Having a headshot, resume, and reel is only part of the marketing equation for modern actors. More and more of casting is on the internet. And having a hub with all of your materials is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.
There aren’t set rules that apply to every person, but I’ve learned guidelines from seeing other actors’ materials and listening very closely to casting directors.
I’m often asked to review websites (I was a web designer for 15 years) and I see a lot of the same issues. Here are the most common ones…
1. Too Many Headshots
You can easily get multiple galleries on your site. One for headshots, one for on set photos, one for red carpet events, one for modeling, etc.
But casting directors looking at your headshots don’t want to see every look you’re capable of. They want to see you at your best.
There’s an interesting study about choice… it showed a display of either 6 or 24 different flavors of jam to grocery store customers. The one with FEWER options sold many more jars of jam.
People tend to be overwhelmed by choice. Make it easier on casting directors and just show who you are with your best shots. You don’t need more than 6.
Same thing can be said about pages. All your info could go on a single page, if you wanted it to! Don’t make people click a whole bunch to get everything they need. Keep it simple.
2. Inconsistent Navigation & Design
Your website should be easy to navigate. If each page looks vastly different, it can be confusing to your visitor. And if that visitor is a busy casting director, you don’t want to give them any reason to be frustrated.
Having a menu of your pages (home, headshots, reel, etc.) in the same spot on every page makes for a much better browsing experience. Look at sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They have a consistent layout for navigation at the top of every page, even though the content on each page is different.
3. No Downloadable PDF Version of Resume
Yes, people still like to print. Especially if you have a dark background on your site. If someone tried to print that… it’d be a huge waste of ink!
Sure, it’s not THAT hard to copy and paste into a document and hit print, but your job is to make it as easy as possible for someone to hire you. Have an easily noticeable link near the top of the page where someone can download your resume.
Remember to update the PDF version every time you update the web page with new credits.
4. No Email Newsletter Sign Up Form Or Contact Info
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just sit back and wait for the phone calls with job offers? It doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.
The #1 thing you can do to maximize your results is to cultivate relationships. Ever hear that the secret to success is who you know? Just as important is who knows you.
By having an email newsletter — and building an audience of people who want to hear from you — you’ll be on people’s minds. It’s a great way to keep in touch.
My very web-savvy friend Ben Whitehair booked a job from someone who he had no contact with for several years except for sending his email newsletter. Do it, it works!
Not only should you be able to keep in contact with others, but they should be able to contact you!
Have your (and your agent/manager’s) contact info easily accessible. Also link to your social media profiles so people can get in contact with you there if that’s more convenient for them.
5. Outdated Content
Your website should always have your latest photos and credits. But what looks really unprofessional is when you have a blog or a news section that shows that the last update was from 2012.
Keep your site up to date! Show that you’re active, creating your own work, or booking other jobs. No one wants to cast someone who isn’t pursuing their craft. Even having a few life updates that aren’t career related are fine every now and then.
If you don’t have a way to update your site yourself (or someone to do it for you), change that. If you need to pay someone every time you update your site — and if it takes weeks for them to do it — find a different solution. When you get new pictures, credits, or news, have them go online asap.
If you’re not going to write blogs or have news too often, label the section “updates” and make sure the date isn’t on the post. Or just don’t have a news section.
6. Paying Too Much (Or Too Little)
I’ve seen companies that charge SEVERAL THOUSAND DOLLARS for a simple actor site. Maybe they have really amazing custom design, but that’s just wayyyyy more than you need to spend.
The goal is to a have a simple, quality site that works. Paying too much could lead to you not being motivated to keep it updated or change it because it was so expensive.
Also look around for service providers that aren’t necessarily actor-specific. There are lots of services out there that are marked up just because they seem like a fit perfectly crafted for your needs, but they might not be that different from a more generic service. Do more research… you’ll spend less.
On the other hand, if you pay too little — it’s noticeable. Your resume, headshots, reel, and website are your brand. Your personality. Your marketing. These show casting directors how serious you are about your career.
Going for the cheapest possible option may be ok if you’re just getting started, and you feel like having something is better than nothing. But if you plan on making a career out of this, the site should be professional quality design.
Be clear on what value you’re getting for your money. Pay a professional to do a great job (more than $1000 is too much for an actor site), or find a paid monthly service like Squarespace or Strikingly to build your own pro quality site.
You can invest time in learning how to do it yourself, or pay a professional to do it. Either way, make it good.
7. Auto-Playing Video
Nothing is more annoying than audio and video that starts playing automatically when a page loads.
Music is ok to have if you really want it, but make sure that your visitor needs to click play for it to start.
On your video/reel page, be sure to embed your videos so that they don’t auto-play. If you’re embedding code from Vimeo or YouTube they don’t auto-play by default. Don’t check that auto-play option!
Having many videos on a page can start to slow down a visitor’s web browser. Especially if they load several of them. Keep load time in mind before adding 30 video clips to your page.
And if you don’t have a reel… get one. It has become another one of those essential items.
8. Unfocused Purpose
Decide what your site is for.
Do you have a site that is a personal page that happens to have acting info? …and also includes paintings, music, directing credits, and information about your knitting workshops?
If so, you may need separate websites for your different projects. Create an about/bio page and link to your other projects there.
You can absolutely let your personality out, but don’t make your website visitors wade through lots of information to find your actor info.
9. Boring Design
There’s nothing wrong with using a template to create your website. It helps get it done faster. But please… edit and make it your own!
The colors and fonts of your site go a long way to give people a sense of your personality. Don’t go overboard with lots of pictures of flowers and unicorns, but find simple ways to communicate who you are.
If you’re not sure how to do this, get feedback from visual artist friends. This is also one of the advantages of hiring a professional designer… they should be able to create something that communicates who you are.
10. Not Having One
“But everyone is on social media these days… do I really need a website?”
Social media isn’t a platform you control. Facebook changes all the time, what if suddenly your page is deleted? (yes, it happens.)
There’s no other way to easily communicate your personality, show off your professionalism, display your resume & headshots, share blogs or news, and get people to sign up for your email newsletter… all in one place.
And having your-name.com makes you look cooler, too.
Once you’ve got one, you can promote it on social media, put links in online profiles, add the address on your resume and business cards, and add it to the bottom of every email you send.
Having a website is a great opportunity to show off your creativity! IMDB credits won’t give people a sense of who you are, so use this medium to express yourself.
Need more help?
Final note: Once you’ve made a site, don’t rely on your facebook friends to give you valuable feedback. You’ll get “It looks nice!” and “I don’t like the font.” Ask people who understand and are in your business.