You get what you pay for

There’s a massive campaign by Equity to ensure that actors are properly paid. For a lot of actors, if a producer or director isn’t willing to pay then they cannot expect to get good quality actors. I agree with them that actors deserve to be properly paid, as it’s their time, training and expertise that the producers and directors are getting.

However, I’ve often seen the same actors who are rightly asking for fair pay asking where they can get a website “cheap” or “free”. I have actors asking for advice about what content to put on their websites; where to get cheap headshots; how to get a web designer who’ll work cheaply; and lots of other questions, usually about getting things at a reduced rate or for free.

I’ve worked in web development for 8 years. In that time I’ve¬†worked with dedicated professionals in design, coding, SEO, web accessibility, online marketing, photography, video and sound editing, and dozens of other disciplines. Actors often say that it’s disrespectful for an actor to be asked to work for low or no pay. The argument is that the actor has spent a lot of time and effort training and that they spend a lot of time away from the rehearsal room and set creating the character and doing their preparation.

To all actors, I say that the same is true for others.

Take designing a website. A web designer has been trained, or spent hundreds of hours learning how to design a layout, understand colour theory, placement, etc. If they design a website for you they need to understand your brand and image so they can create something that fits with how you want to be seen. A content specialist knows how to create strong, original content; they’ve spent a long time looking at research, learning how to write and craft different pieces of content. An SEO specialist is able to quickly work out the right keywords to target to improve your search position, and they keep up-to-date with the ever-changing algorithms of Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search providers. If you want photographs for your website, either a designer finds them, knowing what will work with the design, or a photographer will use their training to get you the best shots, whether they’re stills on set, headshots, or general images. Then, a web developer has to know at least 2 web languages (3 if you include javascript) just to create the front end of a website; any content management solution needs a whole different skill set. All of those specialists will make it look easy.

The same way great actors do.

I recently moved from a hand-coded site to using WordPress. I did it myself as I know how to write HTML and CSS, and was willing to learn enough about WordPress to make my own templates. It still took several hours of work. I’ve learnt SEO, content marketing, and e-marketing. If I’d charged all the hours I spent working on the site, ignoring my training, I would have spent ¬£500 before buying a domain or web hosting. I’ve still got some work to go, so the total will rise, and I will be talking to specialists knowing that I will have to pay them a fair rate if I want good work from them.

I know that as actors money can be tight, but if we want to be treated professionally we have to treat others professionally.

There are free website builders out there, and WordPress has thousands of free themes which you can reskin to brand yourself. However, if you want to contact a web designer or developer, be prepared to pay. They’ve spent a lot of time learning their craft, as have we as actors. They’re the professionals and experts, and deserve to be treated with the same respect as we deserve.

Need to do something? DO IT!

I was catching up on Voice Coaches Radio and listened back to episode 269, Getting Started Getting Started!, which had Warren and Chris reading an email from a listener. I’d forgotten, in amongst all the other things that go on in life, that it was my email, and they once again reminded me that one of the biggest pieces of advice you need to follow is to just do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re in web development, voice over, acting, modelling, or anything else (which I seem to be all of at the moment!), you just need to do it.

Think of it this way. You can talk about it. Set up meetings about it. Have those meetings and decide on something. All of that is wasted effort if you don’t actually do it.

We’ve all been guilty of procrastination. Life gets in the way sometimes, or that thing that we need to do, we really don’t want to do, so we put it off. I’ve been very guilty of that, as I know I need to get a showreel scene filmed, but I’ve put it off because it’s a lot of money to get it filmed that I could be putting to other uses. It might be that you mean to go to the gym in the morning, but you feel sore that morning so you’ll go tomorrow.

Stop procrastinating. Not just as an actor, but as a person, you need to grab life with both hands. And in your acting life, whether on-camera, on the stage, or as a voice over, you need to make sure that you do what you need to do in order to get ahead.

It could be that marketing yourself is something you struggle with, or you don’t think you have time to do, so you put it off. That’s harming you and your career.

Imagine that you’re told by someone that in order to break into the video game market, you first need a commercial showreel. You could complain, say you only want to do character voices, and wind up not getting work because people are casting for an advert for the game, too, or you could get the training you need and get a commercial reel done.* If you want to work on TV, you could think about contacting casting directors, or getting a showreel, or you could actually do it. If you need more training, go and get it. If you need new headshots, get them done. If you need to chase up an invoice, do it.

I would say that the biggest stumbling block to forging a successful career in anything isn’t a lack of skills or knowledge. It’s a lack of drive to put your plans into action.

As The Pink Fairies sang in 1971, Don’t think about it, all you’ve got to do is, do it!.

The Pink Fairies, Do It

And as they also say, Don’t sing about it if you ain’t gonna DO IT!; so, my promise to everyone, is that I am going to join you in this call, and I’m going to do more. So, tomorrow, off to the gym again I go!

Thanks again to Warren and Chris for always giving great advice. Check out Voice Coaches Radio on iTunes.

* Kristine Oller uses this example when talking to Pat Fraley in Pat’s voice over marketing home study course