Four Ways Coaching Can Support Your Acting Career
If you're looking to invest in your professional career, here are four reasons why coaching could help you meet your goals.
By Abiola Ogunbiyi
Every character you’ve ever played had an objective they were trying to achieve. They had the circumstances before the scene, and the obstacles, in both the outside world and within them that were holding them back.
Just like our characters, we have objectives we want to achieve as actors. We have a unique set of circumstances: age, training, responsibilities, work experience, etc. that inform what we want and why. And then we have obstacles: low self-belief, negative experiences, personal or professional ruts that have held us back from our goals and our fulfilment.
Even though we are able to study our characters, it’s much harder to do this to our own selves, to know exactly what holds us back in our careers, or where to start the journey to free ourselves from those blocks.
As someone who has worked with my coach, Daniel Dresner, for over seven years, and who also now works as a career coach for professional artists myself, I can speak from both sides on the many benefits of working with a coach, and in this article, I want to share four of the biggest ways a coach can improve an actor’s relationship with themselves and their career, and hopefully encourage you to take a new step into investing in your professional development.
An Extra Hand to Filter out the Noise
One of the first things I work to establish with the artists I work with is what their goals and values are, rather than what they feel they should want.
With a coach, you’ll discover which forms of acting you really love most so you can invest your highest energy towards them. Before the first session with new clients, I ask them to fill out a questionnaire to get a feel for where they feel they are and what they want; nearly every client says that doing the questionnaire alone gives them more clarity on their truest desires.
Working with someone who is dedicated to your career can also help you stop comparing yourself to other actors, who are all at different stages of their own working lives. You learn where you want to go, and you can look at other people’s paths with less of a worry about how it reflects on you. After getting clarity on your goals with a coach, you can then communicate this honestly and efficiently to your agent and team. Together you can make the necessary plans, alongside the plans you’ve created with your coach, to move you there.
This is where a coach comes in. A coach is the audience member that’s able to break the fourth wall and help your character clear the path and achieve their objective.
A Mirror for Your Achievements
In a career where we usually have to think about getting the next job before the one we’ve got has even started, it’s hard to find time to remember what we have achieved.
I look for ways to show the actors and artists I work with all the great things they’ve already accomplished, from being the first person in their family to pursue a professional arts career, being punctual and professional at every audition regardless of the outcome, overcoming injury, or creating their own acting opportunities.
Rather than telling you what to do and how to do it, a life/career coach will help you investigate your life for proof of the skills and potential that is already within you. By seeing where you’ve used these skills before, stepping into your confidence again in auditions and new professional situations become a much less daunting task. Having an outside eye for advice can also introduce you to new ways of thinking about situations so that the career break you had becomes life experience to apply to characters, or the knock to your confidence becomes a new lesson in self-compassion.
Whilst there are many benefits to working on our goals with our peers, at the same time, just like us, our friends have their own blocks. Also, if you’re working in a group, time has to be divided so that everyone gets equal time. When you hire a coach, the entire length of your sessions is for you and you alone, especially valuable in a field where when we’re in between jobs we might not necessarily get as many chances to feel like an actor.
Because your coaching sessions are completely confidential, you can also speak about more sensitive professional topics that you might not wish to share with friends. If you are trying to find your feet after a self-esteem knock, you’ll be able to speak fully and openly about all the experiences and people that you feel contributed to it knowing there will be no judgement. Your coach is the sounding board on which you can make peace with your professional past and make progress towards your professional future.
Support for The Path
The work we do as actors is really not easy. With so much of our work being actually getting work, the lines can become blurry, frustrating and exhausting.
As much as we love what we do, it is probably impossible to maintain 100% effort, energy, and motivation. There isn’t a single professional athlete that doesn’t work with a trainer or coach. It’s highly likely that your own coach will have a coach, as is my case.
By the sheer fact of working with a professional for the growth of your acting career, you tell yourself that you believe your acting career is worth investing in, even in its toughest and darkest moments. You have someone to teach you ways of supporting yourself in those moments, so you can maintain an outlook on your career that helps you stay consistent with your daily habits, whilst being prepared and optimistic about all potential opportunities.
Investing in a coach is investing in yourself. For some of us, the first and biggest step of that journey is believing we’re really worth the investment. After many negative experiences, we may have lost confidence in what we’re capable of. But this is actually the time when we need a coach more than ever: to remind us of what we’ve achieved in the past, what we love, what we can control, and why we deserve to continue pursuing our ambitions.
At the same time, it’s an investment of hard-earned money and it’s in everyone’s best interests that you keep an open dialogue about how you are feeling about the sessions. This helps your coach know how they need to show up and your client-coach relationship can be an enjoyable one.
If you’ve ever felt the benefit of an hour’s encouraging conversation or being set challenges before you felt 'ready', you’ve already experienced a taste of what coaching can give you and your acting career. Now imagine having that regularly with someone fully invested in bringing out the strength, commitment, and self-confidence that has been within you all along.
That’s a team member we can all surely benefit from.
Abiola Ogunbiyi is an actress and screenwriter, whose performance credits include Mamma Mia!, The Book of Mormon, Alone In Berlin, Girls (Theatre); Jamestown, The Interview (Television), and A Boy Called Christmas (Film). Her short film Sexellence won Best International Film at the Portland Comedy Film Festival (2018), and Best Comedy Short at the Grand Budapest Film Festival (2019). In addition to writing and acting, Abiola runs the platform To Be A Better Artist, facilitating workshops to support wellbeing amongst creative professionals.
Headshot by Crista Leonard.
Main image by Mimi Thian via Unsplash.