When should you start promoting your career?

Hey Dave – Last week I was in a comedy festival. It was a 13 hour drive, but it was a good chance for networking. I was talking with another act who said she’s too impatient about getting her comedy career going. I said that my problem is that I’m too patient. After finishing second at another comedy club’s contest and being accepted at the festival, I should be contacting clubs and bookers all over the area instead of waiting until I actually win a contest. Do you agree? – J.G.

Clark Griswold

The Road Warrior

Hey J.G. – First of all, if I drive 13 hours for anything, I’m going to make sure somebody knows about it. That’s not exactly a Sunday afternoon drive for me, (which is why every seasoned road comic is calling me a wimp right now), so I’d like a little recognition for the achievement. If my kids happened to be in the backseat, I’d expect an award.

How different people react to my successful lengthy trip depends on how they view such an effort. If I told a student driver about my journey, he may look at me as The Man. If I walked into a truck stop and made my announcement, I’d probably get more laughs than doing a clean act at a biker bar open mic.

Being accepted to perform at a respected comedy festival and finishing second in a club’s contest are worthy additions to the resume. Each step in your career is a great opportunity for promotion and it’s important to take advantage of it, which is an important subject we’re driving up to next.

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But before we head down that road, the question of patience should be answered by common sense. You have to be honest with yourself to know when you’re ready for the next level of your career and not push yourself too fast into a position where you don’t have the experience or material to back it up. In other words, if you’re relatively new to comedy and just breaking into the MC role, it’s wise not to promote yourself to the top clubs as a headliner until you’re ready.

What you don’t want to do is sit back and wait for any word-of-mouth to find its way to the bookers. James Bond has a reputation that precedes him, but when finding work in the entertainment business you need to promote yourself. If you have the credits, chances are better that the bookers will find out about it if YOU tell them.

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You have to be honest with yourself as a comedian, (or humorous speaker). There are various steps to consider before you actively promote yourself for paying gigs…

Are you ready for paid gigs?

You absolutely must have experience and a comedy set or speaker program that has worked successfully during live performances. These can be open mics, benefit shows – whatever. Let’s put it this way. If someone is paying you to do 20 minutes – you’d better have a good 20 minutes or they’ll find someone else who does for the next booking.

Also understand where you fit into the business. Are you an opening act or a headliner? New acts will always be considered openers until they prove themselves worthy of a better position in the show. Think about it. Even Jay Leno was an opener when he started out and worked his way up. He wasn’t given The Tonight Show after a few successful open mic performances.

But let’s say you know that already. You’ve worked hard at writing and performing and you honestly know you’re ready. That’s when it’s time to get the word out to talent bookers, event planners and anyone else who might hire you.

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That’s when you need to start promoting – and it can be a full time job.

Whenever you have an achievement, (accepted to a comedy festival, runner up in a contest, a paid booking in another venue, etc.), make sure the bookers for the clubs where you want to work or the event planners for associations you want to work for KNOW about it. Send them your news via an email, a postcard, add it to your website and resume, and post it on the Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks you use for business (not the ones you use for family photos or wild escapades).

Does that come with fries?

Does that come with fries?

You may not get hired right away, but it will add to your name recognition in the future. That’s the idea behind promoting – networking and marketing. Businesses use branding and logos to keep their products in front of potential buyers. Entertainers do the same with emails and postcards.

As good salesmen say, you need to run a product, (you as a comedian or speaker), past a client, (booker), on the average of SEVEN times before they buy. So when is a good time to start building credits and promoting your comedy career? If you truly believe you’re ready – I’d say right now.

Portions of this article are included as FAQ #31 in Dave’s book, Comedy FAQs And Answers.

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Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about Summer 2014 comedy workshops at the Chicago (starts June 7) and Cleveland Improv (starts July 12) Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

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One Response to “When should you start promoting your career?”

  1. Andy Hartley Says:

    Reblogged this on Andy Hartley.

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