Actors and creatives persevere in what is a highly competitive and often low-paid industry predominantly because of a love for the art, for storytelling, creating, playing. Business, branding, marketing etc. on the other hand, can feel a million miles away from those passions. And yet, they are inextricably linked.
Jamie Body is an entertainment journalist, content creator, business coach and mentor. He’s worked on a multitude of illustrious events and with top brands such as the Olivier Awards, Raindance Film Festival and Broadway World UK (to name a few), and interviewed A-listers including Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Christian Slater. With a background in content creation, social media and marketing, Jamie also coaches creatives in ‘the business of show business’ and hosts a podcast of the same name (which I feature on in season 4 so check it out!).
I first discovered Jamie during lockdown 1.0 when I came across a live stream about utilising social media as a creative. Jamie’s advice and coaching were, in many ways, eye-opening for me as a freelancer. Whilst we all strive to do what we love every day of the year, the reality is that success requires entrepreneurship, critical business thinking, and the active pursuit of ‘opportunity beyond resources controlled’ (Prof. Howard Stevenson). So when we’re fed up with waiting for the phone to ring, how can we take more control over our future? Here’s what Jamie had to say.
Could you tell us about your journey so far?
I knew very early on that I wanted to do as many things as I could within the entertainment industry. I wanted to be in film, travel, perform on TV, present on a red carpet etc. I think that attitude allowed me to spot opportunities and try to absorb everything I could from each ‘credit’ so I could take something positive or new to the next job or audition.
As my performing career progressed, I wanted to find ways to push myself not just physically but mentally. Having always had a passion for film, media and journalism, I started to fill my in-between times with short courses, studying and networking with people in those industries.
One of my core values is learning, and by exploring my passions for media and writing alongside performing, I started to get the same buzz you get when you perform on stage or to an audience.
I started to get more exposure reviewing and interviewing showbiz individuals, which gave me the momentum to push it more. A few years later, an opportunity presented itself where I took up a short marketing internship, which led to a job offer. I used annual leave and unpaid time off to perform while working on the social media and content creation for West End musicals.
I then went on to study journalism to get my official NCTJ qualification and my NLP coaching qualifications – fast forward several years, and here I am.
Alongside working as a broadcaster and journalist and still performing when the right job comes, I coach freelancers and lecture at performing arts institutes to help creatives with The Business of Show Business.
Creatives are some of the most resilient and resourceful people out there; you don’t just have to do one thing, it’s not all or nothing. Build the career you want.
What important areas of business should actors and creatives explore?
The sooner a performer realises that they are a personal brand, the better it will be for their career. Without realising it, performers often tackle many business elements but don’t realise as they haven’t slapped a business label on it. I will give you a few examples:
Networking. You are always meeting new people, whether at auditions or class, bumping into people at the theatre or working that in-between job with other creatives. In simple terms, the more people you know, the more jobs you are likely to get as your name and talent will be seen and heard more. Quick tip: build not only a network for work but a support network of friends and family who support you, lift you when you are down or will listen to you rant with no questions asked. If you work all the time, it is hard to switch off which can lead to burnout.
Email marketing and pitching yourself. As a fresh grad, you email agents to come to your showcase or seek representation. As a seasoned pro, you could be emailing producers, journalists, or potential audience members to go and see your show, buy your album, etc. Emails should be concise, use hyperlinks when you can to avoid big files and have a professional email address.
These are just a few examples. Once you start looking at the industry as a business, albeit a business you love, you can begin to work out which elements you can control and which ones you can’t. Take your power back.
Where do I start?
I would start small. Don’t get overwhelmed with building your brand and marketing yourself all at once.
Start with a mini self-brand audit. Open an incognito window on your web browser and type in your name. What comes up? Do you appear on the first page of Google, and if so, what does it show? Is everything up to date, or are there any old photos from or an out-of-date showreel that you have to remove?
I would then look at your social media accounts. Which ones are you on? Which ones do you use for business? Is your bio optimised effectively to get your brand out there? It is key to come across authentically online. Yes, you have to market yourself, but you are not a full-time marketer. It is ok to show that you are human and have other interests.
I could go on for hours about this and the next steps, but start small and build from there. If you try to do it all at once, you will freak yourself out. One foot in front of the other and take it step by step.
How important is social media?
The growth of social media and digital content in the showbiz world has really changed the entertainment industry landscape. Social media is used to showcase talent and, therefore, has become a database for casting directors, producers, agents, etc. to find who they are looking for.
However, I think it needs to be used wisely. As I touched on before with being authentic online, you need to make sure the online-you matches the in-person you. The keyword in social media is ‘social’. Use it to talk to friends, connect with peers, celebrate those in the industry, don’t just use it for work.
I am a big believer in having a positive mental health experience online, so if you are finding a particular app or a person you are following to be triggering, it is ok to take some downtime away from social media or mute/unfollow that individual. At the end of the day, it’s your social media so use it as you want to, not what you think the industry wants to see of you.
What advice do you find yourself giving to creatives and performers most frequently?
One question I often get is should I have separate social media accounts, one as a performer and one for personal non-work-related life? My advice is typically to have one account where you make sure to sprinkle in all aspects of your brand. You as a performer, you with friends/family, seeing shows and other industry-related content, holidays, etc. You are not a robot so casting directors can’t expect you to sing and dance 100% of your time. Your value as a creative is more than just a post or being on stage; you have so much to offer.
That being said, it is your account. If you want to keep it private, then do. Just think, am I using this account to contact or network with industry experts? Am I using it when I apply for jobs? If so, you will want a public account to make sure there is an even spread of all aspects and values of you and your personal brand.
Could you tell us about The Business of Show Business podcast and how to find out more about you?
I started The Business of Show Business Podcast at the beginning of 2020 as a way to hopefully help creatives and those in the industry. The podcast is a mixture of solo episodes where I tackle marketing topics and interview episodes where I bring on industry experts to share insight (much like yourself, Kieran).
So far, it has been listened to in 48 countries, which is crazy, I never thought it would go global, but I am so happy. At the end of last year, I was lecturing at a few colleges and assisted at some auditions, and a few times, I had people come up to me at the end of the day to say they had listened to my podcast, and it really helped them. This for me felt like success, being able to help other creatives out whilst doing something I loved. What more could you want?
You can find my podcast on Apple, Spotify and all streaming platforms and you can find out more about me on my website www.jamiebody.com
Lastly, the business side of the arts can be tedious and exhausting. What do you do to switch off and unwind?
This is something that took me a long time to try and find the balance with and something that still l need reminding of from time to time.
I set business hours, so I don’t work late into the evening unless scheduled in. One thing I suggest to my clients is, for one week, to keep a mini diary of when you have the most energy and how your schedule naturally falls. Then you can figure out when you have pockets of time for yourself and when you have the most power to give to tasks. I am a morning person, so I make sure to do things I want to do or things I need to for myself in the morning and then work on other projects as the day goes on.