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Coffee Chats: My Favorite “Thrival” Gig

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LeahCevoliThis week’s Coffee-Chat focuses on one of my favorite “thrival-gigs”, a term coined by MITB founder Helenna Santos-Levy, a few years back.  A thrival gig, is ultimately a cooler way to say my freelance or part-time survival gig- because in the end, hopefully you’re thriving toward that award-winning feature film career you’ve got your heart set on, while doing a multitude of freelancing (thrival gigs) to survive.

My favorite thrival gig is promotional modeling work. The term “modeling” is a little bit misleading, because in most cases you’re not actually modeling, but you do have to be an outgoing, hygienic, and at least somewhat pleasant to look at person to begin going down this path.

There are many different areas of promotional modeling, and a hierarchy of levels can be climbed, depending on your comfort zone, skill level, and persistence in this field.  The pay is great, and as you advance up the ladder, the pay gets even better and can often times include travel and accommodations in other locations, especially for tradeshow work.

The most common way to enter this field is as a Brand Ambassador.  Brand Ambassadors are typically paid anywhere from $15-$20 hour as an independent contractor (1099) and are hired sometimes solo (as in an in-store sampling demo), but most often in teams. I’ve worked as a BA with up to 75 others for a New Year’s event in Times Square, and that was just one company. The amount of BAs and other promotional teams at an event like that is enormous.

So how does one become a brand ambassador and what exactly does the job entail?

A quick google search of “brand ambassador jobs Los Angeles” came up with pages and pages of job listings and agencies.  Uh Oh ! Do I need an agent to be a promotional model or brand ambassador?  Yes, and No.  Yes, but not the kind of agent you’re thinking of.

Agencies in the promo world are easily accessible and simply require you to fill out a free profile on their site, add photos/resume, special skills, etc., not very unlike an actor submission site, except in most cases there is no charge to add your materials, and there is never a charge to submit yourself for work.

There are dozens of Promo Agencies in every major US city, simply google them.  But before you go registering with a company, do your research. Are there a lot of complaints out there about this company?  Do they pay in a reasonable time frame? Are they difficult to work with? If you find more than a smattering of negative feedback, move on and look at the next agency.   There is no exclusivity clause, and you can fill out a profile on as many sites as you want.  I think I’m registered with about 25 agencies, and have about 6 that I work for regularly.

albertapromo2Once registered with the Agencies that you’ve researched,  keep your eye on your inbox, as the job offers come thru email, but also find them on facebook and twitter and keep your eyes open for postings.  It can take weeks, maybe even months, to get selected for your first job with a new agency. You fit the description, you have the skills, and you’re available. You send your submission in, and yet, no job offers?   It takes time. Just like with anything, it takes time for the agencies to get to know you, but once you book one job (and do a rockstar job), you will find yourself booking more and more work thru the companies that know you.  Facebook can help speed this along as many of the agencies now have fan-pages, where they will post upcoming jobs or cancellations, and if you’re quick to respond on the FB page, it may help you get into an agency that you haven’t previously worked for.

Most of these agencies operate on a 30-day (or more) pay-period. This means you work a job, whether it’s a 1-day job or a 5-day job and may not see that paycheck for a month. If this is your main source of income, it’s important to really establish a rotation of agencies that know you and book you, because if you have to wait 30-days for a paycheck, and if that is your sole income while pursing acting/writing, etc., you’re going to be pretty broke by the time that check arrives.  To avoid big gaps in pay like this, book as many consecutive jobs as you can, so that when that initial first month waiting for a paycheck is over, the checks will consistently show up for the jobs you did the previous month.

Okay so we’ve talked about agencies and how to register, paychecks, and standard procedures, but what we haven’t yet talked about is what exactly a Brand Ambassador does.

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You absolutely MUST love to interact with people. This is hands-down above everything else the most important qualification.  Basically, you become a walking/talking advertisement for whatever the product is that you’ve been hired for.  As a BA I’ve promoted everything from cheese to BIC pens, from cellphones to grocery stores. You need to be a self-starter, a team player, and effectively be able to convey the products message to the consumer.  In most cases, this is a few key target points, but as you progress up the ladder into other areas like product demonstrators you’ll have to memorize scripts, which can often be very tech-heavy or have unfamiliar words.

As a BA your event location can be anywhere from on the street (guerilla team), to a department store, a grocery store, a stadium event, a concert, a bar or an outdoor festival.  You’ll be able to pick the type of events you enjoy the most, and most agencies will hire you based on your strongest skills. Do you love beauty products? Great, there’s tons of events involving beauty and fashion.  Are you great with children? Awesome, kid events are fun and well-organized. Are you a tech-geek?  Me too! There are so many opportunities out there for you. I think I’ve worked with every cell-phone company out there at this point, demonstrating a new feature, or handing out info on their new product line.

Most Agencies will send you all of the information you need to know before the job and the contact information of your team lead, who will be on-site with you. You will soon to get to know the Team Leads in your area, and if you don’t mind a little extra responsibility, and a pay-raise, the Team Lead is the area that you are aiming for next on this journey into the promotional world.

Once you arrive on site and check-in, the Team lead will run through the day’s schedule, set up lunch breaks, and give you your duties/position for the day.   The most important thing is to have fun.  Be careful not to get too chatty with the other gals or guys on the team, and always be focused on the consumers and people coming your way. You never know when a supervisor from the agency is on-site, or even worse someone from the client that hired you (Budweiser, Dannon, Covergirl, T-Mobile), is walking by.

promojob1When the day is over you sign out a time-sheet with the lead, and in most cases that’s it! Your job is done, and it’s back to the computer to sign up for more!

Wardrobe for Brand Ambassadors: Your closet should contain at least one pair of Khaki pants, Black slacks, and nice jeans. You should have both black and white sneakers, long sleeve and short sleeves white tees and black tees.  Normally the client provides a branded shirt, but it’s a good idea to have the white and black long-sleeve to wear under the shirt in case you’re in a chilly building or outside in the evening time.  Later on down the line, when you start booking tradeshow work, you’ll need to add white/black blouses, a black blazer and black pumps to your wardrobe as those are standard tradeshow wear.

If you’re in an area, where there are major cities not too far from home, you can end up travelling to other cities as well, and you can often times work out travel pay and accommodations with your agency.  Don’t be afraid to ask, the Agencies are on your side, and if it’s in the budget, they’ll approve it. If you like being around other people, talking to people, learning about new products and sharing that information, and you don’t mind being on your feet for long periods of time, becoming a promotional model can be a lot of fun

In future Coffee-Chats we’ll talk more about the role of the Team Lead, and the other areas of the Promotional world which can include Field Market Manager, Tour Manager, Product Demonstrator, and  my favorite, Tradeshow work.

For more information or to book a Coffee-Chat Consult w/Leah: www.leahcevoli.com/coffee-chat-consultaions

Leah Cevoli

About Leah Cevoli

Leah Cevoli is a multi-talented entertainment professional whose work stretches across many genres. She is a rock ‘n roll enthusiast, body image activist, a certified yoga teacher, and fan of all things horror, Leah's acting credits include appearances on high profile tv shows like HBO’s "Deadwood," and voice-over on the Cartoon Network hit "Robot Chicken". Leah is a contributing writer for Ms. In The Biz and the founder of AllShapesAndSizesWelcome.com: Body Image & Women’s Issues in Entertainment, a group of women who speak on panels and at conventions nationwide. Leah has a reputation for crowdfunding success and social media magic. To date, her company, GreenlightYourPassionProject.com has managed 50+ campaigns, and have been instrumental in raising over $5,000,000 for indie projects. Her latest projects include: the feature-length documentary "Remember The Sultana" narrated by Sean Astin, the gritty feature-length drama, "Girl Lost," distributed thru Cinema Epoch, and the light hearted comedy, "Dance Baby Dance". All three films were released in the spring of 2018.