What To Do When Your Calendar Is Wide Open
by Rik Roberts | School Of Laughs
This post is about taking action when there seems to be nothing going on in your career. Whether you are a full time or aspiring performer, I hope this gives you a few ideas to get your bookings back on track.
Every independent artist goes through a period where the phone seems to stop ringing. No one is calling you to add you to a show, book you for a gig, or ask you to perform at the club.
To make things worse, the phone calls YOU are making are not being answered. The emails you send seem to disappear into cyberspace. And the texting and messaging isn’t working either.
You begin to wonder if your performing days are over.
Have you been there?
I’ve been there. It’s a weird place. Performing is part of your DNA. To not be hitting the stage as much as you want feels like you’ve lost the use of your creative self.
In times like that you need to be objective and take a look at what used to work and run some diagnostics. What has changed? What have you forgotten? What did you stop doing?
You either learn from the experience, or you ignore it until you are back at the nine to five working for the man. Here are five lessons I’ve learned over the years. Each case is a little different, but I hope it helps you if you find yourself in that spot.
5 Tips To Help You …
Get Your Bookings Back On Track
#1 YOU “COASTED” FOR SO LONG YOU FORGOT HOW TO PEDAL
It can take a while to build up momentum in the entertainment business. By the time things start moving you are tired from all the effort it took to get there. Things seem to be going at smooth pace. So, you just let go of the wheel for a while, enjoy the ride and coast a little (or maybe, a little too much).
Never lose sight of the fact that show business is at least as much about the business side of things (some say it’s 90%). When things are hot, that is when you make it hotter. Never allow yourself to get to the point where you think you can’t cool off. Instead, leverage the great things you are doing.
- Invite people out to the big shows you are part of
- Network with the other performers you meet
- Offer to create connections for other when possible
- Engage with and nurture the relationship with your fans
- Continue to aggressively promote and market yourself
- Revisit your comedy goals and make them a bigger priority
In short, do all the things you were doing before you started to coast. You should pick up that momentum once again.
#2 YOU MIGHT NOT BE AS GOOD AS YOU THINK
Have you ever started to look at some gigs as “below” your level? So much so that you just stopped performing there? No doubt sometimes you are in an environment that may seem a little seedy, a little “beginner level.” But if you are still developing your craft while you are in those places, they are still worth some time. When you remove them from your schedule altogether you are creating part of the problem of no stage time / no gigs.
Work begets work. If no one sees you doing your thing, you won’t be at the top of mind for new opportunities. So,
- Drop in to a few of the places where you cut your teeth
- Work on your act
- Connect with those who are just starting out
- Stay current with new developments on the local scene
In short, be part of what’s happening now so you are still part of what happens next!
#3 YOU GOT A LITTLE TOO COMFORTABLE
Routine is the enemy of the creative mind. Yes, carving out time to practice, perform and produce is important. That is called “scheduling.” A “routine” of doing the same things the same way over and over again will quickly leave you in a rut.
It also will cause a career stall.
Find new and engaging ways of learning, practicing and playing. Extend yourself beyond your comfort zone.
- Bounce ideas off of another performer
- Take yourself out on an inspirational, creative date
- Visit the art museum
- Take a factory tour
- Read a book
- Check out a class
Feed your creative mind with fresh input so you can create freely again.
#4 YOU CONFUSE “DEPENDABLE” WITH “PREDICTABLE”
So you used to crush your performances with material that was tried and true. You gained fans and followers. Each time they came back, however, you gave them the exact same thing they had before. Eventually, you will begin to disappoint the audience and they will stop coming back to see you.
Hey look, I like going out to eat and getting consistent service and a good meal. But if I’m going to keep coming back to your restaurant, it is going to be because you are able to deliver on those expectations in a new and exciting way. Even mega fast food chains like McDonalds use tactics like bringing the McRib out of retirement every 8 months to lure back customers.
Work on your show. Think of each of your jokes, songs or tricks like they are products. Either continually update and upgrade them, or replace them with something new. Spend time to:
- Write fresh material
- Take risks during your performance
- Work your show in reverse
- Create a new opening bit
- Punch up your introduction
- Develop a new closing piece
- Dig deeper on all your current material
#5 THERE IS A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
You used to be “tight” with the booking agents and club managers. A follow up gig was always a sure thing.
Now, the bartender is the manager and they are looking to shake things up. They’ve seen you, and know you can “do the job.” But you aren’t attracting new clientele. So, they are in search of talent that can attract fresh faces.
NEVER lose touch with who is running the stages in your area. Be sure to make an effort in this aspect of your business. Try to:
- Network with everyone at the clubs you work
- Ask for feedback from the manager or booking agent every time you wrap up an engagement
- Constantly develop your email list to engage fans
- Never take a booking for granted, stage time is a privilege
Never let up off the gas pedal. As soon as you start to coast some one else who is a little hungrier will go buzzing right past you. Work constantly on your act – you can always get better. Don’t get comfortable doing the same things all the time. Stay connected to the decision makers in the clubs and venues you want to play. And above all else, learn form the down time and put a plan in place to keep it from happening again. Do all of these things consistently and you should have your act back on track in no time.