I usually start off an article talking about my thoughts and then I end it with my experiences. I am going to do the opposite this time.
When I first started performing comedy for pay, I was trying to cut as many corners as possible. I had just gotten out of the military, so money was really low. So, every chance I could, I went cheap. No business cards, head shots done by my girlfriend at the time, and I had no website. I would go from show to show and I realized that people would come up to me and ask me if I had a business card. I would direct them to my Facebook page, and would hear nothing from them again. As I got more work, and saw that this could be a career, I realized that I needed to do things to help me look professional and get more bookings so I didn’t have to have a second job!
I think this is common for a lot of comedians to assume that you don’t need to really put much into your career because you don’t really need much! 95% of us only need an amplified mic. So, we go in thinking there isn’t much to enhance our careers other than better jokes. I really wish that was the case! There are a lot of comedians out there that have a great act, but because they haven’t done anything to make themselves look more professional and ready to work, they don’t get the gigs that they deserve. On the other hand, there are plenty of comedians that have invested in their careers and they are working every weekend!
As soon as you know you are going to start performing for pay, you need to get some head shots. I don’t mean getting your friend to take photos of you with their iPhones. No dig against camera phones, but if you want photos that will look great no matter what promoters and bookers are doing to them. Find someone in your local area that take head shots professionally. I must add this disclaimer that I have taken head shots of comedians, actors, and other artist. I am not trying to tell you to hire me (it would be nice, my prices are really reasonable), what I am saying is when bookers open your email you don’t want them to ignore your promo package (I have an article on that, but I am too lazy to find it…I have written a lot of these things!) because your photo can’t be used on promotional material. Depending on where you live, you may be spending some coin, but it is one of the first things people see attached to your name! You want people to see you as a professional comedian, it will pay for itself in a matter of time.
It may seem dated, but a business card is a great way for people to remember you. I know it may seem cooler to tell people to go to your facebook page or website (more on that later), but just being able to hand them a card that has EVERYTHING on it is great! That way when they are not within eyesight of you, they can look down at your card and see how you spell your last name. Business cards are a great thing to hand to promoters as well. The great thing about this is that it doesn’t cost that much, so you can buy some and have them on your just in case.
A website! A dedicated Facebook page is one thing, but if you have a website, it kind of elevates you in the minds of people looking you up to see if you are a good enough comedian to blow 15 bucks on. There are many places to get a domain name, and hosting. You can also have someone build it for your from scratch. There is a lot more flexibility in having someone build it (as opposed to just templates that do it yourself sites may have), but it will cost more. If you want someone that is looking you up to at least have a passing impression that you may be worth the price of admission a website is key.
Investing in your comedy also means finding ways to get more money out of the shows you do get. Maybe join a site like Gigmasters or Gigsalad. These sites are a like a database for entertainment. Say someone needs a comedian for a private event. They go to one of those sites and find you. Gigmasters is free to join, but you will only be able to get seen from people up to ten miles away. For $269 bucks, you will be able to be seen by anyone in the country looking for a comedian. I have gotten a lot of work from this site and I haven’t even paid a nickel to them (except for the booking fee that they both charge if you take a gig from their site). $269 is not that much if you can get booked a couple of times.
There are also other smaller things you can invest in to help you along your comedy career. Acting classes can help you a bunch, especially if you want to get work as an actor as well as perform stand-up. Getting a fuel efficient car can cut down on fuel expenses. Getting a camcorder or voice recorder to help you sharpen your act. I am sure I am forgetting some, but you understand what I am getting at. If you want this to be your career, you have to do more than just convincing people that you want to take this seriously. You have to actually do the little things that shows people you are.