Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hey Huff: How Do I Promote Myself Like A Pro?

Hey Huff is a bi-monthly advice column for stand-up comedians. Please send your anxiety riddled issues to kelsie@comedyofchicago.com

Hey Huff,
I know that you have to market yourself as a stand-up but I’m so bad at that. Where do I even start and how much is it going to cost me?! - Trying to Go Pro

Hey Trying to Go Pro -
The number one goal of a stand-up is to create tight sets but it’s also important to create a tight, accessible promo “packet”. Whether you are marketing yourself to a club, applying to a festival, or approaching an agency you will need to submit marketing material. This material may include: video clips, headshots, bios, and contact information. Having all this information in one central location is key, and that means a website. Your website should be your marketing hub and is a huge part of selling yourself like a pro.

Kelsie Huff
I think comedians tend to shy way from creating websites because it can be a bit overwhelming. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once! Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Building a website can also cost money but your career is an investment. The ol’ general rule is that you should be spending at least 10% of your income back on your business. I get it, it’s hard to spend 10% of zero dollars and torn drink tickets, but it can be done on the cheap. Get creative.

Here are a few ways to start marketing yourself on a budget.

Website (Your Marketing Hub)
Website templates nowz-a-dayz are wildly easy to use and you can acquire one for free or crazy cheap. Having a website shows that you are conscious of your brand and it makes you look like you’re not just some joker but a professional joker! Make sure to include a bio, video clips of your work, upcoming shows, any press or awards, and contact info. Branding is also key. Your site should be representative of who you are as a performer. Sometimes that is just as easy and peppering the pages of your site with pics. Basic, clean sites that are easy to navigate are best for bookers, fans and agents.

Website services to check out: Weebly - Squarespace - Wix - Web.com

Video Clips
Start filming all your sets, film a bunch and post the ones that hit. Sure you can film from your smart phone but it’s better to phone a friend with some sweet equipment. If you can’t pay them, work out a trade: maybe you film each other, maybe they film and you edit, maybe you clean their apartment for a month. Work it out. Have these clips handy for bookings, festivals, and press. It’s also wise to post your clips in one location, like a website or a YouTube channel. If you have a YouTube channel make sure to add that link to your website.

Headshots & Promo Pics
Sure, these are going to cost you some cash but it’s worth it. You need at a least a few on your website. Also, if you do get booked you can’t send the club a low resolution Facebook pic of you and your cat (unless Fluffy is your feature.) Plus, there are a ton of super talented photographers in Chicago and some are willing to help out in trade. If cost is a problem speak up. Let them know. Even if they can’t swing a deal it never hurts to ask.
Photographers to check out: Johnny Knight, Elizabeth McQuernJoshua AlbaneseRance Rizzuto   + LINK TO CHICAGO HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHERS

Social Media & Personal Invites
This one is a no brainer and most stand-ups are already utilizing these tools. Remember you can use social media to direct people to your website; they can feed off each other to help get you on the radar. However, when over utilized your social media messages will turn into white noise. It’s a fine line. It’s also not the only electronic way to reach out. Don’t forget email newsletters and personal email invites as well. Sometimes a social media blast gets lost in the shuffle. If you are looking to sign with an agent - send them a personal invite to a big show. Do the same for your press contacts. If you don’t have a press contact list, no worries. Start by reading local articles and find a writer you dig, who would in turn dig your shows. Email them, add them to your press list.
E-services to check out: Constant Contact   Mail Chimp    MyEmma    iContact

Business Cards
In the digital world the business card is still kick ass. They are a handy way to direct people to…you guessed it…your website. I used to get made fun of for carrying these suckers around at shows but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed these out to non-comedians and have gotten paid gigs. Business cards get business!
Printers to check out:   Vista Print - Tiny Prints - Sommers & Fahrenbach - M3 Graphics

HUFF’S FINAL SAY: Always remember that writing and performing are your number one priorities. Yes, as a stand-up you have to market yourself like crazy but don’t forget to continue to hone your bits. First, become the raddest stand-up you can be. Selling yourself comes in at a close second.

Staff Writer - Kelsie Huff
Kelsie is a producer, writer, storyteller and stand up comedian based in Chicago. You can catch her performing at top clubs and showcases all over town as well as at her own showcase - the kates a bi-monthly show in at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square and now at Laugh Factory Chicago.