A Project Based Artist Resume (ECA Workshop)
The logistics behind the piece of paper that got Lindsey into contact with top professionals in the country with 0 prior connections | ECA = Entrepreneurial Creative's Article
This article is going to be a little different than my normal posts, as it’s written in plain terms without any embellishments. This is a How-To Resource for my ECA readers and the last free article under this category. All other categories on my Substack will remain free always. People who sign up by 6/31/22 for the monthly or annual ECA & Writing With Another Career subscription will receive up to three free artist or professional resume and pitch reviews with no expiration date. (Don’t worry: One of my paid jobs in college was resume reviewer so I’ve seen it all!)
Next Week’s ECA: ‘All About The Pitch’
Why Do Artists Need A Resume?
Showcasing your accomplishments on a professional one-page paper is never going away. Sure, you have an online portfolio with all the links, and word of mouth goes much further than a piece of paper. Yet, our natural reaction when we are handed a piece of paper is to accept. Especially when we’re not expecting it. (Proven study!) Today I’m going to go over with you the piece of paper that has gotten me into contact with some of the literary world’s top connections without a single prior connection. I’m going to go over each section with you and how to craft your own “artist resume” based on your area of skill: visual art, music, writing, etc.
Where Can I Circulate This Resume?
I recommend printing a ton of these bad-boys once you are finished and attending live conferences and events local to you that pertain to your artistic career. Meet someone, shake their hand, have a chat, then ask if you can give them one. Typically, you’re going to want to give these to stakeholders who can do something for your career. The resume is also transferable in a virtual climate, this can look like web conferences, virtual events, and scoutings - or even live social media events. This paper can be distributed either way with effectiveness.
I always keep one on me and in my iPhone files, because you just never know who you might meet!
Note before we start: All artist-resume writing will be done in the third person.
The Pitch Section:
I’m going to go over this at length in next week’s ECA article since it is not only the most important section in your artist resume but also the big point you’re going to need to speak to when talking to stakeholders and representation. This is where in four short paragraphs, you’re going to have to get your work’s vision across.
Element One: The Introduction
We’re going to start the pitch by introducing the name of the work in ALL CAPITALS LIKE THIS. If it’s a painting series, album, book, or photo set: doesn’t matter. You need to name the collection. Then you need to quantify the work. For books, you need the finished and exact word count: 87989 words. For everything else, you need the number of items in the series. Example: 32 poems, or 7 songs, or 6 watercolors, and 2 acrylics, or 18 film photos and one portrait. Add a small and powerful description of the work you are seeking to platform next. Is it thrilling, thoughtful, black and white, puzzling, abstract, etc? We will go over crafting this to perfection for your project next week. Then add two comparison titles against similar art. One of these two can be widely known. The other needs to be more granular, not as widely known, perhaps an artist only known at a local level or within certain circles. Having the juxtaposition helps communicate to the other party that you are well researched in all areas and levels in the culture of your craft. I always include a professionally-done picture of myself in the introduction as well. I find that people can better connect with who you are on paper when they’re able to see what you look like. Even if you’re standing in front of them.
Element Two: The Pitch
Again, the pitch totals the two most important paragraphs on this piece of paper. It should vividly and accurately describe your work and the emotional references while telling the vivid story within the piece. The wording here is imperative and you want to make sure you’re using language that relies on studied story science to create impressionable images and emotional responses before the reader even is introduced to the piece(s) you’re pitching.
I’m not going to go into depth in this section, as we will be covering it next week. I’ll talk in-depth about how we can use science to evoke the response we want when we’re pitching: verbally or on paper.
Element Three: The Biography
Your biography is another chance for you to show off. That’s it. You’re going to want to plug in success with a prior relevant piece if you have one to a quick and concise level. This communicates to the other side that you’ve already been through this process before and have done so successfully. Let’s say you haven’t landed a deal or studio before though. It’s still okay to put the names of previous songs, collections, or books you’ve created. If there aren’t monetary successes around them yet, talk about the experience it landed you or the takeaway you learned to build your current work (that you’re pitching) on. Don’t talk yourself down. Make every experience sound like the best yet. Then quickly wrap up with a short sentence about yourself that provides one or two important facts to the reader. I suggest going a step further and including a QR code to your portfolio or website after this step, giving the reader an option to research you further if they find themselves interested in your pitch.
Accomplishments & Press + Paid Relevant Experience
These next two sections are where you’re going to rely heavily on past accomplishments in your area of expertise. We’ll talk about the difference between the two categories and what to do if you feel like you do not have the experiences you need to fill out this section yet.
For the Accomplishments and Press section, you’ll want to get three experiences nailed down that could fall under this category. The accomplishments need to be small feats that can be visualized as a checkbox goal you might’ve had. If you’ve had a really cool job in the past, that’s going to go in the relevant experience section. But if you had a big moment or milestone at the cool job, that’s what is going to go here.
Please note that no accomplishment is too small. You landed your first live gig at a local coffeehouse? Be proud of that. Did you sell 50 tickets to a live performance? Talk about it! Did you get your art up in a local restaurant? That’s worthy of the resume. You got a piece published in your local newspaper? Write it down. These are all great experiences and points you’ll want to highlight. You also don’t need to have them right now. If you’re reading this, and you have no idea what you’re going to put here, you have plenty of time to get these experiences and I’m going to tell you how. I recommend reaching out to small organizations on a local level to start, as smaller experiences can be had on a local level with a low barrier to entry. These experiences will eventually begin to compound on one another until you’re narrowing it down to your most impressive three from a laundry list you’ve built.
If you need help on what in the world to place in this section, head over to my recent article (linked) that talks about how I got started.
When it comes to Paid Relevant Experience, think of a few bullet points you might put on a traditional resume. Your current full-time role (if you have one) should absolutely go here, even if it isn’t relevant to your artistic pursuit. Because this section is all about highlighting your dependability as an artist. You can get gigs and you can follow through on them. We’ve already talked about your big accomplishments and what you’re capable of achieving.
You’ll notice I talk about a writing experience in my resume, then I talk about being a human design lead on a research project. What I’m getting across when I speak to this, has nothing to do with my writing ability. But it does say that I can work with people, I can lead them, and I can pull data points about their behaviors: all qualities needed in the professional writing world.
I then talk about my day job, rather than hiding it, which is strategically the last bullet point on my resume. While my job is not always relevant to my author career, the reader of the resume will get through the other data points to find my technical career at the end. The idea is that you are leaving the reviewer with a sense of your own die-hard commitment to your artist pursuit. You want them to read through and say: “Wow she did all of this and has another job? She must work hard.” And while your other jobs might not exactly be relevant to your artistry skills, it speaks wonders about your own dedication and self-discipline, which at the end of the day will always be impressive to other artists. Because juggling all of this is hard work and you’re doing it. All forms of employment are completely relevant to include.
Objective statements have kind of died in the professional resume world, but I believe in their absolute power on the artist side. It leaves out the bullsh*t of dancing around, sucking up to people in your industry, and professionally states exactly what you’re hoping to find at the events you find yourself at. I think a lot of people in the business side of art respect this because they’re constantly speculative of ulterior motives in their interactions with other artists. Because they have to be. It’s often their job.
It’s time to remind the reader of your resume why they’re holding this paper. Do you want studio space? Say that bluntly. Do you need an agent? Put that down in plain English. As long as you state it professionally, you cannot be too forward in this section. I like to section my objectives between formatted lines that let the reader know, even at first glance, what I’m asking them for. Then I put it in bold. Because I’m bold with my asks and I want to show confidence in that.
In digital worlds, I like to include a link to excerpts from my prior work. But, I mostly handle this piece of paper in person. So I often physically write the link onto the back of the paper with a fine point pen in my best handwriting. Sure you could type it out in hyperlink, but I prefer to keep this one page sleek without the mess of a long-hand link. People are going to make an impression about you based on how visually pleasing your page is. So I avoid the liability altogether.
Lastly, don’t forget to include your contact information in the footer. You don’t want to do all of this work and leave someone important at a loss on how to contact you. A time zone can also help to add if the resume-reader might look to set up a meeting with you about your pitched work. (Fingers crossed!)
The ECA series and Writing When You Have Another Career series will fall behind a shared paywall in July. If you found this article helpful, I’d encourage you to join the series or subscribe to the class articles. People who sign up by 6/31/22 for the monthly or annual ECA & Writing With Another Career subscription will receive up to three free artist or professional resume and pitch reviews with no expiration date.
Either way, I’m so happy you’re here and reading: paid level or free. Your support means the world and I feel lucky to have you. Please share this article if it helped you in any way. Hopefully, it can help your friends too. :)