A sought-after industry expert, speaker, and business coach for actors, Kari Nissena has coached thousands of actors on marketing, IMDb, press, how to improve their online presence, and much more.
Here, Kari outlines 10 actions to grow your acting career, such as creating target lists, producing vision boards and maintaining a map of relationships within the entertainment industry.
Whilst the following list is written with the acting community in mind, there is so much great advice for anyone looking to progress within the entertainment industry!
1. Do something out of your comfort zone every day!
An acting career comes with many challenges so it’s important to build up your mental strength and confidence.
There is a well-known saying: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
An example of this might be that if all an actor has ever concentrated on in their career is acting classes, headshots, and agents, yet they want to star in their own TV show, then they will likely have to branch out and start focusing more on their press, marketing, and industry connections.
When you go out of your comfort zone and it works there’s nothing more satisfying – Kristen Wiig
Just the act of doing something out of your comfort zone makes you stronger. If it makes you a little nervous, then it probably means that you are on the right track and your actions might have the potential to result in true growth.
Think about what action steps can you take today to step out of your comfort zone.
2. Type out your “Map of Relationships”
A “Map of Relationships” is simply a list of who you know in the biz. Or you can also look at it as who you have some kind of connection with, within the entertainment industry.
This might include every cast and crew member you’ve worked with, everyone at your theatre or production company, or teachers and other actors from your acting classes.
It should also include the people that you know who might not know you like a casting director that you saw speak on a panel, or a coach that you learned from on YouTube or a webinar.
If you get in the habit of keeping good records, this can be especially helpful when it comes time to reach out to an industry professional. It might come in handy when you touch base with a director that you met 3 years ago at a film festival. Especially if she is now casting a role that is perfect for you.
Keep a list as an ongoing draft because you will be adding to your list on a consistent basis. List everybody that you know in the industry and put them in different job categories. You might begin to notice trends like you know tons of actors but maybe you need to expand your networking to meet more film producers or TV executives.
3. Say thank you!
Make sure to thank anyone that helps you in your career.
Sometimes a simple email, text, or message may be fine. Want to take it to the next level? A public post on social media might be the appropriate response for a larger thank you.
Want to be extra classy and “old school”? Write a thank you card or letter just to let them know you appreciate them.
Did they really go out of their way to help you? Did it end up in a booking, new representation, or something that really moved your career forward? Then it might make sense to send them a little gift, take them out for lunch (if you have that type of relationship), or even volunteer to help them in the future.
Saying thank you is kind of a lost art. And a wonderful quality to be known for. Whichever way you choose to thank someone, just show sincere gratitude.
4. Let people know about your successes
When you learn to promote your wins, you get more of them.
Send a press release to your hometown newspaper or tell your alumni websites and newsletters about what you are doing in your career. Newspapers often will promote this because it is a “small town boy/girl makes good” kind of thing. Small cities and schools love to support people that go out into the world and make stuff happen!
If you feel hesitant about promoting yourself, please know that newspapers,websites and blogs are always looking for new material. If you’ve never created a press release before, research it online first and find one that covered a similar topic to model yours after. Once you have created a quality press release, there are multiple ways for you to repurpose that content.
You can include your final version in your press kits, turn it into a one sheet, post it on your website, use it in your social media posts, and beyond!
5. Write 10 things you are grateful for every day
Before you go to sleep each night write down five things that you are grateful for. When you get up in the morning, write down five more things that you are grateful for.
I know you may be thinking, “Alright you hippy, how is THAT gonna help my acting career?”
Glad you asked.
If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough. – Oprah Winfrey
Because many actors (and most humans for that matter) love to wallow in the problem instead of focusing on a solution and appreciating all of the great things in their life.
When your brain focuses on searching for the good in life, that is want it finds. And what you focus on expands. So let’s expand on the good stuff!
If you find yourself having a hard time finding things to be grateful for, start small.
Think about how lucky you are that you have access to free advice on this website, that you have a device to read it on, or show gratitude for that food you ate most recently.
It’s so easy to take things for granted in life.
In fact, as humans, we rarely even notice things like having a roof over our head, clean water to drink, or having friends, family, and health until they are gone. Let’s change that.
Living in a state of gratitude makes everything in life better. These small daily actions will help train your brain to see what is great in your life and career!
6. Create target lists
There are thousands upon thousands of projects out there and millions of people in the entertainment industry.
So how do you get strategic and narrow down your focus?
Make a list of five TV shows that you think you are perfect for. Five casting directors that you want to read for. Five agents and/or managers that you feel would be a good addition to your team.
And so on. A word to the wise …
When targeting shows, do not just list the shows that you like to watch. Target the shows that you think you are “right” for. Shows that you really can match their acting style, look, and
Basically…shows that you have a better shot at being called in for.
When actors want to “do it all” they often end up not doing anything. But if you get very specific in how you spend your time, money, energy, and focus, those doors can start to open up to you.
Bonus tip: Let industry friends in your network know the shows and offices that you are focusing on. Because you never know what that might lead to.
7. Utilize your similarities to celebrities
Do you have a famous Doppelgänger?
A style of acting that reminds people of a particular actor?
Does everyone keep telling you that you remind them of somebody famous?
Write down famous people that you resemble even if only in personality. You can use this in your marketing, your bio, and even your pitches.
For instance, you might put on your website… “He’s a cross between Tom Hanks & Morgan
Freeman” or “He has been called the next Leo” etc.
Think about when Millie Bobby Brown first came on the scene and everyone could not help but to compare her to a young Natalie Portman. This can help your reps pitch you too.
Because the industry might not know you yet, but they do know who Cate Blanchett is. So if you look or feel or sound like Cate or someone else that is famous, then that can sometimes help the industry know how to cast you.
8. Design a vision board
A great way to have a daily reminder of where your career is headed is to design a “Vision Board”.
Seeing your goals in a visual form on a daily basis can help your subconscious focus on making your dreams come true.
You can gather some pictures of your favorite things and collect old magazines and make a collage or get fancy and create a digital vision board online.
You can print it out and hang it on your mirror or post it above your desk, or use it as your screensaver, put it on your phone, or even share it on your social media.
Focus on these images for your goals regularly and consistently.
9. Surround yourself with great people
Limit your exposure to lazy or negative people in your life – they’re definitely not going to help you to grow your acting career.
They say that you are the average of the 5 people that you are around the most. So if the 5 people that you hang out with the most are a mess, it can be quite challenging to be a shining example of awesomeness.
This often includes finances, career success level, daily habits, and outlook in life.
Surround yourself with the right people, and realize your own worth. Honestly, there are enough bad people out there in the world – you don’t need to be your own worst enemy. – Lucy Hale
If everyone around you is negative, even if the negativity comes from people that you love dearly, it can be extremely challenging to remain positive and focused.
If your family, spouse, or core group of friends aren’t encouraging or aren’t great role models, you might need to connect with more people that are career-focused and supportive.
One of the easiest ways to expand your career is to expand your inner circle.
Join an actors group. Get an accountability partner. Hire a coach. Sign up for a class that makes you happy.
Surround yourself with wonderful inspiring people who support you in becoming the best version of yourself.
10. Decide to be happy.
I know. I know. Sometimes in life this is way easier said than done. There will be times in life that are extremely hard.
There are times that you may feel sick and miserable because of health issues or completely depressed because of suffering a loss of loved ones. Those may be some of the worst times
in your life.
For those situations, it makes 100% sense to feel sorrowful, angry, stressed, etc. But what we are talking about here is where your mood is on an average day and on a regular/daily basis.
What is your general outlook in life?
Many people believe that they will become happy when something happens outside of themselves.
They will be happy WHEN they win the lottery, WHEN they meet the love of their life, WHEN they book their dream acting role.
My suggestion is that instead of waiting around for certain things to occur, how about you just decide to be happy now instead. Like, right now. For no other reason than you choose happiness.
If you need a little help with this, try laughing for no reason at all for 30 seconds and see how that shifts your state of mind. You might be surprised how changing your breathing and physiology can immediately change your happiness and energy levels. If you need to, just think of it as an acting exercise.
(This is one of those things that is really easy to NOT do, but if you actually do it you will be happy you did!).
Another great strategy is to perform a random act of kindness today.
When you help others and take the focus off yourself, your problems often feel like they start to lessen. This way of thinking can change your career and your life! Happiness is NOT a result, it is a choice.
Decide to be happy.
Which is your favorite tip to grow your acting career? Block out five minutes right now to take action on one of these tasks.
And remember number four…share your successes!