I get lots of emails asking for advice on how to get a foot in the door in various “creative” fields – everything from acting (check out my advice here, and click here for a bunch more acting-related posts, including stage fright tales, my very first commercial, and the story of how I once came oh-so-close to starring in a Ron Jeremy vehicle) to blogging (see my Blog Advice posts here), and, more recently, hosting.
Here’s the thing: as with all “creative” (read: oftentimes involving a lot of work for relatively low pay) jobs, you have to get into hosting because you really love it, not because you see it as a way to make your millions. Because the fact is that there are a lot of people who want to do it, and many (if not most) are doing it for free, or for very, very little money. If you end up making those millions, great…but you have to enjoy (or at least be cool with) all of it, even the guerilla-style early-morning shoot that you’re on just because it’ll make a great bit for your reel.
With creative fields, I think that doing “well” (by which I mean having a steady stream of work for which you are financially compensated, although different people define this in different ways) is a combination of talent, hard work, and good, old-fashioned luck. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be producing and hosting my own show – it’s quite literally a dream come true – and to have had things move along as quickly as they did, but I worked for free a lot in the beginning, just to prove to the powers-that-be that I could handle the job and that they should start hiring me “for real.” Once I got my very first lucky break – a producer at BetterTV had seen one of my webcasts and asked me to try my hand at hosting an unpaid segment (this one) – my priority was always to show my producers that their lives were easier with me in them.
The best advice I can give to those going into creative fields: the way to stand out and to get hired again and again is to make those around you look good. A happy crew is a productive crew, and a productive crew makes for excellent product. I’m not advising being a doormat – always stand up for your rights if you feel like they are being violated – but there’s a lot to be said for being humble and grateful for having been given the opportunity to prove yourself.
In short: make your boss’s life easy, make him get that pat on the back from his boss, and he’ll be calling you for the next job.
If you’re specifically interested in hosting, I’d advise you to start shooting your own little webcasts, and sending them around to anyone and everyone whom you think might be looking for fun content. Once you build up a reputation and a reel, you can start looking for compensation for your work, and eventually you’ll want to find yourself an agent and/or manager.
And I know that a lot of you are in creative fields yourself – do you have any advice to add for readers looking to break in?