Hustle & Professional Etiquette

By Whisky Falls

Whisky Falls credit Alexis D.Lea

Credits: Alexis D.Lea (Photographer)


We hear this phrase used a lot, don’t we? Hustle for your jobs, hustle for your money, hustle for your art. But what does this actually mean?

In general, it is the sole traders, artists and contractors of the world that are known for hustling. Every job, event, apprenticeship, expression of interest, need want and desire will require different amounts and styles of approach.

So here it is. Here are my pearls of wisdom. Now, to be very clear, I can only speak as the theatre-performer/ghost-writer/dancer/ex-stripper/producer/entertainments-coordinator/venue-event-booker/administrative geek that I am. Please remember, this is one person’s advice. But one averagely mature and experienced person who has consulted with peers on this one. Are you ready?

Don't assume that you will get or deserve a particular job

Never assume anything. To assume, might just make an ASS out of U and ME. (You are welcome!)

Seriously though, Never assume that you will get to perform or work a particular job. Remember, while you are unique in what you do, so is everyone else. So there are lots of people hustling too. It is a privilege to be given a platform to show your art on, not a right.

If you feel differently, go make your own platform!

Stop and think what you are applying for. Are you right for the job? Is the job right for you?

Take a breath and think about exactly what it is you are applying for. Do a little google search. Have a social media stalk. Ask around. Is this the type of job that you are right for? Do you have the experience level that is right for this particular job? Does your brand coincide with the brand of the job? Is this even the type of venue/event/person you want to be considered for?

Is contacting for this job on brand and worthy of your time and others?

Next, look at the work. As much as we all want to be applying for every job in the world, you cannot be right for everything. Does this suck? Yes. Is this fair? Well, actually yes. To give everyone a seat at the table and hear what every hard-working talented person has to say, sometimes we have to do the listening. Trust me, you will not be forgotten about because you did not apply for that one gig. You may actually gain more respect from your peers by not taking up space and energy of the producer/person who has to do the administrative side of the casting/booking/curating.

Let’s expand on that last point a little... Every time you ask a representative for consideration about the work, it costs money and irreplaceable time. Every verbal approach, social media message, email, another social media message, another verbal approach, costs money and time. And, to be honest, it can be very frustrating, overwhelming and, well, it can make you look desperate.

You see, every push that you make without consent or request is you ASSUMING that you are right for the job and have been forgotten about. And that can be the case, but actually rarely. Every interaction you push for looks like another assumption... the assumption that there isn’t a process in place. Again, you could be mistaken. There very well may be a meticulous screening process in place. It may involve many cogs in the wheel (for example the flexibility and cohesivity of the rest of the cast and crew that are part of the job). This may not affect how your expression of interest is received, but it will certainly affect how it is processed. And, here’s the stinger. You may not have been forgotten about, you may just not be right for this job. (Sad Face, I know. But remember, this is business. A creative and subjective business at that, so don’t take it personally).

Be considerate in your approach

99% of the time is not personal. It is business.

Be careful and considerate about how you express interest in something or someone. Which links to what I was saying about taking up space, energy, time, labour, resources (e.g. the WORTH of someone else!) Think about the choice of language, think about what they have asked you to do or send. Listen to what they are saying when they correspond with you. You may not like what you hear but for them, the booker/producer, it 99% of the time is not personal. It is business.

Evaluate and approach

Now think about that research you did to further you approach style. Is the job itself considered a business or a community job? (Not to say some don’t fall into both categories, but the job in question may have a very specific level attached to it.) Some jobs are on an invite-only basis. (This doesn’t mean that you cannot get an invite, but it means you need to think even harder about how you approach getting one.) Now you have worked this out, now think inwardly... are you approaching this as a business person or a community member/hobbyist? If your answer is the latter, be enthusiastic! But keep it brief, express your reason for reaching out, ask the person for their preferred way of communicating, explain your position and what you hope to gain by reaching out. Be very clear in telling the person that you are new/hobbyist/community member who may be expecting different ways of helping the business out other than monetary. You may still receive money if you are asked to work, but if your reason is predominantly to be involved, progress to find out where you want to be within this job/industry, or simply support the community, expressing interest on a different level may be the better option for you. You will gain experience quicker anyway, and maybe even gain networking opportunities for other fields of work, should that be relevant for you.

Business want = Business approach!

If you are approaching as a business person (which I am assuming most reading this are), think like and approach in the same way you would any other professional industry! First, look to see if there is an application form. If there is not, look for a contact specifically linked to employment. If you cannot find one, contact the businesses general line (info@ email address usually) to ascertain if they are looking for employees at this time or in the near future. And here is the same advice again, ASK THEIR PREFERRED CONTACT PERSON AND WAY OF CONTACTING. Most businesses do not conduct their entire process through Instagram DMs. This doesn’t mean you cannot use DMs to make an initial reach out, but that should be to ask where and whom to express interest to. The ball is in their court. If they continue to converse in this domain, fair game. But if they have asked you to use a certain email address or person, LISTEN AND USE THAT!

Next, write a short ‘cover letter’ to explain your reason for contacting. And be specific! You might be contacting a venue/production that has multiple events/jobs at once, state exactly what you are getting in contact for! Explain who you are, what you do and what you are looking for.

Do not send anything that looks unsafe without a risk assessment and credentials to accompany the unsafe act.

Provide links or attachments to a ‘press pack’ or your website. Photos, videos, references and resumes (yes, resumes!) are all things someone may need to employ you. Make it easy for them by sending it all, wrapped in a professional looking bow, Do not send multiple videos of the same act. Do not send anything that looks unsafe without a risk assessment and credentials to accompany the unsafe act. And here is why: venues and producers have insurance to pay and customers to look after too. It is them that will be the first to fall under the knife if there is an accident or incident in their venue/event/production. If you cause it, your public liability insurance will be called upon for sure, but the customer/Work Safe will come to them first. There is a chain of liability that begins with them. So if you are a professional ‘dangerous goods’ performer, supply all the credentials and assessments to prove it. This. Is. Business. Etiquette.

The Follow-up Rules!

Now, the follow up. Like I said, this is where it gets tricky. But not too tricky. General rule of thumb, the less often the job happens, the less you should follow up. At least an entire 2 cycles should go by before a follow up. If a show is only happening once a month or once a quarter, maybe check in once every 2-3 months. If you contact every month or more, you may be coming across pushy and entitled. If you have been told that your expression of interest has been noted and received, accept that. If you have not, then fair game, follow it up. But in that fashion... “Hello, just checking if you received my EOI for Blah Blah show? Thanks in advance for your consideration”. This is where it is good to remember point 1. If you write “Hey, do you have a date for me yet?” “When’s your next show?” “I’m available on these dates by the way” you can sound like (whether you mean it or not) that you are assuming. And that could be enough to rub the booker up the wrong way.


It is possible that either you, your brand or your specific acts are not right for that job. And that’s ok. That is life. BUT... it doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be! For ongoing opportunities, the style or brand of the job may change. YOUR style and brand may change. If you are not following up to send new information, don’t follow up more than twice in a row with a nudge. Trust that you are either on a list or you are not. But either way, there is no reason for re contacting unless you are bringing something new to the table. If you are continuously following up, you may just be pestering someone. And that will make you less promising to them. And whatever you do, Don’t try and go around or above the known bookers head. Trying to get in another way is disrespectful to them and their position. And try to avoid moaning about not getting booked to other producers. You know that producers talk, right? How to you think we work out who is safe to work with... ;)

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