James Burns

James Burns

Business Tips for Comedians

There is an odd sort of tyranny for those of us who set out to make a living doing what we love. If you've chosen that path, then like it or not, along the way you've accidentally become a business person, and worse than that…. a sales person. Many performers find the process of promotion, selling and securing stage time utterly terrifying and unlike the equally nerve-wracking experience of performing….. thoroughly unfulfilling. Here are some top tips on how to improve your selling… without resorting to a shiny suit and a surgically attached bluetooth headset.

Don't buy into the struggling artist martyrdom

In some disciplines, especially creative ones, there are only two types: Poor and valiantly struggling or dirty sell outs. Yes, getting yourself seen, heard and recognised is hard, hard work, but don't make the mistake of buying into a culture that makes us believe that commercial success is in opposition to artistic integrity. We're sure you'd never, ever do this, but we get hear a fair bit of bitching about how so-and-so only got the gig/press/fee because they are "good at self-promotion". Don't beat up on them- join them. Just because you aren't in it for the money doesn't mean you can't also get some.

Know who you are, and who you are for

Most of us overestimate how much people know about us, and how distinctive our sales message is. We're sure you work very hard to make sure that your on-stage material is distinctive, unique and inherently "you". Unfortunately, many decisions on booking, press and competitions are made based on tiny snippets of performance. To really stand out arm yourself with a strong description of the type of comedian you are, what makes you different and who you are for. Ideally this will be brief but powerful and so uniquely you that no other performer could ever say the same thing of themselves. It takes time to get it right, but when you do you can use it in networking, on the phone, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, basically anywhere that you need people to be able to differentiate you from other acts.

Stop hearing the "I don't love you"s

When you work on your own, doing something which you care deeply about the process of sales and promotion can feel very personal. Every set-back, knock back or rejection can feel like an "I don't love you". You are only human, too many "I don't love you"s will drive you to wine and biscuits. Self doubt, dented self-esteem and a need for reassurance are normal for most people (not for comedians obviously … performers never suffer from those, right?). Your best protection is to take yourself out of the equation. Your act is a business – and your job is to find the people who want you, not to persuade the ones who don't. Sales is about selection, not acceptance & rejection. Hard as it sometimes seems, sometimes opportunities don't work out for all the right reasons, dust yourself off, have a cuppa and keep searching.

I do know that all of the above are easier said that done, but they really can make a massive difference to your relationship with the dirty business of making a living. You have all the skills you need: you are funny, charming, either confident or great at appearing so and experienced at dealing with fear- go get 'em tiger.

Isla Wilson is the founder of Ruby Star Associates, An 'Ooomph' Agency that help people sell better, innovate and grow. She also runs The Accidental Business School – for people who want to make a living doing what they love! Foillow Isla on Twitter HERE

Pictured: Isla Wilson

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