May 1, 2024

Ep #16: How to Go from Amateur Performer to Professional

Many performers, myself included, don’t love those conversations that go something like, “What do you do?” When I’m forced into one of these conversations and tell somebody I’m a singer, every now and then, they’ll reply with, “Oh, are you a professional?” But what actually separates amateurs from professional performers?

I work with tons of talented artists from all walks of life, but there’s one thing that stands out between professionals and amateurs: mindset. Professionals have developed the ability to manage their own mind. This means that you, too, can develop the professional mindset required to turn your dreams into reality as a performer.

Tune in this week to discover exactly what separates amateur performance artists from professionals. I share the distinctions you need to be aware of between amateurs and professionals, and I give you my advice for putting the work in and making the leap from amateur to professional.

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What You will discover:

  • The biggest differences between amateurs and professionals.
  • How professional performers get out there and make things happen.
  • The importance of understanding your circle of competence.
  • How to develop the mindset of a professional performer.
  • My recommendations from making the jump from amateur to professional.

Listen to the full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:


Welcome to The Confident Performer, the only podcast that guides ambitious, driven performers and entrepreneurs to show up authentically and confidently both on and off stage. If you are ready to make an impact in your life and community and start living your most amazing, empowered life, you are in the right place. You already have what it takes to make it, you just need to see it. And I’m here to show you how. You ready? Let’s go.

Well, hello, my confident performers and welcome back to episode 16 of The Confident Performer. Today I am talking all about professional versus amateur. Now, I’m going to summarize an article that I read that I really feel kind of brought out some interesting bits. And I think you might hear my dog in the background actually, but I’m going to summarize this article because I think it really kind of dials down to exactly what I want to talk about, this versus that.

But I always get a little chuckle because people who don’t know me or people who are making conversation in a room or a setting will typically first lead with, “Hi, what do you do? So what do you do? Tell me about you, what do you do?” I don’t really like those conversations to be honest with you. I don’t mind them, but they’re not my favorite. But again, if you’ve listened before, I don’t necessarily like small talk. I really love to get to the meat of things.

I went to this party one time and was standing in the corner kind of catching up with a gal I have known for a bit of time and we run in similar circles and so we see one another about maybe once a year, usually at Christmas time. And we got really deep really fast with our conversation and it was really fun. And that’s the kind of conversation I like to have. And so about three minutes into it, she looked at me and was like, “Whoa, we’re talking about some real things here, right?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s usually the way I like to talk.”

So we were talking about our kids and we were talking about our family and we were talking about our husband, spouse and all of that kind of stuff. And it was very fun to be able to kind of jump straight into the deep of the pool and really kind of get fully immersed in something and then just walk away with something really great. But this professional versus amateur, I work with a lot. I can have a lot of talented artists come to me and there is always going to be that great divide. And when I say that great divide, that great divide is truly, and I want you to recognize these words because I say them often, but I mean this.

You don’t even know what you don’t know. And that to me, when you remain super curious, is the best news ever because if you go into this life of, well, I’m going to be a know it all at this. For one, you end up knowing less. And for two if you think, well, I’ve done that once. I did that once in my high school and my high school, we put on a play so I know how to put on plays. And, yeah, okay, yeah, you can, you can know some stuff. But one time doesn’t make you a professional, one time doesn’t make you an expert. And you’re still going to learn more things by doing the thing consistently over and over and over again.

So when I sit down and I talk and I say, “I’m a professional performer for a living.” Some people know and, of course, my performers and my people out there that are actually that for a living, you know what that is. You know what it’s like. And it’s one of those things that when we get into that space and we have to explain what that is to someone who doesn’t know. It’s a hard kind of challenge to break it down.

And it’s interesting, say, I’m a professional performer. I perform for a living. I’m a singer. “Oh, really? What kind of music do you sing?” “I sing all kinds of music.” “Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. Well, my aunt, my Aunt Judy, she sings too. She’s a singer.” “Yes, absolutely. Good, yeah, way to go, Judy.” Yeah. So, yeah. And I don’t know. I mean, I think she’s professional. I don’t know if she’s professional. I think she is.” Where, it’s like, okay, I don’t really care. And I say this in the nicest way possible.

If you are focused on being professional, it becomes almost this all-consuming focus of, I want to figure out what I’m doing right. I want to partner myself with somebody else so I can strategize and enhance and grow. And I knew that it’s something that I was willing to learn how to monetize and started very, very early on. Again, my experience, starting very early on, when I was 16, I was very fortunate in the position that I was in where I was able to work at a professional theater, at a professional playhouse very early in my career. So that was able to guide me in all of the information that I needed from that kind of start to finish.

So I’m going to break down this article and hopefully I can do it before my gardeners get here. So this is actually the FS blog and this turning pro, the difference between amateurs and professionals. So this kind of talks about all in all, what’s the difference? And there are actual differences. There is one thing that stands out more than others, mindset. And this is the ultimate. That’s why I really liked this blog is that it really kind of drove home the point that a mind can be managed and it truly is all about your mindset. What are you focusing on?

So this says the difference is here, amateurs have goals. Professionals have a system. Amateurs focus on dividing the pie. Professionals focus on growing the pie. Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just a launchpad for the next step. Amateurs are reactive. Professionals are proactive. Amateurs want to win in the moment. Professionals want to win the decade.

Amateurs wait for someone to recognize their positional, tap them on the shoulder and give them a big opportunity. Professionals go show people what they are capable of with no expectations. And that for me, huge. If you are waiting for your big break and you are TikToking and Instagramming and doing the game that way. Good for you. Good for you. Put yourself out there. That is so important. That is such a massive way to jump into the attention game that we’re in, in this day and age, which is super great.

If you want to get in the game and do this professionally, one of the things I’m going to recommend is training in the meantime. There have been times when people will be seen on Instagram and they’ll even book a job and they can’t hack it. They can’t stay in the game. They can’t do an eight show week. They can’t do a five show week and that’s okay. That’s again, that’s something you learn the hard way. I had to learn the hard way. There’s, in eight show weeks and in ten show weeks there’s sometimes an A and a B show.

Whether we want to talk about it or advertise it or not, it’s the truth that you really kind of focus on the athleticism of your vocal ability. And I’ve explained we are vocal athletes especially as singers. And as performers we’re collective athletes as we use our entire body as our instrument. My assistant kind of reminded me today. She’s like, “Penn state looks at their singers and performers like athletes and they treat them the same.”

They have access to the same medical care. They have access to the same proactive doctors who are able to treat a twisted ankle of high importance obviously, in their dancers and their performers just as much as they would their athletes there on campus. And I really just love that angle. Jumping back into the same article again at FS blog. Amateurs focus on the outcome. Professionals focus on the process. Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circle of competence, which is so important, really understanding. And I have talked about this.

We can break that down, that if you’re breaking down what I’m doing, I’m that singer, actor, dancer where I know I’m not going to go into a dance call and going to get the job based upon my dance performance, I know that. And I’m very aware of that circle of competence. So very, very important to kind of consider that. Amateurs receive feedback and coaching as someone criticizing who they are. This one is huge to me. This is that mindset I talk about.

Some people say, “I want a coach. I want a coach like you. I want a performance coach that I can reach all these high goals and achieve that 100% success rate that you talk about in training, if I just kind of stick to the plan.” There is that. Now, the most important is that recognition of, okay, that if I’m being coached, am I capable of being coached? Some people in their current state or mental mindset are not coachable. That is just a fact.

And until you get your mindset ready to a place where you can be coached, where you can take that criticism, take that critiquing, that action of being coached, not take it personally. That is huge. And that’s when you actually are just that growth, over growth, over growth. You could sit in a workshop and you can sit in a seminar and you can hear all these different artists and coaches and people in the industry speak. And you can know, I can take a tidbit from every single one of them.

But if you are sitting there and you’re like, “Why am I even here? I know all this stuff. I’m so cool. I don’t even know why I’m at this place.” And you’re in that kind of mindset. That isn’t it. That is not it. So amateurs value doing it once. Professionals value doing it consistently. Popping back here to the aspect of being coached. When you are doing that once, when you have that value and doing it once, it’s one thing. But that coaching system, being coached over and over and over again through that process, professionals learn that they have blind spots and they seek out those thoughtful criticisms.

So not only when you’re being coached, you actually seek out, “Hey, can you please tell me what I can do to enhance this? Can you please tell me what I can do to change this?” And that if you end up doing something once and you’re like, “Wow, look at me. I am her. I’m the winner. I’m the champion.” Professionals do it consistently and they value doing it consistently over and over and over again. And that’s the thing. When you go, and I sang, Friday night I sang, was it Friday or Saturday?

Saturday I sang for three hours and you don’t sit there and sing for three hours and then still have a voice the next day if you don’t do this in a way that you are out there doing it, being a part of the game, being a player in the game. When I read on here, I just loved so many points of this. So amateurs rely on willpower. Professionals focus on creating an environment that turns desired behaviors into default behaviors. And it really is sometimes when you’re in a show and you’ve had a long haul, you’re getting through, say you had so many shows in a row.

And I remember doing one night bangers. When you’re doing just show after show after show after show, sometimes your body will be so practiced in getting a note. And you’ll think, man, I don’t even know if I’m going to get to that note today, my body is so tired. But your brain and your body working together, it will sometimes come and pass and you didn’t even think about it. And you’re like, “Oh, it came out, oh, great, okay, awesome.” And you’re so seasoned in doing it so consistently that the body was like, this is what we do now. This is what we do at this time.

I have artists come to me and early on, they’ll say, “I can’t seem to get this note. And every time I come to this note, I just crack.” And so like, “Okay, well, how many times have you sung through the song, how many times?” “I don’t know, maybe six or seven.” Oh, okay, well, that’s your first problem. You’re going to want to sing this maybe about 50 times before we actually kind of figure out, can we not get to the note or are we just afraid of the note? Is the note something that’s a big scary leap for us and we’re not used to taking big scary leaps? Majority of the time it is that.

I have an artist, a young artist right now, she had been trained by some other people around. And I had seen her in a few things around town. And then she did a show with me and I watched her and I thought, she has some really raw, beautiful, natural talent that I would love to just dig into. And I want a quick turnaround on the things that I start to do. And so I looked at her and I was like, I want to turn her around literally in a year, at least have her sing full out to where she feels confident and everything feels really, really good for her vocally and obviously for the audience to watch.

And it’s funny because another coach I work with said, “Hey, I saw the work you’re doing with her and she is just incredible, just incredible, and has grown substantially.” So sweet, sweet girl, very, very beautiful young artist. Her name is Arena and very happy to work with her, just a neat little sweetheart and good family, love her family too. That’s again, that prerequisite of mine. So I love that kind of standout but it is that persistence and over and over and over again we drill it in.

And they’ll still, when you’re younger, you’ll say, “I tried it a couple of times.” It’s like, “No, honey, we’re getting at this at least 50, 60, 100, 200 times, and then we’ll talk about you not being able to. But most of the time, you can get to it if you just try. Let’s see here.” So amateurs show up to practice to have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens, game time. And it references here that that’s that mindset again. Amateurs focus on identifying their weakness and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and partnering with people who are strong, where they are weak, that same thing.

Amateurs predict. Professionals position. Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice. Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on getting the best outcome. And again, that being right is one thing. But when you’re a professional and this is your job and your job is to get the best outcome consistently, you are going to want to learn from people all throughout your entire life, through your entire industry, because every single career is different. No one career trajectory in this industry is the same. That’s the most fun about this, and that’s a cool thing.

With some artists we have coming up, I’m going to talk about a lot of different things and I’m going to talk to people who are trained athletes and who are Olympians and Cirque du Soleil artists. And now dancers to stunt performers and acrobats and gymnasts to stunt performers. And we’ll talk to my friend, who is a creative producer. We’ll talk to just some really exciting people coming up that I’m really excited to share their episodes soon. But I want to kind of close this down and do some final, final on this.

So amateurs worry about what they see. Professionals worry about what they can’t see. So it’s very much this kind of expanded vision of, hey, what am I missing and what should I be working on? I loved this one, amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility. And you will find that when you work in community theaters versus professional theaters, there is such a different energy when people know this is my job, this is what I’m here to do. And then there are certain people who exercise and practice a craft and then again, some people do not like active direction. I love direction.

I love a director to direct me. And sometimes when I come into a theater and at a community space, sometimes they don’t even think to direct me. They think she’s an equity performer. She’s going to come in. She is the star. She’s just going to direct herself type thing. No, I want to be directed. And so oftentimes I’ll have that conversation with my director beforehand, “Hey, please direct me.” I do love that. Amateurs focus on speed. Professionals focus on velocity.

I look at the aspect of that sprint versus a marathon. And it really is just, they referenced in this article, closing, there’s a host of other differences, but all in all we talk about it, it’s mindset. So being a pro is painful. This is what they said. You are not alone. It’s easier to do with a group. That is one thing that you can do. So building this community of confident performers is such an important thing for me. That is so important for the work that we’re going to do out there in the community, out there in this world.

I will be having The Confident Performer newsletter come out shortly. And then that will really create that community that we’re really kind of trying to see and kind of find all these new informational tips for confident performers and people out there in the industry today really trying to kind of navigate. Whether you’re in school and you’re thinking what’s next, whether you’re on a ship and you’re thinking what’s next, whether you are graduating high school and you’re thinking what’s next, we’re going to have that information for you. And so that’s the fun part.

So, super grateful for this person who wrote this here. I can’t see their name. It didn’t say. But it is obviously that energy there. And I’m going to close down now. Alright, so thank you so much for spending time with me today. And I want you to take care and be well.

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