Your “Never Ending” To Do List

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“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they are great and noble.”   Helen Keller

I love this quote and I love who it came from.  One of my FAVORITE things to do is cross things off my to do list.  And I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who sometimes can get completely STOPPED because of the feeling of overwhelm.

In my last post I talked about the Time Trap and the desire of most actors to get what they want, like yesterday!  But if you’re anything like me, things are added daily to my never ending list that can often make my goals and dreams seem very far off indeed.  It’s an illusion of course and I’ve since gained a new perspective.

My perspective shifted greatly once I noticed a recurring theme with many of my coaching clients, that though progress is being made, it’s often overwhelming taking on new things and deciding what to do with what seems an expanding “to do” list.  Where to start, what to leave out, what’s a priority…how to fit it all in?

So I’ve got a really cool strategy for you that will make a HUGE difference, especially if you are one of the folks that have not been able to keep up with the “building” over time of performing multiple tasks.  This strategy will bring you focus and clarity on what to do, and more importantly what not to do.

Make a “to do” list.  EVERYTHING you have to do both personal and professional.  Things like: Make an appointment for the dentist; clean the bathroom; call 3 photographers, make appointments, choose one; wash the dog/car/clothes; write 5 postcards, travel to Australia, buy a Birthday card for Tom.  Call Joan about dinner on Tuesday.  Go on Actors Access and submit for some great auditions.  Pay bills.  Sign up for The Golden Circle (ha!, had to slip that one in!)

Everything goes on the list.  This will probably take at least 15 to 30 minutes or longer.  Then when you’ve emptied your brain of all that you have to do, more things will come up if you stay in silence and let them come.  Then write those things down too!

Next, divide this one huge list into 3 smaller lists:  The things you are never doing (at least right now), the things you are not doing (at least right now…this time frame being not within the next 4 to 6 weeks) and the things you are doing now.

The never doing now list contains items that if they never, ever got done, will not affect your life and goals in an adverse way…yet you may someday still want to do them.  For example, travel to Australia or re-paint the bathroom.

The not doing now list contains things that are definitely needed and wanted to accomplish, but again, won’t adversely affect you life or goals if they don’t happen outside of 4-6 weeks from now.

That leaves the “to do” list…things that if not attended to within the next month to 6 weeks, will adversely affect your life and goals.  These items should then be scheduled…actually pick a time and date and put them into your calendar.

So the things you’re doing now get put into your schedule, to be moved around if need be due to auditions, other opportunities, etc. but then get rescheduled, got it?

Once they are in your calendar/schedule you will have a clearer picture of accomplishing the things that are directly related to what you say you want.  For some this will be a huge accomplishment and breakthrough, for others, a review.  Either way, do it please!

“What you resist persists” – Anonymous

By the way, if you don’t use a calendar or schedule of some kind to keep track…GET ONE.  Honestly, you’re life will become much more manageable when you keep track of your appointments (especially the ones you make with yourself!)  Get started today.  It’s not too late, in fact, we have an opportunity to start newly every day

Enjoy marking those things off the list!  Ahhhhh, feels GOOD!

As usual, I’d love your comments or perhaps you have some tips about time you could share with the community.  Write them below now…don’t put this “to do” on your list!

The Hype over #Hashtags

hashtagOK, so I’ll admit it.  I’m NOT the most tech savvy person on the planet and sometimes even wear that fact as a badge of honor!  But being in the business I am, heck being in any business, and yes, even the business of show requires that a person has some basic working knowledge of current social media trends.

I just started to check out this HASHTAG phenomenon that seems to have crept up in the last year and thought I’d pass on some of what I came up with during my research.

Originally the ‘pound symbols’ that were used to catalog content on Twitter, these puppies are popping up on all of the social platforms today – Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and most recently Facebook. You have to pay attention or be left in the dust.

The purpose? They’re an effective way to discover and organize specific content, and an easy way for social media users to find posts that are relevant to them. For example, I started to use the # before my networking parties and put it together with the acronym for my company as in “The #AOTB Industry Networking Mixer”.  I put it on all of my social media sites and even in emails.  Why? So that other people out there can find out about all things “Act Outside the Box” by searching for that #AOTB.  Of course you have to know about it and see it before its use is effective.

We also know they’re easily abused and can be pretty meaningless, too.  Have you seen strings of fairly nonsensical phrases with the # in front of them that no one would ever search for?  #whythehellwouldyoudothat?  I mean, really, who is searching for that? How do you rise above the noise online and help your audience or target market find and engage with your show, latest update or other event?

Here are our four tips:

KISS (Keep it Sweet and Simple): Is your show called The Greatest Story Ever Told? Then make your hashtag #greateststory or something equally simple. Make it easier on your viewers and use a hashtag that’s similar to the name of your event.  A bad example 2hashtagwould be #Mikesshow.  If it’s super long, sometimes an acronym is best.  #AOTB or #actoutsidethebox?  Either one could work but it’s up to you to choose (brand).

Don’t Go Overboard: Quality, not quantity, folks! Limit yourself to using one or two hashtags when promoting your stuff. If you tag tons of terms, you might come off as a bit spammy or overwhelming and it’s easier for your message to get lost in the #ebb #and #flow #of #a #sea #of #hashtags.

Do Your Research: Think you’ve found the perfect hashtag for your next event, show or idea? Type it into Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. and see if anyone else is using it. If you’re using the same hashtag as another person or group, it could confuse your intended audience.  If it’s already there and associated with something entirely different, rethink your strategy.

Be Smart: Consider the platform you’re using. Is it Twitter? Then you have limited real estate. Be mindful of the number of characters in your hashtag. Keeping your hashtag under 10 characters leaves plenty of room for the rest of your thoughts.

In the end, this girl will always prefer s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g things out.  I don’t even like to use LOL and instead Laughing Out Loud…but I’m old school.  However in business I often subvert my preferences for what works.  And just like reality television, these hashtags aren’t going away. (Just for the sake of transparency, I was really wrong on that one when I thought Reality was just a passing fancy all those years ago.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking!)

Getting in the groove and using hashtags effectively will improve the chances of you clearing through the clutter.  And there’s ton of clutter (some like to call it content) out there!  To your #success, Lisa Gold

In Defense of Your Agent

Conventional wisdom suggests that you need an agent and/or manager to make your acting dreams come true. They sign you, introduce you to casting directors who introduce you to the decision-makers and the result is champagne and red carpets. Well, conventional wisdom is all kinds of wrong. Agents are human beings with human limitations who require some understanding. Whether you’re looking for an agent and manger, or looking to better manage the ones you have, here are five things to know about your representative:

1. Your agent (and from here on we also mean manger) is in business. So, you’re an artist who’s in it for the art. Fine. But Bill Shakespeare and every other artist before and since has had to balance art with finance. Each informs the other and each is necessary. Your agent is no different. Vilifying her because she’s trying to make money and put her kids through private school gets you nowhere. It doesn’t make you more of an artist or get you closer to working with great artists. You need to accept the fact that your agent is trying to make money. And if you’re not a commodity she can sell, it’s not personal; It’s business. Your job is to make yourself easy to sell; to be the actor who has the undeniable force of a flourishing artist. Once that happens you will become that “got-to-have” commodity.

2. Your agent is not here to save you. Actors can suffer from Knight-In-Shining-Armor Syndrome. The notion is it that it’s the agent’s job to dust you off, polish you to a brilliant shine, and escort you to the promise land. The belieA Knight In Shining Armorf is that the agent does all the work. Inherent in this thinking is that there’s someone or something outside of yourself that has the power to make all your dreams come true with little effort or output from you, and once you find that person, you’ll be rich and famous. This is insanity. These days getting an agent doesn’t mean you’ll ever have an audition and it certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t have to do most of the work in the relationship. Spending one minute of your time waiting for your agent to call is time wasted. You have to be in classes, write/shoot/produce/direct your own material, put up a play and put yourself out there. These days you have to work harder than your agent. Training in class consistently, creating your own material constantly, and doing whatever you can to engage with other artists constantly is essential to your craft and your career. You have to give your agent the tools to sell you. Relying upon anyone other than yourself is career suicide. Giving up your artistic and professional responsibility to an agent is a grave error that too many actors make. Do the work and make your agent catch up with you.

3. Your ageAri-Gold-ari-gold-1848533-300-400nt is cheating on you and that’s OK. Yes, your agent has other clients. Deal with it. Your agent would go hungry if he only had you as a client. He has to widen the swath in order to give himself the best shot at making a living. Moreover, part of the charm for him is that he has a dynamic group of unique actors with unique needs and talents who allow him to explore different parts of the industry. So when your phone call isn’t returned right away, know that there are 20 other actors who are also demanding feedback. Checking your phone every 10 minutes is like waiting for the guy you went on a date with last week to call. It never pans out. Rather than stew about it, talk yourself into a paranoid delusion and wallow in the slimy ooze of desperation, go write a scene and shoot it. Go to class. Address your artistry.

4. Your agent doesn’t speak your language. Chances are your agent isn’t in a weekly acting class. No, she spends her evenings trolling the computer till midnight, hounding casting directors, trying to get you in the room. While many agents have great instincts about actors, they may not speak a language that suggests that they understand your process. So, don’t expect them to. When they offer a note about performance that might seem insensitive, don’t take it personally. Translate it into language that helps you grow as an artist. And if it’s not helpful, chalk it up to a subjective opinion. Also keep in mind that agents spend 10 hours a day on the phone trying to turn a “no” into a “yes”. They’re doing and saying anything they can to get you in the room. When you call to talk to them in the middle of all that, don’t expect them be able to pull down the walls and relate to you like the vulnerable artist that you are.

5. Your agent has feelings too. Remember how crushed you were when you tested for that pilot, were the Network’s first choice, but lost the part to that name actor at the last minute? So crushed. Well your agent was crushed, too. And that was the fourth time that same thing happened to one of his clients that pilot season. He talked each of his other clients off the ledge, just like he did for you, while at the same time closing deals for his clients who did book pilots, and selling his development level clients to Studios who were inundated with pitches. He’s holding it together, but he’s ready to crack. Cut him some slack and know that he’s probably doing his best.

Your agent is a person. She has emotional and financial needs that inform how she conducts herself. She believes in you but she’s not responsible for your happiness or your success. Her greatest thrill is when you book a job. Her greatest disappointment is when you don’t. But believing that she lives to make your dreams come true shirks your responsibility to work tirelessly on your craft and, what’s worse, gives up your power. Choose to believe that it’s all got to come from you – the work, the marketing, the mindset. It’s when you stop chasing your agent (any agent) and take control of your work and your career, that the agent starts chasing you.

***OK, so I WISH had written this post myself, but I did not…although everything here is EXACTLY what I would say to you if I had.  Acknowledgement goes out to a West Coast actor, coach and business consultant Steve Braun and I repeat it here for you because its important that you GET this!  Check out Steve’s site and subscribe to his blog and also give me your thoughts and comments about “art vs. business” and agents and how you operate around them.  Would love to hear from you!  Lisa

7 Ways to Make Cover Note Writing More Fun and Easy

As much as we want the reader of our cover note/letter to “get us” and call us in for an audition or possible representation, for many actors writing the cover note/letter is a chore.  Here’s 7 ways to put some joy into your fingertips.

1. Take a few minutes to write about what’s on your mind first. When you sit down to write, clear away anything that’s floating around in your head by writing about it. Is your acting class a drag, your next door neighbor cute, your mailman creepy, your coffee delicious? Not only does writing about these things help get them out of your head, but you easily and naturally get into the flow of writing.

2. Write from a picture that inspires you. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Take any picture that relates to your goals and dreams and use it as your inspiration. Meryl Streep your favorite actress?  A beautiful house on the beach where you’d like to be?  Someone walking the red carpet? What about the picture of the actual industry professionals are writing to?  Google images is a wonderful resource…find them, then either print them out or have them on your computer screen as you begin your note/letter.

3. Use a writing prompt. In grade school, teachers used written exercises to get students writing. You can easily create a prompt by imagining you’re in the office of the person you are writing to and that they are asking about YOU and what you offer.  Then write your answers as you would speak them out loud. One of my favorites is, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” You could also respond to the prompt of “Who else in the industry knows your work?” Just respond to the prompt, and see what comes of it. Like using a picture, this technique opens another door in your mind that allows you to think differently, and perhaps see options that weren’t there before to include in your note.

4. Just get it out. Remember that the first draft of anything written is NOT going to be perfect, so have fun with it! There’s no reason to struggle over your exact phrasing or sequence when you’re just going to go back over it and edit anyway. Stop critiquing your work so much, focus on getting the idea out, and play with the words

5. Try emulating an actor you admire. Think about why you like his/her work and then model what they might say in a note.  Does he/she write and speak beautifully?  Does he/she entertain when being interviewed on Letterman? Many actors have authored books and articles and post on the internet and have a great way with words.  By pinpointing the things that you like you are able to bring these elements into your own writing.

6. Write out your plan first. It’s easier to outline what you’re going to write about rather than the actual writing of it.  Are you going to write a quick note with bullet points of recent projects?  Are you introducing yourself with a letter that includes reviews and bio information?  How much is too much and how much is not enough? By planning first, you get more excited about the task, spurring the birth of more ideas. It also helps if you remember WHY you’re writing in the first place.  What’s the ultimate outcome you want to produce?  What exact ACTion on the reader’s part do you want them to take?

7. Reward yourself. This is a huge one! After writing out your plan, decide when and how to reward yourself. For example, after writing 6 cover notes/letters you can go out and get yourself a treat (whatever it is that makes you happy). Not only does this serve as inspiration to get those notes finished, but by rewarding your own successes you are establishing an invaluable system that can only generate more success!

Take these tips and try them out for yourself. See which ones work for you, and toss out the ones that don’t. And remember, when you’re frustrated or things aren’t flowing, let yourself laugh, and breathe.

I’d love to hear from some of you any tip, tricks, or techniques that you use to accomplish the “task” of cover note/letter writing.  Please share them with the rest of our community by posting a comment!  To your success, Lisa

Why Social Media is Nothing Without Creativity

As an actor (or just a “regular” person), gone are the days when you had 500 friends on Facebook and 75 of them clicked a link you posted or made a comment.  Now, you’d be lucky to get five.  Huuummmm…

The landscape of social media has drastically changed in the past three years.  Actor websites that began as powerful platforms to spread information about your latest acting credit, show, or “what’s happening” in your career has turned into the “norm” and congested with too much information that not everyone is interested in. There’s your family (always interested), real-life friends (sometimes interested), industry professionals you WANT to see what’s going on (maybe interested) and your audience, if you have one yet, (perhaps interested if they know you exist).

And now even social media has transformed from an efficient and inexpensive way to use the power of word of mouth, to a virtual mess of a garage sale.  How to sort through it all and TARGET market?

I still think social media is awesome.  Just take it slow and step by step.  AND FOCUS!

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are completely free services that you can sign up for and use to create a community of passionate fans and eyes on EXACTLY what you are doing when you’re doing it.  But what people — actors, especially — need to do when using social media is to ACT outside the box, and create content that’s worthy of sharing.

Consider how other “regular” businesses used to their names in front of audiences before the internet, before TV, before radio — it was PURE word-of-mouth interaction, a.k.a. real people talking.

How can you do this too?  Combine your word-of-mouth marketing  with social media. Ever go to a live networking event like “Showbiz Thursdays” (formerly First Thursdays) and then let your social media friends and network know about it?  It’s the ability to let hundreds of people at a one time know what you’re up to.

Have you seen an amazing B’way show lately?  How about the latest big movie that everyone ELSE is talking about?  What did you like about it, or not?  If it’s “trending”, it usually makes it something worth talking about. And getting people talking is of course the name of the game.  Forget about what you ate for breakfast, posting pics of random cute animals and giving your opinion on politics or religion…yeah, two areas that are NOT related directly to the services you provide as an actor. (OK, that’s just MY opinion!)  Really, just STOP that!

Real people talking about you in person AND in the social media universe, getting those “eyes” on you is the intended outcome.  Not THAT’s a marketing strategy.

The unique thing about our community is that we are passionate about the arts, entertainment and about sharing. Creating this kind of presence where people pay attention doesn’t happen over night either.  Building trust and a highly-engaged community can take years.  Remember, slow and steady wins this race.

Sit back for a moment and take a look at your career. How can you create a conversation about what you uniquely offer that blends an offline live experience with an online one?  How can you encourage your community  to spread your message for you and have fun while doing it?  Think about the power of combining word-of-mouth communication and also getting new followers or “likes”.  Think about offering something of yourself that other people will want to participate in again and again.

I wish you all the very best this life has to offer, online and off!  To your success, Lisa

Are You Committed? Hesitation is a Career Killer.

I first read this quote on “Commitment” when it was given to me in a seminar over 30 years ago!  It got my attention and has been something I live from every day…when I’m faced with even the smallest choice or decision.

In our acting community, I find indecision one of the reasons we don’t have what we say we want in our careers.  Why “choose” when it seems better to leave so many options open?

  • Indecision brings delays – and you want it FAST, don’t you?
  • Regrets usually come from what you DIDN’T do, not what you did do.
  • When you are busy deciding, someone else already did, and now has an opportunity that you do not.

Much of what is taught at Act Outside the Box is around taking action and choosing.  I see a lot of actors doing just the opposite, thinking that if they leave the doors open, someone will invite them through and show them the proper or best pathway.  It really just doesn’t work that way.

Read this quote by Goethe and see if it resonates with you like it did with me.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

I invite you to take action and make a commitment to yourself and your career RIGHT NOW in any area that you’ve been thinking…”hhhuuuumm, someday I’ll do that”.  Be BOLD (says GOLD!)

7 Common Actor Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

What practices are surefire ways to ruin opportunities? Read this so you can avoid them at all costs.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this or some variation of it: “I tried doing X. It doesn’t work.” While it may be true that one approach may not work for a particular person or situation, it’s been my experience that the ACTion is less often to blame than the implementation of it. In fact, many actors make mistake after mistake based on their limited knowledge (hey, they don’t really teach this stuff in acting school) about how marketing really works. Always consider we are in a “supply side” market place…many, many, many more actors than are ever possibly needed at any one time.

Here’s a quick review of 7 of the most common ones and how to avoid making them.

1. Aiming at everyone. No one can be all things to all people; if you try, you’ll end up being nothing to no one.  Actors paint themselves into a corner because of a misplaced fear that by narrowing their focus or targeting less people, instead of carefully selecting who they market to, that they’ll be missing opportunities. But aiming at everyone is an oxymoron; the best “traditional” marketers understand that by narrowing their target audience they can increase the intensity of their brand’s appeal, creating interest more quickly. You’re better off being the first choice of 10 percent of the “other side of the casting table” than being one of 10 options for everyone.

2. Betting on rationality. This mistake is terribly dangerous. Choosing actors to cast in to projects or represent is often a left-brain effort, where rational thinking doesn’t often take place (hey, you’re talented…isn’t that enough? Nope.)  Most folks in this business often choose based on other things like emotion and that influences decisions that sometime baffle us.  Don’t try to figure this one out and don’t try to convince industry why they should work with you; connect with them instead. They’re depending on their gut more than you realize.

3. Advertising your aspirations. We all aspire to make a film that’s No. 1 at the box office, win a Tony, make a great deal of money, and become a household name. I’m not saying not to HAVE the aspirations, but outside of your business planning and support system, advertising your aspirations only invites people to continue to wonder when you will achieve them, making you sometimes doubt yourself.  Very few actors fully achieve any of these, let alone all of them. Aspirations are, by definition, promises that can’t be fully kept. Don’t announce them, just try to live by them—use them within the “mental game” of your business and rally your troops. But outside of your inner circle, don’t put them on external loudspeaker.

4.  Seeking approval by committee. If you can’t agree with your family on what type of pie to serve at Thanksgiving, how can you expect a roomful of “creatives” (cd’s, et al) to agree on something as subjective talent? Everyone’s taste is unique, and the fewer people involved in the creative approval chain, the better. If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up with a gooey mess that nobody wants to eat. The best committee is a committee of one. You!  Make choices, stick to your guns and remember, if you only try to please yourself, at least one person is always happy.

6.  Starving the budget. An anemic marketing budget may save bucks but it will cost you business and gigs in the long run. If you don’t have a healthy cash flow, with a reasonable percentage allocated to marketing, you’re not a real business and will be OUT of business sooner rather than later.  Notice I said a marketing budget, not money for more acting classes.  Yes, you have to invest in keeping the skill set competitive, but if you’re not marketing regularly and have the financial resources to do so on-goingly, you’re SOL (pardon my abbreviation). Find the best way to save and then spend the money. Also, keep in mind that sometimes investing in your own education to learn about how best to market is included in this (hint, hint).

7.  Anticipating industry will act very quickly. When was the last time you leapt out of your seat to do exactly as an ad instructed? Marketing doesn’t work that way, and as consumers we all understand that. Yet when you mail out our headshots, do a show, meet an industry guest at a seminar/class/workshop, we somehow expect to see immediate results. It takes time to seed a message, and credibility grows through consistency. Plan your efforts well, and stick with them. As obvious as it sounds, every time you start over, you’re starting over.  Consistency is KEY.

8.  Chickening out. Plans are terrific, but plans are just words on paper. Even though I’m a GREAT supporter of having a business plan, it’s amazing how much time and money actors spend on getting their acts together.  Often when it comes to “pulling the trigger” on a plan of action, many succumb to stage fright when it’s time for the curtain to rise. It’s easy to come up with reasons NOT to do something, surrendering to fear of the unknown. But just as writers aren’t writers unless they write and actors aren’t actors unless the act, marketers aren’t marketers unless they market. Not everything you do will work, but with each mistake you’ll be learning and growing. The key here is to ACT OUTSIDE THE BOX.

There you go. 7 tips that can save you time, money, and a lot of frustration as you learn from the mistakes of others, including me. Now you’re free to make new mistakes of your own (when you do, I’d love to hear about them).

To Your Success, Lisa Gold

5 Tips to take the Risk OUT of Marketing

Marketing IS risky.  Why?  It might not work.  That alone is what has most actors not market themselves at all.  Oh well, sure…you read Back Stage, go online and look for things to submit for, send some headshots out every once in a while to build your contacts…is that really marketing?  It is, but BARELY.

To really clear through the clutter, you have to be BOLD, courageous and sometimes outrageous.  You have to THINK like they think, not like you think.  And after you figure out what, how, and who to market too, you actually have to take ACTion and DO it.

So here are my 5 Tips to take the risk OUT of marketing…FOREVER! Read more

Post Card Set-Up – What you NEED to know that the USPS won’t tell you!

When I’m asked what I recommend actors use as their best and most effective marketing follow up tool, the postcard is the simple answer. And yet still the majority of actors don’t use them! Why? Did you HEAR they’re not effective, read, or looked at with any real “notice” given? Sure, anything anyone says that takes the WORK out of what you have to do will be easier than doing it, so HEAR this now:

YOU MUST POSTCARD, often, all of your contacts, to create on-going relationships. How often? Read more

Box Office Friday

 

The MechanicOK folks, this isn’t the biggest weekend for movies, but hey, The Mechanic is finally here!  I’ve been hearing about this movie and it’s stars for the past few months but wasn’t really EAGERLY awaiting it’s release.  Why not?  I’ll explain.

Its got amazing star power (Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn), a neat plot line (an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets with detachment gets personal when his close friend is murdered) and has had some wonderful marketing and now is opening with wide distribution.  So how come I’m not going to see it? Read more