24 January 2009
by Kate McClanaghan,
www.voiceoverinfo.com

It’s still early in the game yet. The year is young, and you want to pursue your acting career while maintaining your bread-and-butter day job.  Here’s
what I suggest: commit yourself this year to working part-time as a professional talent.

Part-time? What’s that, you may ask? How can that be the goal?

Well, frankly, if you consider part-time for any other line of work to be 18 - 20 hours a week, then it stands to reason pursuing work as an actor should
require you commit at least that to just getting started.  So, dedicating 18 - 20 hours a week to keeping your skills sharp as well as thoroughly
promoting yourself is the least you can do if you expect to land work.

Come to think of it, even if you’re not ‘just getting started’—an 18 - 20 hour commitment to maintaining your career is the bare minimum you should
expect to dedicate if you expect to work or advance your career even the least bit.  

Performance is considered a discipline, so you must continue to keep your skills agile. But performance is only one piece of the puzzle.
Let’s face it, being a working talent is a gradual, on-going process, you have to put the time in if you expect to be a professional. No one expects you
to drop whatever it is you’re doing and run away to join the circus. We want you to be realistic about this to succeed. But it doesn’t hurt to mention
starting any small business… and this is YOUR small business—requires you commit, at the very least, 20 hours a week initially, if you expect to get off
the ground at all.  

That may be a given in your world if your background is business. But it tends to be a foreign concept to most actor-types, which could account for the
notoriously poor statistics as to whether they succeed or not.

Considering the absolute bare minimum of effort necessary to establish the average start up is an average of 90 - 100 hours a week for the first 3 - 4
years of operation in order to be successful, you’d think this would be a given.  Additionally, most start-up companies require a minimum of $50,000 to
$200,000 in the first year in order to get any sort of return—never mind breaking even.

Ironically, few actors invest more than $10,000 a year into their ‘small business’, yet most expect a dramatic return without any real investment of time,
money or effort. You only get out what you put in and your performance is only a fraction of the equation.
That said, at the start of any new endeavor, it’s important to use your time wisely and set proper targets if you hope to accomplish anything.  

To begin make it your goal to spend at least an hour a day, 3 - 4 times a week doing a proper vocal warm-up to keep your articulation sharp. (You
need to communicate well.) Then spend another half hour to an hour a day, 4 - 5 times a week, working your cold-reading skills. (Read anything and
everything OUT LOUD. Do it with purpose and intention. Assume an emotional tone and be sure to look up ANYTHING you don’t fully understand.)

Enroll in classes that allow you a few hours a week of flexing your performance muscle with a group that supports and appreciates your point of view
and expression.  The aim here is to build your comfort zone and build your performance confidence so that you can express yourself freely. Equally
you should have the experience of one-on-one coaching each week that challenge your abilities, keep you focused and help you drill material you will
most likely confront at auditions.

Okay, once you’ve incorporated all of that into your weekly routine and schedule--you’re half way to fulfilling your part-time commitment to yourself.
Don’t stop there! Keep going! It only takes 2 weeks to create a habit out of anything.  This is true if you make a steady diet out of building your skills or
allowing them to lay dormant. So keep the ball in play!

Now you need to spend another 8 - 10 hours a week promoting yourself.  This may be a relatively new concept to you, but frankly if you expect to
make yourself known and accessible to the work at all you can not leave this point to ‘someone else’. That’s the greatest misnomer there is. But it’s far
easier than you might think.

Promotion is a two-fold process: first, you have to promote yourself through repeated mailings to the talent agents until you’re truly satisfied with the
talent agent’s who are repping you.  Secondly, you must continually promote yourself, through multiple and continual mailings to producers and casting
sources to make yourself known and current with them and to continually keep yourself available to those most likely to hire you.  (Out of sight, out of
mind.)

If you don’t have current or competitive headshots, voiceover demos and postcards to promote yourself with just yet, then the time you allot to
developing your promo can be considered part of those ‘part-time’ hours you’re dedicating to the initial prep of your start-up business.

You can’t work without proper headshots, if you intend to pursue on-camera work, and you can’t land voiceover work without a truly competitive
voiceover demo. Additionally you’ll need promotional postcards and proper web sites if you expect to be considered at all. (Yes, plural—TWO single
paged websites; one devoted to your on-camera pursuits and the other to voiceover, because we want to IMAGINE what you look like for voiceover,
actually seeing you can act as a distraction or even a contradiction, so keep these two separate!)
Put time into making your promo look smart, professional and clean. You’re creating a brand and that begins with a logo that speaks to who you are
and what you bring to the table professionally. How your promo is received (their look) is as important as your ability to perform because no one will
even notice or be drawn to you in the first place if the overall package isn’t appealing and draws them in.
Keep it simple. If you sing, dance, act, model, make pottery, juggle fire and do voiceover—that’s wonderful, but don’t attempt to give all these elements
of your abilities equal time on the very same web page. It’s overwhelming and ultimately confusing.  Focus your concentration on performance and
save your visual arts, for example, for a separate page dedicated to just that. (It’s not likely someone looking to cast you for a commercial needs to see
or know about your pottery pursuits.)  

It’s important you consider the audience you will be promoting these pages to. Are they looking to cast you for film and television? Then make it easy
for them to access your headshots/resume and  (simple) on-camera reel, if you have one. Don’t make them have to click more than twice to get to the
material they need to cast you. Overwhelm them and you will lose them and your efforts will have been for naught.

So, you have some work to do. Good! Get going!

Make it your aim to commit no less than 18 - 20 hours a week to continually sharpen your performance skills while developing and getting your
promotional materials out there. Keep in mind, it takes a continued effort on both of these fronts to create an effective impact. So keep these balls in
play.  You’ll see results if you do!

Besides far too many talented individuals fall between the cracks because they simply make themselves known once or twice a year, and that’s it—they
throw it at the wall to see what sticks and nothing comes of it-- because to truly make yourself known you MUST continually promote yourself until you
get a response. That means WEEKLY. Not once a year or every six months or even only just once a month. Nope. It must be on going. Period. You
must promote yourself until you are thrilled with those who are repping and you’re working steady. At that point, you will be working FULL TIME rather
than part time and then you’ll have other reasons to promote.

If you maintain a constant and steady diet of promotion I’m confident you will experience some real progress within a year or so and that’s a very rapid
return for ANY start-up business. On the other hand, if you don’t put in that kind of time, it will take you considerably longer, if at all, to make yourself
known and establish yourself as a working talent.

Striking a balance between promotion and keeping your skills sharp are the responsibilities of a talent at every level of your career. These two go hand
and hand and require your attention at every step.  So, be sure to do your job. It’s not impossible. Just… START!  

This business may seem rather random and subjective at first blush, but if you understand what is needed and wanted of you from the start—and you’
re committed to doing your job to the best of your abilities as I've laid it out here, then there's a better than average chance you’ll succeed.

Kate McClanaghan
SOUND ADVICE
323.464.0990
www.voiceoverinfo.com
Who do you know that is an artist?
Have them promoted here!  No charge!
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How to Pursue a Part-Time Acting Career
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