The world of theatrical actors is a lot like the world of a job hunter. You have casting calls (job openings), auditions (interviews), you play your part (do your job), and then the show closes (you get laid off), and it starts all over again.
But as much as we’ve talked about personal branding and job seeking in these pages, we’ve never talked about how actors can use some of the same techniques to find their own roles. Here are five basic tactics newer actors can try to build their reputation, and make it easier to find their next role.
1. Start a Blog
I could tell you all sorts of things about sharing your knowledge, and demonstrating your expertise and your skills, having a central location for all your work history and information, and yada yada yada (it actually is important). But the biggest reason to blog is because you want to be found during Google searches.
Blogging will boost your search engine efforts and make it easier for directors and producers to find you. Plus, if you talk about parts you’ve played, theaters you’ve played in, and shows you’ve been in or want to be in, your name will be associated with those shows, parts, and theaters, thanks to co-citation. In other words, talk about your part in Equus at the Indianapolis Fringe Festival, and if someone searches for those two things, your name could pop up.
2. Create a YouTube Channel
Not only do you get a demo reel with a YouTube channel, but YouTube greatly boosts your search engine juice. If you want to win Google searches, don’t spend a lot of your energy optimizing for Google. Try to win YouTube searches instead. Since Google owns YouTube, and they put the top-ranked YouTube videos on Google search pages, your video could easily show up in a search for “Desdemona actress Portland” or whatever a director may be looking for.
3. Get Your Own Name as Your Web Address
Pick a domain name registrar — some people like GoDaddy because it’s cheap, some people hate them because of their business practices — and buy your name as a domain name. Either buy it for many years, or be sure to renew it year after year. For one thing, if you become famous, you want to own it now before it gets squatted. For another, it will tell people how to easily find you. Be sure to use your stage name, not your real name, and put it on your headshots, résumés, and business cards.
3a. Get Business Cards. Headshot on the back, contact info on the front.
4. Get Comfortable With Google
If you use Facebook, you understand how to use Google+. But the biggest reason to use it is not to interact with your fellow theater people (although that certainly helps). The biggest reason is because Google assumes that if you’re connected to people on Google+, and they search for something you’ve shared, written about, or have videos and photos for, that stuff should show it in your connection’s search results. For example, if we’re connected on Google+, and you do a Google search for “Twelfth Night Indianapolis,” Google may show you a recent review I wrote for the show. But if we’re not connected, you won’t see it at all.
5. Network in Person
Job hunting is about relationships. The same is true for the acting world. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where people want to work with you because they know you and like you. And the best way to get to know and like people is to spend time with them outside the theater. Oh sure, you need to be good, be professional, and not be a pain in the ass. But, just like everywhere else in the working world, people want to work with people they like. And if directors can get to know and like you in the off-season and during the times when you’re not working together, yours could be the first name that pops into their head when they’re thinking about casting ideas for their next play.
Some artists I speak to — writers, visual artists, and performers — don’t like all this marketing. They think it’s beneath them, that their art should speak for itself, and they should be judged on their own merit.
You only have to watch a few episodes of American Idol or listen to Top 40 radio to see how well that works.
It would be awesome if we could live in a world where people are truly judged and rewarded based on the quality of work they do. But that’s not the world we live in. The world we live in runs on relationships and self-promotion. So, you need to do this for a while, until you can get rich and famous and get someone to do it for you.
Until then, fire up your laptop, warm up your fingers, and get to work.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing.