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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

This month: The “Y” behind DIY Success

By the time you read this, I will either be or not be on my way to becoming the first Southwest Airlines Blog-O-Spondent (their term, not mine). Why, in the midst of preparing for two major speaking engagements, traveling on family business and taking care of the regular-usual, did I decide to give myself an additional 38+ hours of work by entering a contest I’m not even sure I want to win? Read on, little chickens, read on…

There’s a weird schism to being an actor.

On the one hand, you’re an employee – literally, according to the government paperwork you fill out on a union job. The Producers are your employers, paying into your Pension & Health, cutting your checks and generally making you do what they say.

Add to that the itinerant and sometimes arbitrary nature of employment, and the whole thing can leave us thinking we’re not really in charge, abdicating responsibility and along with it, our power.

Thing is, on the other hand, you are also most decidedly a business, and because of it, largely in control of your own destiny. Everything from bringing in work to managing cash flow to maintenance and improvement of assets is all you, at least in the beginning. (If anyone has figured out how to successful outsource the maintenance and upkeep bit, I’d love to hear about it!)

From here, it’s only a small step to the really big part of this: while you can’t control most aspects of your paid-for-by-others employment, you really are the one calling the shots with your work-with-a-capital-“W” work. You decide when you work, whether it’s the day-to-day maintenance work of keeping yourself fit, skilled, marketed and employable-for-cash, or whether it’s work-work: that big, artistic stuff you (hopefully) got into the game for to begin with.

Which brings me back to why I spent three days I couldn’t spare busting hump for a contest whose prize I’m still not sure I want to win: I had an idea that required expression. Literally. Two weeks into the announcement of the contest, a script popped into my head, and I knew I had to realize it. Because that, kids, is The Work they’re always pounding into you in acting class—well, real acting class, anyway.

Now, I’m realistic about this. I’m also looking out for me here, because remember: I’m a business. While there was no guarantee of winning anything, there were plenty of other really good, business reasons to bust hump.

For one thing, I was pretty sure that if I applied myself, I’d come out with a nice little piece of tape, a few more connections made and some useful experience under my belt. For another, while the effort required to pull this off was pretty big, the resources I had at my disposal were significant, too. 20 years in advertising, one way or the other, plus a huge nerd-friend network and lots of geeky skills and equipment acquired along the way meant that serving my idea wasn’t going to require feats of magic or a huge outlay of cash: just some extra-long days. (Well, the BF did spring for that ukulele.)

This is a long way of saying that you shouldn’t serve the Idea, or do the Work, if it’s going to break you. Some opportunities may come along and just be the right idea at the wrong time. (And some ideas are just wrong—definitely ones that require enormous outlays of cash or credit, and/or the involvement of Nigerian royalty.) But you need to be out there, on the prowl, looking for the good Work. You need to make yourself available for projects and you need to generate them on your own. You need to Work, and you need to go after it, not wait for it to come to you.

The waiting, by the way, is insidious and can take many forms. It can be about endless fussing over look and headshots. It can be about finding the right agent. It is very often about various forms of trying to get people to notice you for the right job so that you can get noticed for the next job so that you can be, I don’t know, famous or something. There are myriad ways of fooling yourself into thinking you’re working, or into actually doing a lot of work at the expense of your true Work.

Forget it. Here’s what you do: make finding work part of your business, for sure, but make finding Work as big or bigger of a part. You will take back control of your career, which will feel great. You will be empowered, which will make you more attractive to everyone, including people who hire you for money-work. But most importantly, you will live a life of fulfillment and purpose, and help make the world a better place – a place you want to work in. And Work in.


If you attended my LA Casting seminar on marketing on August 23rd, please feel free to email the Powers That Be ( and give them your feedback. I know there were a number of you who are already pretty Internet-savvy, and if there are enough, maybe we can do another seminar that’s more like an advanced class, with prerequisites and everything.

If you’re really interested in making yourself available and ready for Work, why not sign up for  my free monthly newsletter, communicatrix | focuses. Every issue covers one aspect of communication (i.e., you getting your word out there) and includes actionable steps; I also share the best of all the many, many inspirational, how-to and otherwise useful links I come across in my nerdly travels.  Back issues available to peruse here; sign up directly here.

UP NEXT MONTH! Get ready to attack your marketing plan with renewed vigor as we start tackling the dreaded bio!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.