Imagine this: You are in your car (or walking to the subway) and you suddenly get a call from a casting director. They are interested in submitting you for an upcoming project, but need to forward your headshot & resume to the director within the next 30 minutes. You’re not at your computer, so you cannot email your materials to them. And you’re nowhere near their office, so you cannot just drop by with a physical copy of your headshot/resume. What can you do?
Or, imagine this: You are networking at an event (like the Tribeca Film Festival) and you have met so many people that you have handed out your last copy of your reel. You run into an agent who has seen you on stage, but comments that he would like to see your film work. He asks if you have a reel to give him. Sadly, you don’t, and it will be at least a week until you can get more duplicates made. What now?
If you are a business-minded actor, you would have a website and neither case would have been a problem! You could simply tell the casting director, “Drop by my website, where you can download a copy of my headshot and resume, both formatted for printing.” And for the agent, you would be able to say, “Here’s my website. Not only do I have my reel posted, but I also have clips from a few of the other projects I have done, including some singing and a few commercials.”
Having a website is one of the most important promotional tools an actor can have, second only to a good headshot. A website allows you to provide interested parties with a more full look at your body of work, your personality, and the way you run your business. And it allows them to do it in their own time, at their pace and leisure, which is vitally important in the larger, more competitive markets. The easier you can make it for a CD/agent to get to know you, the better chance you have of making an impact with them.
Now, some actors have “actor pages” created on industry websites, such as Actors Access, Now Casting or IMDB. While these are sufficient for communicating basic information, it is very difficult to allow your personality to come through with these sites. Your website, much like your headshot, is a calling card. After all, their templates are the same for every actor! A website is a reflection of your identity, and the more personalized you can make it, the better off you will be. If you do opt for this, at the very least you should purchase a domain name (www. yourname .com) and link/forward it to your free page. That way, when someone types in your web address, they will automatically be forwarded to whatever website you choose. Some companies charge a nominal fee for forwarding, while others include it with the domain purchase.
A website is a reflection of your identity, and the more personalized you can make it, the better off you will be
That all being said, having a website can be relatively inexpensive if you do your research. One word of advice- before you sign up for ANY services, be sure to get all of the costs laid out UP FRONT. Websites contains a lot of components that add up to a well-created and maintained business tool. Make sure you have a strong understanding of all of the costs associated, including ongoing text changes, additions or updates to media (like photo, video and audio clips), and the creation of new pages. Often, the initial price tag seems small but the fee for design becomes much larger when considering the price of upkeep. It is very important to weigh all of the costs and decide what type of fee structure is best for your business, and then get all of this in writing before you choose your designer.
Here is a breakdown of what kinds of costs you might incur, and some pitfalls to avoid:
1) You domain name will be around $10 per year.
2) Ongoing storage (called “hosting”) usually costs between $5 – $9 per month. GoDaddy is one of the largest and cheapest and charges around $58 for a full year (great price!)
3) Design services can range from a flat fee of $300 – $900 (and up) depending on how fancy you want your site to be. Be wary of companies that charge less- there may be some hidden fees or restrictions (like limited photos, videos or pages.) Often, the price seems small at first but added costs can push the prices well over $1000.
4) Be careful when signing up for websites you can change/update yourself. These designs tend to either have a very high up front fee, or a moderate monthly fee you pay for the life of your website. For example, some companies charge $195 to design your website, and then charge $25-$50 per month ongoing for hosting & maintenance. That may seem like a great deal, but consider that every year you’d be paying $250-500. How long do you imagine you’ll be keeping your website? That $250-$500 will add up very quickly. This is the same thing that printer companies are doing- they nearly give away the printer and then charge you $40 (or more) per ink cartridge. Be sure that this is a monthly expense you can afford to keep for the rest of your life (or, as long as the website is active.)
5) Changes/updates that are done by your designer are usually less expensive, depending on who you select to do the work. Most charge by the hour for changes. But be careful- many designers have a 1 hour minimum, even if you simply want to add a resume credit. Look for someone who either does not have a 1 hour minimum, or someone who is willing to work on retainer. When I design websites for actors, I do changes on a retainer program and it is a win-win for both the actor and me as the designer. I collect a 1 hour retainer in advance, and then each time the actor has changes I deduct the time from their 1 hour retainer. If the changes take 5 minutes, the actor has 55 minutes of changes left. That way, I still am guaranteed payment for an hour of work, but the actor only pays for work that is actually done. Very few designers use this method because it means less $ for them, but you have every right to expect that you’ll only be paying for work you need.
6) Also, be sure to determine who actually owns the website design – once it is designed, is it yours to do with as you please (even if you choose to host/update it with someone else?) Or do they hold the copyright and keep the design (and contents) if you opt to go elsewhere? These are important things to go over before you pay any fees.
Remember the adage: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Regardless of how you choose to set up your site, all fees can be written off on your taxes as a business expense, and goes a long way in investing in your future as a professional performer. The internet is here to stay, and it is time for you to take advantage of this incredible promotional tool!
Have questions about web design? Shoot me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
Erin Cronican’s career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and regionally. She is the founder of The Actors’ Enterprise (TAE), a fun and inspiring one-on-one coaching service that provides incredibly affordable business training to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. With an approach that is hands-on and customized for each person, TAE helps actors set goals, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level, no matter where they are starting from. She also creates compelling and affordable designs for websites, business cards and postcards. TAE’s focus includes coaching on marketing/career development, business skills, and audition techniques that help actors work SMARTER, not HARDER.