Please don’t make the folks behind the table make faces like this…
We list a lot of different things on the Lauri’s List site, including both public and members-only jobs and gig listings. Some of these require quick action, and we’ve discovered over the years that even some of our more experienced Listers (me too!) have been guilty of the occasional slip-up when communicating with someone they’d like to work with. When clients are sorting respondents by email and/or phone, keeping things simple, polite and complete is very important… but if you’re just dashing off a quick note and not paying attention to the details, the pitfalls can be plentiful.
Some things are forgivable, and taking specific circumstances into account is always in order. But some behaviors can be viewed as red flags, even if executed with the best of intentions. Here are some of our “favorite” missteps that can lose the job, ruin a relationship or even harm your reputation… before you’ve even set foot in an audition room. While this litany is offered with tongue firmly in cheek, there are lessons to be gleaned:
- Reply the way you prefer, rather than the way stated in the instructions. Answering by commenting on a Facebook post, when asked to email or PM the contact, is a very quick way to be culled from the candidates list.
- Ask questions already answered in the listing. Be as dense as possible.
- Don’t include all of the information they need. Be sure to leave out your voice part — clients love that.
–> Follow all instructions, to the letter. It’s surprising how impressive this can be, and it should be a top priority.
- Demand the same pay for less work. The classic: Tell them you can’t make two of the rehearsals, and then assume you’ll get the full contract amount.
–> BTW, “but I’m worth it” is not an effective argument. Neither is “but I’ll work on it at home!”
- Express interest, and then tell them it’s not enough money.
–> If the pay was clearly stated, then why did you respond in the first place? A more delicate approach is probably in order. Otherwise, you’re not “helping” or “negotiating”. You’re just wasting everyone’s time — even yours.
- Explain in copious detail why you should get more money than everyone else.
–> Yes, you’re special — your mom sent us a note, so we can even prove it. But hands down, this is the best way to sever a relationship for eternity.
- Tell them how to do their job. Quibble about the repertoire with a stranger. Explain why the job isn’t set up correctly. Offer a lot of unsolicited advice.
–> Even if you’re absolutely correct, save the “discussion” for when you have an established trust relationship with the client. But even then, you might want to keep it to yourself.
- Don’t reveal essential details that would probably eradicate your eligibility. Wait until the last minute to say, “oh, by the way…”
–> If you have a major conflict or you’re not right for the job, ‘fess up. When appropriate, offer to be an alternate, instead.
- Land the job, then ask for schedule changes. There are occasional instances where asking the question may be forgivable. But even “simple” changes affect everyone else more than you may realize, and coming to a client with scheduling requests more than once can get you labeled as high-maintenance and clueless, rapido.
- Spell the client’s name wrong. Even better: use two or three misspellings in the same email.
–> In truth, you should check all of the spelling very carefully. This is business correspondence, after all, and it is assumed that classical musicians are highly educated. Don’t prove this wrong before they’ve met and heard you.
- Offer to help them fill their gig with your friends… or worse, your family or significant other. Be especially careful about this if you’ve found the job through a closed system, e.g. the member board on the List. Clients bring their job listings to one source or another for a reason. Don’t try to bypass that unless they ask for help — it makes you look either unethical or just unprofessional.
- Lie or obfuscate about your skills and experience. Hide the truth, hype your strengths, make a sub gig at a church sound like a regular gig. Be sure to use the “Actor’s Yes” to answer every “can you?” question, and make yourself seem like what they’re looking for.
–> Even if it’s not an outright lie, once a client feels they’ve been deceived, it’s unlikely they’ll trust you again. It’s just not worth it.
- Get annoyed when you’re not hired. One of our favorite quotes: “I would have thought you would hire the first to respond.” Why on earth would you think that? There are always details you don’t know. Avoid assumptions about their needs, then avoid making a fool of yourself by sharing your assumptions.
- Complain about etiquette if the contact doesn’t respond to your inquiry. Be sure to explain to the client how rude they’re being. Use words like “common courtesy” and “manners”. After all, everyone appreciates a nudge… RIGHT?
The truth is, even the best in the business have been guilty of at least a few of these. Communicating with colleagues and powers-that-be can be tricky, and everyone must do the best we can in the moment. But learning from mistakes and making good decisions about behavior moving forward is the best mark of a pro. Live, learn, and be better the next time.