The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 is now in full swing.
Thousands of shows take place throughout August across the city, from stand-up comedy and sketch shows to street performance, cabaret and kids clubs. Every nook and cranny within the Scottish capital has had a black curtain draped across it to create a place for people to perform.
Every year I go up to the Festival for a few days to take in some shows and it always amazes me the lengths people go to promote their work and how many people make the simplest, but potentially catastrophic mistakes when trying to promote themselves.
Coincidently, the principles of promoting yourself whilst looking for new job opportunities are very similar to attracting an audience for a Fringe performance.
Here are just a few lessons which can be taken away from the world’s largest arts festival:
1) As seen on TV:
It obviously helps if you already have a profile.
Comedians who have been on T.V such as Frank Skinner and Al Murray will need little promotion to sell out big venues as people will have already heard of them and are reassured (if they like the performer) that they will deliver a show they will enjoy. Similarly, it is possible for you to improve your chances of getting hired by increasing your profile within the industry you work in.
This can be achieved by engaging online with relevant peers and influencers through discussion groups, commenting and taking part in conversations on Twitter and LinkedIn and blogging on subjects relevant to your chosen industry. This will increase your chances that a potential employer will have already heard of you when your C.V lands on their desk or at the very least you will have some proof that you are actively involved and interested in the sector.
2) Five stars:
Reviews, quotes and testimonials are all important as they are an indicator of your skills and ability. You should be proactive in asking people to provide them and collecting them for CV and online profile. However, it is crucial that all the sources are relevant i.e. sector specific if possible or at least from people who have actually worked with you (no friends or relatives allowed).
Also, don’t be tempted to doctor quotes to change how they can be interpreted. A 5 star review isn’t a 5 star review if the scoring system is out of ten.
Manipulating testimonials may get your foot in the door, but if your deception is discovered or you don’t live up to expectations then your reputation may be permanently ruined.
3) Standing out from the crowd:
For those who have been to the Edinburgh Festival you will know that it is impossible to walk down the Royal Mile, due to the sheer numbers of street artists, performers and drama students singing, dancing and juggling in front of you whilst also trying to thrust promotional flyers into your hands. It is extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd, but also by being too outlandish or appearing too desperate, there is a danger of alienating your potential audience.
Make your CV stand out by its content succinctly selling what is unique about you, but what is also relevant to the employer – not by adding lots of different colours, fonts and a zany photo!
It may also be beneficial to try channels that the majority of other people haven’t tried (i.e. away from the Royal Mile) such as a video, Slideshare or a Prezi presentation.
4) The devil is in the detail:
It is amazing how many people miss off important information from their flyers and posters – such as where the venue is, how much it costs, who the target audience is and even what the show is actually about (sometimes a title just isn’t enough). With so much competition around no-one is going to go out of their way to see a show unless they know exactly what they are letting themselves in for.
The same applies to your C.V. Make sure it contains all the required information and is relevant to the position you are applying for. In a competitive market it is unlikely that you will be contacted for further information if your CV lacks the relevant details. It will be destined for the same location as the majority of the flyers in Edinburgh.
5) A dalmatian in the rain:
Endlessly promoting yourself and competing against some many other shows for a month can be relentless.
As you can probably imagine, flyering around Edinburgh dressed as a Dalmatian in the pouring rain to attract an audience of four on a daily basis can be extremely demotivating. However success will come to those who continue to have self-belief and persistence, and who continue to learn and improve
By being determined, learning from your experiences (CV advice, interview feedback etc.) and adapting your processes accordingly you will gradually get closer to landing the job role that you desire.
6) Call my agent:
In the entertainment industry an agent can help you to promote yourself. Unfortunately it comes at a fee (at least 10%!). There is also the chicken and egg scenario that you can’t get an agent until you have the experience, but it’s difficult to get experience without an agent.