In my weekly e-letter, I recently asked readers if there were any specific questions they'd like me to address on the blog. Today's post is in response to one of those reader requests.
The question: "I have an online business, and with the advent of the internet comes equally wonderful ways to get yourself out there AND the constant reminder that there are a LOT of folks who are doing the same thing (so much for that great unique idea!); some better, some worse. When you're chugging along & not feeling very special about what you do, what can you do to pick yourself out of your reverie?"
Boy, can I relate to this question. But more-so from my past-life as an actor. When I worked in Los Angeles and would audition for T.V., the reported stats were that for every one role on network television, about 1,500 actors would submit to be considered for an audition. That's a 1 in 1,5000 chance of getting the job. Not so hot.
Then there were countless times when I would beat the odds and get an audition, only to walk into a waiting room and find that all the other women who were auditioning for the same role looked a lot like me, but taller, leaner, and with better hair.
What could I do?
I couldn't be taller, leaner, or have better hair (and I really tried on that one). All I could do was rock what I had and let go of worrying about the stuff I couldn't change. And that worked! (You can catch me in syndication.)
I'm guessing that the odds of you getting the gig, the client, or the sale is better than 1 in 1,500 for your industry, so allow me to present…
The Hollywood Guide to Feeling Unique in a Crowded Market
1 | Know your strengths
You don't need to audition for every role, just the ones you're a ringer for.
When you know what you're really, truly excellent at, you'll waste less time chasing not-quite-right opportunities, and be able to clearly communicate why you're a no-brainer for those glass-slipper jobs.
2 | Stop looking at the competition
It's none of your business how Lady Longlegs over there would audition for this role. Mind your own and refocus on how you would do it. No one wants to see your version of somebody else's stuff; you're getting called in there because they want to see what you, and only you, can bring to the role.
Take a break from social media. Quit modeling someone else's sales page. Don't buy another e-book for at least a month.
Just go into your space, do your thing, and let your own experience be your teacher.
3 | Get back to your roots
Remember how it was before things got so complicated with agents and head shots and driving to Burbank in rush hour? Back when you started acting because you loved it, and it made you come alive? Do some of that.
You started a business because you had a passion, but all the day-to-day gunk of running a business can leave you burned out and distant from the essence of the thing you have a business around.
Reconnect to work that makes you feel like an artist with a vision and a voice.
Start a project just for you, take a retreat, or otherwise find time to play with and indulge in that thing you love to do. Face it: when it's hot and heavy between you and your thang, life feels good.
4 | Don't listen to criticism
Your acting teacher makes you feel bad about yourself whenever you do a scene? Drop the class.
Constructive criticism is great and we all need to hear the hard stuff to keep growing. But geez, do we always have to be growing and improving? Can't we sometimes just be? Warts and all?
Unsubscribe from people who make you feel behind, incompetent, and small.
Last year, I unsubscribed from one of my favorite women on the web. I buy her stuff and love her blog, but every email from her had me second-guessing myself. So I let her go for a while. Now I've resubscribed and am enjoying her content and point of view like I used to. But just because she was right about certain things didn't mean I had the head space to listen. So put your fingers in your ears; you can always take 'em out later.
5 | Strengthen your relationships
Most of the time I got cast, it was due in part to an existing professional relationship. That's not to say that I didn't earn it or wasn't fit for the jobs, but it was easier to get work when the person hiring me didn't feel like bringing me onto a project would be a gamble.
So live it up in your little corner of the world. Reach out to your readers and buyers.
Ask them a question over email, set up a couple Skype dates, or *gasp!* meet some folks in person over coffee or homemade ice cream (personal preference). You have a little tribe, so get to know them. Let yourself be known. I promise you that not many people make the effort, and that you'll be noticed for engaging in a personal way.
6 | Read your fan mail
Is it arrogant that I can still quote a positive review that I got in the paper from nearly a decade ago? Maybe. Call me shallow, but praise feels good.
You have testimonials? Read 'em!
Bask in the kind words. People like you, and you're good at what you do. No harm soaking in that from time to time.
I look to 3 little feel good piles in times of doubt: 1. the success stories page of my website, 2. a folder of saved emails from happy readers and clients, and 3. a stash of handwritten cards from clients and peers. All of them are instant pick-me-ups when the "inside voices" start making a little too much racket.