Thursday, November 11, 2010

Can you sell yourself?

Whether we want to admit it or not, freelancers are salespeople. Our product is ourselves…our appearance, personality, professionalism, talent (whether in the form of performances, articles, books, consulting services, etc.) as perceived by others who have the power to hire us. Can you convince them you're the one to meet their needs and deliver quality work on time?

If they can get them, actors and writers can rely on agents and returning clients to provide work. For most of us that won’t be enough. Often freelancing/owning your own business means having to search for a new job every week. Many actors and authors I meet are reluctant to promote/market themselves, either because they don’t know how, don’t want to make the effort, are shy, fear rejection, or feel that doing so somehow cheapens them. Unlike many performers/writers, I have 16 years of corporate America sales, marketing and training experience to bring to the table.

First, we need access to potential clients…via a personal connection, referral, agent, cold call. This requires networking, research, appropriate follow up and often a bit of being in the right place at the right time. I've met many aspiring acotrs/authors who haven't even submitted to agents or clients. What are they waiting for?

Once we get in the door, we need to know how to close the deal. Acting abilities (and writing) in particular are very subjective products…and can even come down to hair color or height. I remember my gainfully employed days, when results weren’t guaranteed but at least more information was handed to me. I had a) some hard facts to prove my product's benefits b) less my two positions there were only a handful of viable competitors. Now there are dozens, hundreds or thousands. And c) a list of clients who 1) already had my product(s) so the challenge was to get them to buy/use more 2) were prospects. Actors/writers/freelancers need to figure all this out on their own. At least the Internet has made the process easier.

1) A friend referred me to a potential client; I submitted my information. Months later the friend’s contact left, and another was suggested. I followed up in a timely manner, but didn’t get work. Almost a year later, out of the blue a third person called to say he had my headshot/resume, had me interview, booked me on the spot and for other work since. Sometimes, even if your contact wants to hire you, someone higher up the ladder may not.
2) I researched and contacted some potential clients. One happened to need a female VO and has sent me a lot of work for several of her clients. Yet there are many times when even your best efforts don’t yield a sale/work.

So far for me, the key seems to be continue to put irons in the fire, hoping/believing a steady stream of work will follow, and that that will lead to additional work. To find the discipline and persistence to continue, not put all of my eggs in one basket, or rest on my laurels and wait for work to come to me.

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