as for the CV, but if you are starting to get more roles then get permission from the rights owner to include all your work in a show reel.
This can be on Vimeo, You Tube or a quicktime movie hosted on your website it doesn’t matter to me, but whatever please do your best on this it certainly makes a difference. Sometimes I will look at a show reel before I cast and sometimes even after the casting session. If you’re not quite right for the role you have read for then maybe I will be able to see something in your show reel for one of the other roles.
This isn’t a deal breaker and although some producers favour casting actors that have a social following to help promote the project I am not suggesting that this is the reason to participate in social media. IMHO when done right active instagram and twitter accounts become great shop fronts to promote your talent and I can understand a little bit more about the actor and suitability to the role. But BE AWARE that whatever you do post can come back to haunt you later, so think before you post
5. Marketing Channels
Now you have decided what your goal is and you have your assets you need to find out the best channels to further your gains. These can be online and offline. If this is to get your first role in an independent film then maybe you need to be networking with filmmakers and getting on their radar, if it is to get some traction with a casting director maybe you should attend some casting workshops.
Start to create a database of contacts who can help facilitate your goal: casting directors, filmmakers etc and deliver short, targeted emails with a call to action. Make sure you keep notes as to when and where you have contacted them. Bizarrely there are free CRM software packages used by professional sales companies to track sales calls and customer interactions that the more techy amongst you could even try and use to be really Ninja. If not a Google Sheets spreadsheet would work nicely.
Use all your marketing assets to help promote you, but be SPECIFICALLY focused on achieving the goals of your marketing plan.
Bear in mind that not all your activity should be online. Consider attend Film festivals, networking events and as I mentioned workshops
Hold Marketing Meetings
Another weird one. Just like a company you should hold a marketing meeting with yourself every Monday morning (or whenever) to track your progress and amend where necessary. Make yourself accountable to your boss – i.e. you!
Personally although I would use something like Google Docs to keep track of who I have contacted and when, here is an important tip.
PRINT OUT your Marketing Plan and stick it on your fridge or somewhere where you can’t fail to see it to keep you focussed on achieving it.
The End Goal
Hopefully when you have succeeded in this current marketing campaign and achieved your goal then you pick another goal up your ladder of success and then create another marketing campaign and rinse and repeat ad infinitum.
By being focused and methodical you can progress your career one step at a time, then soon you’ll be able to spend more time talking with Sam about character motivation and polishing your performance for the RSC.
And when you finally get to do your performance of Malvolio you can then say “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have… a marketing plan.”
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