I was at my local farmer’s market last week, just browsing around. Ok, I’ll be honest, I was hunting for samples – get off my back!
I passed several fruit vendors with baskets of strawberries without paying much attention. But one of them, toward the end, was offering free samples. Score!
As I reached for a berry, the vendor gave me the deets: “These strawberries are locally grown, organic, and picked fresh this morning.” But the best part was, they tasted great! Nom nom! SPOILER ALERT: I bought ’em!
So what does my scavenging for freebies have anything to do with you and your business? Well, let’s pretend you’re selling those strawberries.
When you’re first starting out, you’ve got talent and training but not much else. To get the business started, you’re willing to work for cheap or free – on smaller productions like student films. Your business might look a lot like this strawberry stand.
The strawberries look good, and the price is right. You may even get a few sales. But you’re not fighting off customers with a stick! And that’s ok! You’re going to build your business, piece by piece, over time. So here are some goals for you to upgrade your biz.
OFFER A FREE SAMPLE
Maybe you put the next three months of your effort into shooting new footage for your demo reel. It’s a lot of work – but it’s like a free sample!
PUT UP A SIGN
• You could get your stuff up on a website and link it to all your social media profiles.
• Or join a reputable showcase known frequented by industry gatekeepers.
• Perhaps you perform regularly at one of the comedy or improv clubs.
• And maybe you spend the time and money it takes to be sure your next set of headshots is right on brand for you!
It will take time and money. But I promise if you do the work, your stand will look a little more like this…
Ooh, look, you even get to charge a little more. Because now you’re picking projects based on scripts you’re interested in and artists you want to work with. Not because you’re desperately seeking footage!
Now that you’ve seen a little uptick in your sales, you can start doing the hard work of finding an investor – an agent or manager. Someone willing to put in the time and effort it takes to make you stand out to the buyers. And to do it at a huge risk to them (since they don’t get paid until you do!)
WORK ON YOUR PITCH
You gotta make your little strawberry stand look like a great investment to the industry.
Why should they invest in your stand and not someone else’s?
What’s so special about what you’re selling?
How can you ensure the product continues to improve?
Start answering these questions for yourself so you’ll have answers when you need them– like in an agency meeting. Nobody can answer these questions but you, but everyone is interested in your answer.
For a jumpstart on pitching yourself, check out this post and our Actor Logline Worksheet.
And when you find an investor, they’ll hopefully work some magic and your business will grow. But it still takes quite a while to get it looking something like this…
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
It’s easy to underestimate how long the middle stage is. HINT: It’s looooong. Some lucky few get to jump the line, but that’s all it is… luck. Hopefully, you’re lucky. But until your lottery numbers come up, keep doing great business and building your brand piece by piece, with confidence.
UNDERSTANDING THE BUYERS
So, which one of these stands would you buy from? Maybe you…
• Pick #3 because it’s the best.
• Pick #1 because you don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on “extras” like strawberries.
• Pick #3 because you’re so rich… “Who Cares!”
• Pick #2 because you like quality, but don’t have cash to blow.
Your current situation and values influence where you shop. And what I find the most valuable here is that “Stand #2” is where the majority of us actors are. Yet, it’s not necessarily where the majority of our customers are shopping. The market is saturated with #2’s and the metrics are skewed.
HERE’S THE GREAT NEWS!
That means that when you start to make progress, work might slow down. You’re no longer on either extreme of the spectrum. It’s like an inverse bell curve!
You’re not swarmed with offers from the big boys, but you’re not working for peanuts either. So hear this: You can’t let the dip in work make you believe you’re failing! It’s just business, baby!
You can’t let the dip in work make you believe you’re failing! It’s just business, baby!
BRINGING IT BACK TO CASTING
When I cast my sitcom pilot, REINVENTING CASSIE, I could only afford to pay actors $100/day. Which meant, I couldn’t get any huge “stars” on my project. Fortunately for me, I found some insanely talented people who were willing to work for pennies. I had to shop at the 1st stand, but lucky for me, their berries were great!
Someone like Shonda Rhimes, however, has a much bigger budget at her disposal. She’s gonna send her assistant to that 3rd stand and even tip the vendor! It’s not personal, she has a different perspective.
MIND YOUR BUSINESS, NOT THEIRS
It can be a bummer to wait and wait for the big guys to stop by your stand. So try not to worry about them. Focus on the customers you can get and keep them satisfied – they will help you build an empire in the long run.