When I was in theater school I received all kinds of advice about auditioning. Some of it was directly actionable, like ironing your clothes, having headshots and resumes prepared, keeping your selection of monologues current. Done. When it came to knowing what your odds of getting roles or how to guage the effectiveness of headshots or monologues, the advice I recieved was much more nebulous and subjective. The advice usually sounds like, “You just never know. Focus on being the best actor you can,” “You’ll get a sense of what works,” or “You might book 1 role in 50, what’s important is just getting out there.” But no one really backed these statements up with clear statistics. They were all just speculative guesses albeit based upon experience. Know one could really give me an idea of what level of success I should expect once I began auditioning.

Man analyzing financial data and charts by SalFalko, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  SalFalko 

The next few years, I went to advertising school where everything was about merging creative ideas with measureable results. If you couldn’t find a way to measure the success of the campaign you were planning, it was going to be hard to sell it. This stuck with me when I turned back to acting. I wanted to be able to know what my odds of success were for any given submission, audition, or callback. Also, I wanted to know what my potential payoff would be for any give step along the way.

So, when I began auditioning in New York, I decided that I was going to take a lesson from google analytics and track all of my auditions in a spreadsheet. That way I would know my odds of success in any given audition. Now, I track how many submissions I put in, how many times I get called, how many times I get called back, which headshot I use, which monologue I use, and if I showed up to the audition. This seems like a lot of work, but as I did it I noticed that the stress and fear surrounding my auditions began to melt away. Here are a few reasons why I think that is:

1. Odds give you confidence – Knowing roughly what your chances are makes a big difference when you walk in to the audition because you aren’t as worried about the outcome of each individual audition. You may learn that you will probably have to do at least 10 before you book a job. My personal booking rate when I show up to an audition is about 40% which was surprisingly high to me. You may find similar pleasant surpises if you start tracking your auditions.

2. Odds help you to know you’ve put in enough effort – Submitting for auditions is a big job. If you have an agent, it takes some of the load off, but you still want to have some way to bring in work on days when you are not busy. So, you have to submit. After tracking my submissions for a while, I began to realize I consistently got 1 audition for every 10 submissions. This made a huge different in allowing me to set weekly audition goals for myself and make sure I got enough submissions in to meet those goals.

3. Odds teach you about yourself – If you track which headshots you used to submit for roles and which monologues you used in the auditions, you will begin to see which ones give you the best chances. Obviously, you have to take the parameters of the role breakdown into considerations when making these decisions, but knowing if a headshot or monologue is consistently unsuccessful lets you know it may be time to change things up.

4. Odds make it a business – Knowing your odds through tracking your auditions is business analytics. If you take the time to know your numbers, you can make career decisions that immediately generate results you can see. Ultimately, the better your decision, the more time you get to spend acting.

Remember. If you are an actor, you are a business.

Make Something Happen!