I don't care how much of an artistic genius you are: if you're looking to act professionally, you are also a small business. Start this year right by promising yourself you'll behave like one.

Create a "business plan" for yourself

There's a terrific program called SCORE where successful retired business folk donate their time and energy to mentor people just starting to develop their own business ideas. One of the first things they suggest is creating a business plan: getting down, in writing, what goals you have for your business and how you are going to support them. SCORE doesn't handle actors (that I know of, anyway), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow their advice. Write out your version of a business plan: what kind(s) of acting do you want to do, specifically? Daytime drama? Commercials? Indie film? Regional theater? If it's film/TV, winnow it down to exactly the kinds of shows you want to be on and the types of parts you're suited for. What skills will you need to hone? What resources do you have to devote to it?

Where to get help:

Establish measurable annual goals

I've succeeded despite myself, but the years I take the time to plan (and then build in ways to follow through), I always hit more of my goals. I've written about planning your year in previous years; go back and read those pieces if you don't have a methodology for mapping out your year. The two most important things to remember are that your goals should be: (1), very meaningful to you; and (2), phrased in measurable terms (e.g., "Run for 30 minutes, five times weekly" not "Get more exercise.")

Where to get help:

  • My favorite tool is Your Best Year Yet, by Jinny Ditzler (warning: the mapping process will take MUCH longer than the 3-4 hours she says in the book; count on a couple of days your first time, and spread it out over a week or so)
  • Chris Brogan (you're reading him, right?) shared a terrific tool called "boxes" you can make yourself (part of a series on goals)
  • The very successful Chris Guillebeau has a free series of posts on how he maps out his year. (Start here.)

Plot out your year, month, week, day & get support!

Through repeated failure, I learned that if I didn't schedule things, they tended not to happen.

Now I map out my year using Your Best Year Yet, then schedule things into the calendar. I schedule all my column dates, dates for significant blog post series, newsletter dates (my own and one I write for a small business in L.A.) so there are no surprises. I also schedule in trips, client work and anything else as I know it. When a date fills up with stuff, I stick a big "NO MORE!" flag on it, to help maintain sanity. (A big goal this year is to do LESS stuff.) My biggest change this year was writing out a list of things each night to follow the next day. (You can do it first thing in the morning, too, but as some people have suggested, putting stuff down the night before may help your subconscious work on it while you sleep.) I'm not 100% there yet, but just what I've done has made life run a lot more smoothly.

I also joined a master mind group mid-year, and have two accountability partners: one whom I check in with every two weeks for an hour over the phone, and one whom I check in with daily (and sometimes task by task) via Google Wave. Be creative! Gather your own people around you to provide support and structure. Just make sure they're as motivated as you are, if not more so.

Where to get help:

Want more help in the new year?

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Email me your questions: If you have marketing questions you'd like to see addressed in a future column, do email me. But please, check the archives, first!

Colleen Wainwright is a writer-speaker-consultant 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 and not evil by helping actors and other world-changers to uncover their unique fabulosity and get it out there via low-cost tools like the web and not being a doofus.

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.