Episode 198 — Sell Yourself

Welcome to Episode 198! This Podcast is about the subject of selling yourself: It’s a different take on how you see yourself and how you apply for jobs. The key things when people apply for jobs are:

  • Building relationships;
  • Having an urgency around applying for jobs in the first place.

Here, I take a different spin on this approach. With demo reels for example, I often hear people say, “I’m working on my demo reel right now”. I always say that having your reel is the most important thing (www.allanmckay.com/myreel). The only thing more important — is building relationships. But without the reel, you can’t get work. A lot of us tend to work on our reel to bide time (maybe because we’re afraid or we think we aren’t good enough). I think the better approach is to build a reel, send it out — and work on the next one.

I always say: Attack with urgency and fail fast! Give yourself 6 days to make a reel and get some feedback. Just get the reel out there! No one is going to blacklist you for that reel if it’s terrible. If it’s bad, people will move on. If it’s good, you may actually get the call. Your hard skills include building a reel. Your soft skills — having the relationships and applying for jobs through those relationships.

In this Podcast, I talk about using the skills of the most successful salespeople and how to apply those to sell yourself as an artist and a business — and to get your dream job.


[00:43] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[06:37] I have a new VFX Training Course available right now at www.VFXCourse.com. This is almost 20 hours of high end live action training. This is a massive Course and you can download all the assets! It won’t be up for much longer, so go get it now, for free!

[36:26] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!


[06:52] Imagine that you aren’t actually an artist for a moment. Picture yourself being in something like sales. To be a successful salesperson, you’d need to:

  • Have a product to sell;
  • Have people to sell that product to;
  • Know HOW to sell that product.

As long as you know those three levers — you’re good. If one is lacking, you wouldn’t be able to close. You have to go and talk to people and do what it takes to make a sell. You would make your living that way, so the stakes are high. One of my friends (who teaches how to draw) started doing cold calling. That’s sounds like the scariest thing to me: to get on the phone with someone who may be already on the defensive. But that’s how much he believes in the techniques that he’s selling! I think that’s amazing. I want us to be aware of how easy and laid back our job is. We have a pretty good gig! We tend to work on our reel for 6 months. Or we want to switch to VFX but we aren’t doing it with urgency. Whatever that may be, I feel like we don’t have the stakes high. We tend to be pretty laid back and we live in that comfort zone.

[10:02] For a second, I want us to think about how we describe a good salesperson. In our mind, we often think of them as scam artists, pushy, sleazy. They’re more interested in making the sale than in who we are. For a lot of us, we feel harassed or annoyed whenever someone starts following you around the store mentioning the sales that are going on. We just want to be left alone! In reality, however, that’s exactly what happens when we apply for jobs: We email people we don’t know personally. We email them, “Hi, I don’t know you, but give me a job. Here is my reel and my stuff.” Then we email them to follow up. (This is why I’m doing Podcasts on Email Teardowns: www.allanmckay.com/176. I want to demonstrate to you some of the outreach that I get. It’s no wonder you don’t get the results!)

Most emails are focused on you. I think there are some writing apps that come back with how much you’re writing about yourself vs the other person. To my Inner Circle, I give away a lot of information on that: www.allanmckay.com/inside. Most of the time, my emails are focused on the reader, not on myself. However, that’s not true for most of us. Imagine being on the receiving end and getting 20 of those emails a day. It’s easier to not even reply. In a lot of the emails I get, I’m just looking for proof that you didn’t just copy and paste another email and sent it off to me. Because I get those a lot: no human contact, no personalization.


[13:47] Whether you like it or not, we are in sales. We ourselves are the product / the service. Most of us don’t know how to sell that product. Whenever you revise your reel or cover letter, you’re tweaking your sales pitch. Everything we’re doing — is sales. Even successful politicians are the ones who are interested in the other person. I remember watching old footage of Bill Clinton and he was asked a question, he made it about the other person. He won over the room! Everyone immediately liked him. We can talk about the sleazy salesperson, but that’s a person who is not good at his / her job. A good salesperson is someone who makes him / herself known but who isn’t going to be pushy. If you ask for their help, they will be the most knowledgeable person. They’re more interested in building a relationship with you. They would give you their card and say, “Let me know if you need anything. No pressure.” And they’ll be the ones who’ll know your name the next time you came in! You actually like them! You would want to reach out to them.

[16:35] This is how I talk about building relationships and applying for jobs. The companies to which you reach out aren’t always going to be hiring. If they’re hiring, most likely, there are many candidates. But if you build relationships, they’re going to get to know you and see your work improve. Then, you amplify that by many companies with which you build such connections — and increase your opportunities.

[17:09] I get frustrated when I see people taking months to build their reels, instead of just taking a few days or weeks, at the most. We don’t have that accountability and therefore we don’t get any results. If we were that salesperson who needs to get results, we would need to be more accountable. We need to get that reel out to get the job. Most people who are successful in sales, they work on themselves. They study psychology, go to seminars and constantly learn. If you’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street, you know a bit about Jordan Bellford. He studied NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) for a long time to condition himself to close his deals. People learn to be successful by trying and failing and becoming better.

[19:09] So spending forever on a reel is one of those minimal efforts. Or when we go to the job website and just upload the reel (which then goes into a massive database), we are doing what everyone else is doing. That’s frustrating! It’s hard for you to stand out that way or build new relationships. Once we’ve done that, we pat ourselves on the back. But we continue to get the same result — which is no answer! We don’t take responsibility for that, we just make more excuses. (“I guess they’re looking for someone with more experience!”) In reality, you may be talking to the wrong person. You may not be conveying yourself well. What could you do differently? That’s the question a successful salesperson would ask. [Cosmetics company] Avon would have a great approach when they’d leave their kits with people overnight. That’s when people would get their defenses down. That’s a different style.


[21:13] Looping back to art, I would be interested in finding out what their needs are. If you go to a job interview, the easiest ninja thing to say is: What is your ideal candidate? What are you concerns with the project? That gives them a chance to tell me what they’re looking for. Bit by bit, they could admit that the schedule is a problem. You could then tell them that you take pride in how fast you get things done. Or they could admit there is a problem with their pipeline. Which then gives you a chance to communicate that you know a bit of coding and you could build some assets and automate parts of the process. By knowing their pains, you can come at it from a different angle — and be the solution to their problem. The more you make it about them, the more they can connect with them. In addition, you get more information for yourself. Whenever I go into any meeting, I ask more questions than they can think of. That way, I can start to position myself better, but it all takes with getting to know them.

[23:37] When it comes to applying for jobs, you need to take responsibility [when you don’t get any responses]. Most likely, the reason is you. Doing the same thing over and over, isn’t going to give you the result you’re looking for. I’m always asking how I can do things better, even if I do those things well. So take responsibility. Take that urgency in place! The quicker you cut your reel — the quicker you can get to applying for jobs. And once you add some shots later on, t’s an excuse to follow up with the studio and say, “I’ve just updated my reel”. You should also compliment the work that the studio does. The urgency is the critical thing we need to think about. Whenever I help artists, I can see who is focusing on the bigger picture vs. those who aren’t taking responsibility for the rejection.

[25:57] When it comes to sales, 99% of the sales aren’t made on the first try. I have a friend who hires people, but he will only hire those who call back to follow-up. Because that’s what he wants them to do in his business. It may take a few tries before someone buys the product. That way when they follow up — they are at the top of the list. Traditionally, when you go out on the date, you start building a relationship and get to know them better. You don’t propose on the first date! Same thing: You don’t hire someone who is a jerk. These aren’t things that are hard to do when you’re reaching out to studios: “I’m not looking for job right now, but here is my reel.” You can always throw an easy question their way, so you can start a conversation. It’s just a human exchange. Make it about their work or ask a question. It’s the core essence of building a relationship. You take the pressure off about jobs or if they’re hiring.


[29:58] I wanted to make this a conversation and focus on the key things. To recap:

  • You need to have a product: Your reel, your website, all the key things that increase your visibility. You have to have those things in place and it’s easy to build that checklist.
  • You need to have people to reach out to. You need to apply for 5 jobs every day: That’s a lot of jobs per week!
  • You need to know HOW to sell. You need to learn those soft skills: communication is the number one thing, for example.
  • You need to take responsibility and have the urgency when you’re applying for work. Take responsibility when your strategy isn’t working. Tweak your sales pitch, improve your product. You can always send an updated reel, which is just another opportunity to follow-up.

[32:51] I’m hoping this resonates with some of you. If you were a salesperson, maybe you aren’t doing your job. Maybe you need to step up and do things differently. So get off your butt and sell your service! Who can sell you better than you? Make the product, get the check list of things to pitch, build relationships and keep improving your sales skills.

I hope this makes sense and this is something that will help you! Shoot me an email and let me know what you think: [email protected]

  • Check out the free training at www.VFXCourse.com.
  • I will back next week with my own interview with Fabio Palvelli of D2 Conference. After that, I will be releasing Episode 200! (I can’t believe it!)

Until next week —

Rock on!


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