Photo Source: Flickr’s Andrea Schwalm
Guest Post By Dana Sitar
One difficulty in making your art your business is that often there are no clear-cut rules for how to act in that business. Norms kind of get thrown out the window when your greatest strength is your ability to be different. But that doesn’t mean that you no longer have to act like a professional — you just have to figure out exactly what that means in your profession.
You don’t have to get stuffy and formal all of a sudden. Don’t hide your tattoos and trim your beard. If you’re a comedian, you can still be funny. If you’re a writer, you can still be poetic. But, there are a few things you can keep in mind to ensure that you’re taken seriously in your industry, and that you continue to be someone people want to work with.
Learn how to correspond professionally. This doesn’t just mean full sentences and proper capitalization in emails — though ugly emails are a huge annoyance for a lot of people. It also means knowing how to introduce yourself to a major player in your industry, greeting and ending a phone call smoothly, providing clear information in a voicemail, including useful contact information on your business card or your website, knowing how to make a form letter personal to each recipient.
Even if you wear jeans every day and work from home, you still have to capitalize on your chances to network.
Don’t do favors. When your friends find out that you’re a writer, they will come crawling out of the woodwork with projects they want you to “take a look at.” This can either offer you great experience and fill out your portfolio, or it can be a huge time suck. If you’re working full time in your given art, you have to learn how to distinguish these, or you could wind up spending a lot of time and energy on pet projects that aren’t going anywhere instead of taking on new projects that could boost your own career.
Furthermore, don’t let a bad writer guest post on your blog or a lousy actor perform in your show just because you’re friends. It’s nice to do what you can for someone, but you can’t let the quality of your work be dragged down just to be nice.
Treat every job like it matters. Even if you are working for free or you are working for a friend, do your best work every time. Internships and unpaid work are a great way to get started doing what you love. They offer you a chance to practice and gain experience, and if you do well, they can provide you with a strong history and a plethora of references to get future work.
Don’t ever treat a gig like it’s below you — you wouldn’t be doing it if it were.
What tips can you offer to artists for acting professional?
Dana Sitar is a freelance journalist and author of the ongoing memoir series This Artists’ Life. Her latest release, The Hart Compound, follows the writer to her journalistic roots as Senior Campaign Writer to a Mayoral campaign headed by two Madison, Wisconsin comedians. Dana shares writing tips and anecdotes at her blog by.dana.sitar. She is @danasitar on Twitter.