5 Questions To Ask Yourself When You Start Something New

You better get used to starting things.

If you’re going to have a long and (hopefully) successful comedy career, you will start all kinds of projects over the years. From the first time you step on an open mic stage, to the development of new material, to launching a website/podcast/web series, to writing a script, to any of another million things you may be inspired to create.

But no matter what your specific project is, there are a few questions to consider when you get started that can help you succeed.

I recently started a new project of my own – a website called A Person You Should Know where I profile one creative and inspiring person each day who I think you should know (thus the name). So, I thought I’d share with you not only five questions to ask yourself about your next project, but also how I answered these questions for my own.

1. How Much Time And Effort Will You Commit To The Project?

I assume if you start a new project you at least have some idea of your goal for the project (if not, you’ve got a bigger problem), so I’ll jump right to this question.

When you start something new, it’s important to consider how much time you are able to commit to developing the project and, equally important, how much you can realistically get done with the time you have available.

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question and you can (and likely will) spend more time than the minimum commitment you make to your project up front, but it’s important to think through what it will take to get the project going and to shape it in a way that fits your available time frame.

For example, it takes a lot of time to write a screenplay so if you only have an hour a week to commit to working on it,  your goal of completing a script in a month is probably not going to happen. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon your screenplay project, it just means you should reassess your time frame. If you can commit to work on it an hour a week, then maybe your goal should be to complete the screenplay in a year for example.

Being honest with yourself about your realistic time commitment is also important when you create a project that makes a promise to your audience. If you can’t commit the time to do a weekly web series, then don’t launch one – make it monthly instead.

Nothing will sink your project quicker than making promises you can’t fulfill – and it’s also a recipe for driving you to quit the project before it has a real chance to succeed.

How I Answered This Question:

In launching my site, I decided I was able to find time to feature a new person once a day, Monday through Friday. This would give me enough time to work ahead and schedule posts and give me the weekends to get most of the following week’s posts done.

It seemed feasible, while at the same time ensuring a steady stream of content and making a promise that the site’s audience could connect with. It’s simple, and people know exactly what they’re going to get – one new person every day.

2. What Is Your Key Success Metric?

No matter what kind of project you launch, you’ll have a lot of different metrics that seem important to you – everything from laughs, to likes, to shares, to subscriptions.

But it’s worth choosing a single most important metric to use as a gauge of the project’s progress. Which metric you choose depends on what you’re doing and what your goals are, but figuring out which metric is most important to you will help you succeed because it allows you to let that metric guide the various decisions you make as you develop your project.

For example, if you decide the key success metric for your blog is to get readers to share your posts, then you’ll want to structure your blog and your blog’s content in a way that leads to more sharing.

If your podcast’s key success metric is your number of subscribers, then you might want to focus on strategies to get more people to subscribe once they listen as opposed to just driving downloads of individual episodes.

How I Answered This Question:

My key success metric for A Person You Should Know is the number of email subscribers I get to the site’s email list, which sends a daily email with each day’s post.

I chose this because it reflects my goal – a direct connection to people who are interested in the content I post on the site.

If somebody signs up to get a daily email from me with that day’s post (and they stick around and don’t unsubscribe), then that speaks volumes about the “success” of the content I post. It also establishes a connection I have to them which can be useful down the road if I ever decide to monetize the site in some way.

While I care about the amount of raw traffic I get to the site, that’s not as important to me as the number of people that subscribe to the email list. That traffic will fluctuate as some posts get passed around, but those email subscribers will be constant – they are the “true fans” of the site and the core audience I’m building and care most about.

Using email subscribers as a key metric is also helpful because it allows me to judge the progress of the site. If lots of people visit the site but don’t subscribe, then I’ve got a problem with the site content.

If they subscribe but then unsubscribe, it tells me I’m not delivering enough to meet their expectations.

A good success metric not only helps you judge progress, but it also helps you identify what’s NOT working. And that can be even more valuable.

3. What Do You Want People To Do When They Discover Your Project?

This question directly relates to your answer to the previous question. You want to optimize your project to give you the best possible chance to achieve your key success metric.

For example, if the key success metric for your podcast is to gain subscribers, then why are you promoting your Twitter account in the podcast more than you ask people to subscribe?

If your key metric is merchandise sales at your show, then what are you doing to make it as likely as possible that people will buy your merch?

Every time a new person discoverers your project, an opportunity is created. You want to do everything possible to capitalize on that opportunity – specifically as relates to your key success metric.

Again, you may have multiple metrics of success, but you will do much better if you focus your promotional efforts around the ONE THING you most want people to do. For more on how best to do that, check out my one-action strategy.

How I Answered This Question:

Because the one thing I want people to do when they discover A Person You Should Know is to subscribe to my email list, you’ll notice the list is prominently featured throughout the site.

A plug to join the list is at the bottom of every post, there’s a subscribe button in the navigation menu, and I recently added a full page welcome screen to first-time visitors that encourages them to join the list to get inspired. [Side Note: I’m using the SumoMe Welcome Mat app to power that feature and it’s been amazing in the first couple days I’ve used it.]

I monitor all of these things and track what percentage of people who visit the site join the email list, how many subscribers are opening the emails, and how many people unsubscribe from the list because they don’t like what they’re getting (I’m happy to say that number is very low at this point).

To give you a sense of how the numbers break down, here’s where I’m at with that email list two weeks after launching the site: 2,288 people have visited the site, 153 people have subscribed to the email list, and only two people have unsubscribed.

I’m happy with the numbers at the moment, but could they better? Maybe. I’ll find out because I have a clear key success metric that I’m tracking and can measure what happens as the site evolves and I test out new techniques to improve the results.

4. What Value Will Your Project Provide And To Who?

No matter what your project is, it won’t succeed unless it provides value to people.

So, it’s important to think about what value your project intends to provide and to whom.

Unlike focusing in on a single key success metric, it’s good to think a little broader for this question. For example, if your project is a standup show, there are a lot of different people it could potentially provide value to including the audience, the booker, the venue, and even the other comedians if you create an opportunity for them to perform as well.

If you launch a web series, that could provide value to viewers, advertisers, actors, filmmakers, your representatives, and even TV development executives at some point. A podcast could provide value to all of those as well as the guests you interview.

Understanding all the potential value your project can provide and to who helps you sort through how to present it to those various constituencies and helps you find and build an audience.

The “value” of your show will be different to the audience than it is to the venue for example, so you’ll want to present your show to those entities in different ways that speak to the value it provides to each of them.

Too often, people start projects and are so focused on the value it will provide to themselves that they miss opportunities to attract others to support the project.

An audience doesn’t care what value something provides to you – they care what value it provides to them. That should be the focus of your pitch to get them to check out what you’ve created.

How I Answered This Question:

I see a lot of audiences that can get value from A Person You Should Know including people who want to be inspired, who want to learn, and who want to become part of a creative community.

The site also provides a service in finding these interesting people and boiling their key ideas down to a very quick, skimmable read each day. If you want to learn from these people, but don’t know how to find them or have time to track them down, this site gives you an easy snapshot to learn from them without a huge commitment.

But, by also providing the links to deeper articles and speeches from each person, the site also provides value to people who want to be able to take a deeper dive with any of these people that catch their eye.

And the site provides value to the people I feature on it by exposing them to new people who may be interested in supporting their efforts.

Essentially, I’ve crafted my project in a way to appeal to multiple audiences with different value propositions. Knowing this influences everything from how I construct the site, to how I promote it, to who I target with that promotion.

5. What Can You Learn From The Initial Feedback

Your project is not going to be perfect when you launch it – far from it. But don’t worry, that’s actually a good thing.

Rather than waiting to figure out every little detail of your project before you unleash it on the world, get the bare minimum you need to launch and put it out into the world.

But the key here is to pay attention to the feedback you get on the project because you will be able to learn a lot from those first few people who experience your new creation.

Don’t overreact to a single compliment or criticism, but actively seek out and pay attention to whatever feedback you get about what you’re doing. Just like a comic will pay attention to what gets laughs on stage, you should examine things like at what point in a video your audience abandons it, or which blog posts are being shared more than others.

Also, look for opportunities to engage with your audience.

Don’t be afraid to message somebody who likes your Facebook page, thank them, and ask them why they joined and what they’re hoping to see. Don’t be afraid to tweet at people and ask them what they’d like to see incorporated into your project, or to thank them for sharing it.

You’ll be surprised what you can learn from the feedback of even just a handful of people and it can have a huge impact on your new project which is ALWAYS a work in progress.

How I Answered The Question:

I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve learned in just the first two weeks of A Person You Should Know. Things that seem obvious now, were not really part of my initial plans.

For example, I was surprised early on when a couple people who discovered the site sent me suggestions of people to feature.

I was initially so focused on my own curation of the people featured, that I didn’t realize how compelling it would be for other people to offer to suggestions. I also realized the suggestions could help form a real sense of community around the site as well as introduce me to other talented people who I might not have otherwise known.

I also hadn’t initially considered the advantages of featuring people who in addition to being talented, often had followings of their own.

Several of the people I have featured already wound up discovering my site as a result and sharing it with their audiences. There’s essentially a built-in promotional loop to the structure of the site, which I hadn’t considered in the initial concept, but seems like an obvious strength of the concept now.

Again, I learned from that and started emailing people I feature to make sure they at least are aware that they were featured – I don’t just rely on them seeing themselves tagged in a tweet.

I don’t actually ask them to share the site with their followers, but I do ask them for suggestions of other people to feature and I’ve gotten some great tips as a result. And, several of the people I’ve featured have become subscribers and helped spread the word as well.

The point is that if you keep your eyes and ears open when you launch a project, you’ll be surprised what you can learn and how that can help the project ultimately succeed.

READ THIS NEXT: Case Study: How To Launch A Short Video Series


40 Ideas For Comedians To Think About

Over the past few years I’ve had thousands of conversations with comedians and dished out a lot of advice on this website, through my Free Tips newsletter, my VIP Members program, and on Twitter and Facebook.

What follows are some ideas that have stuck with me over the years – observations I hope you’ll find inspirational, thought-provoking, and helpful.

The Ideas

1. If you’re not willing to put in the work it takes to succeed, that’s ok. But you also have to be ok with not succeeding.

2. Get somebody to notice you today. Entertain them every day for a year. Repeat tomorrow. That’s how you build a fanbase.

3. If you only keep doing what you usually do, you’ll never know what you’re capable of doing.

4. People love watching videos of comics battling hecklers because they’re more real than most comics’ acts.

5. The things you say no to are just as important to your career as the things you say yes to.

6. Too many comics focus on getting people to LIKE them when they should try to get people to CARE about them.

7. If you hate promoting your comedy, it’s not because you’re an artist. It’s because you don’t believe you provide value to audiences.

8. If you want to get noticed, why are you doing the same things everybody else does?

9. If you’re “too busy” to spend time on your comedy career, that just means your career isn’t a priority for you. Be honest with yourself.

10. You’re most likely going to fail. But understanding that will help you succeed.

11. Ask less and offer more. That’s how you promote yourself.

12. Just because it’s easier than ever to create something doesn’t mean it’s easier to make it good.

13. Waiting doesn’t get you closer to succeeding. Starting does.

14. You’re never stuck. You just think you are.

15. You have to want to succeed more than you’re afraid to fail.

16. What you think is writer’s block is actually just impatience. Be willing to write junk until you get to something good. It’ll come.

17. If you hate self-promotion, then just make better stuff. The better your creation, the less you have to promote it.

18. That thing you think is the end goal is actually just the start of something else.

19. The people already paying attention to you are more important than the people who aren’t. Act accordingly.

20. The way to become a pro is to work like one even when you’re an amateur.

21. You know that story you’re afraid to talk about on stage? That’s the one you should talk about.

22. Start. Finish. Fail. Start. Finish. Fail. Start. Finish. That’s how you succeed.

23. Just being good isn’t enough.

24. You can learn just as much from watching a bad comic as you can a good one.

25. Everybody has the chance to pursue their passion for a living – it’s just that most people choose not to.

26. Just because you think you’re ready to take the next step in your career doesn’t mean that you are. Be patient.

27. It’s not easy to do something that’s truly different. That’s why it’s so valuable.

28. If you can’t find two hours a day to work on your comedy career, then you don’t actually want one.

29. You don’t need to have stage time tonight to further your career today.

30. Excuses are a lot easier to find than solutions.

31. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do what it takes to be a successful comic. There’s plenty of other comics that will.

32. Look at what every other comic is doing and then don’t do that. Do something else.

33. The best way to capitalize on a big break is to be prepared for it. Don’t wait for your break to come to start working.

34. Everybody you make laugh today is meaningless if you don’t have a way to reach them tomorrow.

35. It’s easier than ever for you to get seen and harder than ever for you to get noticed.

36. There are no “rules” when it comes to building a comedy career. There are just things comics convince themselves they can’t do.

37. That thing you’re nervous to talk about is probably the thing you should talk about in your comedy.

38. Most comics seem more interested in getting booked than getting better.

39. Stop worrying about people stealing your jokes. If your material’s that good, then only you can do it.

40. The more time you spend working on things you can control as opposed to things you can’t, the more successful you’ll be.

Click here to get more valuable comedy career tips!


21 Handwritten Tips For Comedians From Comedians

Andrew Rivers is a comedian and Connected Comedy reader who reached out to me recently to tell me about a great project he’s been working on.

For the past few years he’s asked comedians he comes across at his various performances to write down a bit of advice for him about the art and business of comedy in his notebooks. Besides being a great learning resource for himself, he’s shared many of the 190+ bits of advice he’s received on Tumblr and Facebook.

Here’s 21 of my favorites…














































New to Connected Comedy? Check out my Connected Comedy Members Program to see how else I can help you!

11 Concepts That Will Help You Gain Fans

There’s a lot of different ways to build a following online and use social platforms to attract new fans, but there are certain concepts that are universal and will help you succeed no matter what kind of content you’re producing and which platforms you’re focused on.

Here’s a breakdown of 10 general philosophies and guidelines that will help you get the results you want from the time you spend creating content and promoting yourself online.

1. Content Is Marketing

I talk a lot about the value of creating “content” and when I do I’m referring to content in the broadest form – that includes blog posts, videos, pictures, tweets, status updates, podcasts, standup material, etc.

But that value is not just limited to your own original content – I’m a big believer in the value or curating content as well. Here’s a post about curating that’s worth checking out.

The reason I’m such a believer in the importance of content creation is because it’s free marketing for you and your career.

Every single piece of content you create brings with it an opportunity for you to get found.

Each piece of content can be found through Google searches, can be shared and passed around by people on social media, and can introduce you to new fans at literally no cost. It’s an extremely powerful tool.

Plus, you can use content to target the exact audience you want to reach. For example, if you think parents, or sports fans, or fans of a certain comedian are likely to enjoy your work, then you can create content that is going to attract and appeal to those people and introduce them to your world.

But the thing to remember is that the more content you create, the more opportunities you have to attract fans.

2. Engagement Matters

As important as content is, engaging with your fans (and potential fans) may be even more important. Your content is the hook that draws people into your world, and your engagement with those people is the way you turn them into actual fans and get them to stick around.

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media (especially Twitter and Facebook) is that they’re mediums you primarily use to promote yourself and your stuff. That’s not true, but that’s what most comics do and why most comics don’t get any real results from social media.

Think about your own experience as a follower of somebody else on social media – I’m guessing you hate people who only promote themselves and you feel a genuine connection to people who interact with you and care about you, even if you’ve never met them face-to-face before.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms work best when you use them to engage with people. They’re connection tools, not promotional tools.

You want to use social tools to talk with people as opposed to talking at people. That’s a subtle, but important difference.

3. Be Personal. Be Informal. Be Available. Be Real.

Most comedians’ instinct is to position themselves as bigger and more successful than they are when they’re showcasing themselves on their website and social media channels. That’s a mistake.

Just be real.

People want to connect to other people and they want to relate to them – the more you’re willing to put yourself out there and be honest, the more people will connect to you. Real is always better than fake – in videos, in blog posts, on stage, in everything.

I also think it’s worth noting that this represents something of a generational shift. Back in the day, before technology like YouTube allowed literally everybody in the world to reach everybody else in the world, the average audience member assumed that the people who had broadcast power were better than them. They gave you the benefit of the doubt because they assumed if you were able to get to the point where you were given the chance to reach an audience, that you had some talent.

But now, when anybody can reach everybody, that has shifted and audiences are much more skeptical. Now, if they see you pretending to be bigger than you are, they resent it. You no longer have the benefit of the doubt.

But the flipside of that is that if you are real and allow fans to see you for where you’re really at in your career, those same people will rally behind you, support you, and want to help be a part of your journey to success. They will become invested in you.

A great example of this is the success of the YouTube musical group Karmin which I’ve written about here. You can learn a lot from how they broke on YouTube by being honest about where they were at in their career.

This idea also extends to your writing and your content. For example, your bio may be written in third person but is there anybody that actually believes you didn’t write it yourself? And, more importantly, does it really invite a would-be fan to connect with who you are or does it put them off because it makes it seem like you want them to know the “professional” you as opposed to the person that you are?

You want to make it easy for people to feel like they know you and can interact with you. Because the closer they feel to you, the more vested they become in your success.

On a side note, it’s fine to have a third-person “professional” bio that you may send to people who need it for their corporate gig brochures, etc. But, if you’re hoping to use your website to connect with fans then you want it to be as informal and friendly as possible.

4. The Quickest Path To Success Runs Through A Niche

It’s going to take time to build your fanbase even if you do everything right – that’s just something you need to understand going into it.

However, one way that you can give yourself a huge head start is to figure out a niche that you can appeal to.

Based on your material, life, interests, experience, and goals, you should try to figure out what kind of niche audience you might appeal to because it’s extremely hard to build a fanbase by just being another comic who is generally funny.

If you can focus on a niche – similar to the way Chris Hardwick has done with his Nerdist empire – you will find that all your marketing and content-related decisions become a whole lot easier.

When you have a niche that you’re targeting, you know exactly where to find potential fans because you can identify where else they gather – online or offline. It also allows people to rally around their shared interest in what you’re interested in, as opposed to solely trying to win them over with your jokes.

And of course, if they have a shared worldview to yours, they are more likely to enjoy your comedy in the first place.

There’s a couple other relevant articles about the importance of niche that you may want to check out including these lessons you can learn from Chris Hardwick and this guide to help you find your own niche.

5. Pay Attention To What You Engage With

One of the best ways to learn what works with people is to pay attention to what works when you’re the consumer. Start to think about what ads you click on, what websites catch your eye, what headlines get you to click, and what content you actually share with people.

When you start to think about what gets you to click something, or to take an action, you’ll be able to apply those same things to your own creations. It’s a great way to learn.

6. What People Share Is Not The Same As What They Click

You’ll create content for different purposes, but one broad thing to remember is that people share different kinds of content than they view. For example, porn sites get the most traffic on the web, but when was the last time somebody posted a link to a porn site on their Facebook wall?

People share things that are cute, funny, relatable, etc. But here’s another secret – people usually share things because it allows them to say something they want to say without actually saying it themselves.

People share things to show their support for a specific opinion or rallying cause. Sometimes, they will even share things they disagree with, just because sharing it gives them a chance to express their opinion about it. This is why strong viewpoints are always helpful in content.

This is something to keep in mind as you develop content – you want to use your expertise (in comedy and whatever else you may be knowledgable about) to express things that other people may believe but are not necessarily capable of saying as clearly (or in as entertaining a way) as you are.

7. Figure Out How To Provide Value

One of the most important overall questions for you to think about is how you can provide value to your fans. This goes beyond just being funny. Think about ways you can provide as much value as possible to your desired audience, whether it’s with your own content or not.

For example, on Connected Comedy I provide value to my audience by posting free articles with advice that can help them with their careers. On, I provide value to my readers by scouring the web to give them interesting videos to see and links to other cool stuff on the web. The “value” I provide is that I save them the time of having to look for cool stuff.

There’s no one way to provide value to your fans, and you’ll likely come up with multiple ways to do it.

A great way to get started is to combine your ability to be funny with a certain expertise you may have. The way you do this will be different for everybody, but in general the more value you provide, the more you get in return and the easier it is to grow an audience.

8. What’s In It For Your Audience?

With everything you do, try to think about what’s in it for your audience first. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking about what you want them to do for you, but you’ll have more success if you think in terms of what you can do for them.

I had a conversation with a big-name headlining comic once and he was frustrated with having to post on social media all the time.

“It feels like I have to work for my fans,” he said. “Like I’m working for them!”

He was disgusted by that concept, but that’s exactly correct (and why he does a bad job at social media).

Your fans are your employer. Not the bookers, not the clubs, not the Hollywood execs, the fans. Because if you have enough fans…none of those other people matter.

9. Experiment Often

Because all of this is so personal, it will take you some time to experiment and find what works best for you. It’s important to understand that before you go into it, because too many people get frustrated quickly and give up.

Comics understand it could take 10+ years to get good on stage, but too often assume they’ll be social media experts after 10 minutes. They’re wrong.

By experimenting with different types of content and different ways to use social media, you’ll start to hone in on what works for you and see results.

Another thing about experimentation is to understand the best thing about failing online – when you fail, nobody really sees what you did anyway. Here’s a post that touches on that which is worth checking out.

10. Have A Goal

It’s very important to have a clear goal for what you’re hoping to get out of your activity online because that will ultimately influence everything you do.

For example, is the goal to attract new fans? Is the goal to attract new corporate gigs? Is the goal to create new properties/brands that can lead to new opportunities for books, TV, etc.?

Most likely you’ll want to do multiple of these things which is what will ultimately happen in success, but it’s worth thinking about what one goal is most important to you and letting that dictate your strategy.

11. Recognize The Opportunities You Have

If somebody would have approached comedians 20 years ago and offered them the opportunity to have their own TV show, radio show, or magazine with no cost, comics would have freaked out at what an amazing opportunity that is.

But that’s exactly the opportunity you have now and most comics are too lazy to actually take advantage of it.

Don’t get distracted by the “digital” aspects of all this. Just think about what you’d ultimately want to create and use these digital tools to reach the masses.

READ THIS NEXT: A Business Plan For Comedians

How Do I Know If I’m Good?

I recently met with somebody who was interested in pursuing a writing career. In our conversation, he asked me how “risky” it was to pursue a future in screenwriting and he worried that maybe he was headed down a dangerous path, even though he was passionate about writing.

I explained to him that writing was something he could pursue while also maintaining another job to pay the bills, that it didn’t have to be risky, and that I believe you should always follow your passions.

Then he asked a question that revealed what he was really worried about.

“But…how do I know if I’m good?”

It’s a question lots of comedians also struggle with, so I thought I’d share my answer with you.

First, that’s an impossible question to answer because I don’t believer you’re ever “good” or “not good.” Creative careers don’t ever have a single moment where you magically become good – instead you will go through a gradual process of improving and getting better.

Also, comedy is a subjective art – lots of people may think that Dane Cook is good, but lots of others may disagree. Comedy isn’t math – there is no definitive answer.

Since you’ll never really know if you’re good or not, it’s an unproductive question to ask yourself.

That said, if you really want an answer to the question I’ll give you one.

Unless you’ve been working at something for a long time (10,000 hours maybe?), you’re not “good” at it yet. That’s just the way things work.

In my conversation with the would-be writer, I asked him how many scripts he had finished writing and said that if that answer was less than 10, I could pretty much guarantee he wasn’t good yet.

It reminded me of something a literary agent told me years ago. When writers approached him looking for representation, the first thing he would ask them was how many screenplays they had written and if that answer was less than 10, he wouldn’t even read their script.

That’s because he knew if they hadn’t written a lot of scripts yet, they wouldn’t possibly be as good as they would be after they had put in the work to complete 10 scripts. He would tell them to go finish more scripts and then contact him.

While writing (and comedy) require some natural ability, they are also art forms where you will definitely get better as you put more time into your craft. No matter where you start, you’ll be better after writing 10 scripts or performing 100 times than you are after your first script or performance.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint – remember?

With that in mind, I told the would-be writer that rather than trying to figure out whether or not he was “good,” he would be better served to figure out if he was getting better.

He should focus his efforts on writing more screenplays and not worry about judging the quality of his initial work. Instead of trying to figure out if his third screenplay was good, he should concentrate on whether his sixth screenplay was better than his third.

That’s something that creators actually find relatively easy to judge – you might not be able to figure out if your work is good, but you probably have pretty accurate instincts when you compare it to your previous work.

And the more work you do, the better your work will get.

With the “Am I getting better?” mindset in place, I then suggested he think through the time and effort he was prepared to commit to chasing his dream. Again, no matter how talented you are, it takes a lot of time and hard work to build a creative career and I think it’s important to go into it with some idea of what you’re prepared to commit to making it happen.

I suggested he think about how many years he was willing to work on his writing or how many screenplays he was willing to write before seeing any real success. That number could fluctuate and he could always extend it, but setting an initial time frame would alleviate some of the inevitable pressure and frustration that can come with trying to “make it.”

And the question to ask himself during that time frame would be whether he was improving, not whether he was good. (Here’s some other ways to measure your career progress.)

For example, if he decides he’s willing to put in three years of work on his writing, then all he would have to worry about during that time was whether he was getting better. He would know he had decided to put in three years with no promise of anything coming out of it, and he could just focus on doing the work during that time.

It’s almost like going to college – you do it with the hope and assumption that something good will come of it, but you have no guarantee and you don’t expect to suddenly be qualified a year into the experience. You understand the benefits won’t come until you graduate…or later. Or, unfortunately, they might not come at all.

That’s just how it works.

At the end of the time frame you’ve set for yourself to get better, you can assess where you’re at and figure out if you’re still passionate about what you’re doing or if you feel like you’re making enough progress to continue. That will still be a tough decision for you at that time, but at least it will be one that hasn’t been hanging over your head on a daily basis until that point.

It also gives you a point where you can walk away knowing that you gave it a good shot and that you left on your own terms – or that you’re continuing to pursue your dream because you’ve seen enough progress in your career or your talent to warrant that you push on.

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15 Things Comedians Should Be Thankful For

In honor of Thanksgiving, let’s take a break from the negativity and struggle that permeates so much of the conversation about the comedy business and remember that there’s actually a lot of things for comedians to be thankful for these days.

Whether you’re an established comic, or somebody just starting out, here’s 15 things I think are worth taking a moment to appreciate in the next few days.

1. Your Fans

Whether you’ve got thousands of fans or just your Mom hanging on your every word, you should truly appreciate each and every one of the people who care enough to pay attention to what you create. We’re living in a world where there’s never been more competition for a person’s attention, and it’s honestly a miracle when anybody is willing to consistently give you some of theirs.

2. Free Social Media Tools

For all the bitching that people do about social media platforms it’s easy to forget how many incredible tools have been provided to comedians at no cost. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and virtually every other social platform spends millions of dollars to provide you with an opportunity to reach the world and doesn’t charge you a penny to do it.

3. The Opportunity To Learn

Things like YouTube, Netflix and Google have ushered in an era where it’s never been easier to watch comedy, study comedy, and learn from a library of content that’s easier and more inexpensive to access than at any point in history. For virtually no cost, you can access just about any comedic performance that’s ever happened or read articles and learn from the greatest comedic performers of all time. There’s never been a better time to learn from the masters than right now.

4. The Ability To Communicate With Established Comics

Now that just about every working comedian is using social media in one form or another, it’s created opportunities for you to reach out to them and connect with them to build relationships, ask them questions, or just simply compliment their work. Will Louis CK respond to every tweet you send to him? Of course not, but there are opportunities out there to get to successful comics in ways that there never were before.

5. The Opportunity To Make A Living By Making People Laugh

The mere fact that it’s possible to have a comedy career is something to be thankful for if you think about it. It may not be easy to make a living by making people laugh, but it is possible and there are lots of people out there doing it. Even if you’re not one of those people yet, you should appreciate knowing that it can be done – after all, there’s a lot worse ways to make a living.

6. The Chance To Start Over

Online tools allow comedians an opportunity that they rarely think about – the chance to start over. If things aren’t working out for you, you can always delete what you’ve done – take down your videos, take down your social accounts, take down your website, and “re-create” yourself from scratch. If what you’re doing hasn’t been working and you want to start over, you can. Second (or third) chances are worth appreciating.

7. The Comedy Community

Whether you live in a small town, a big city, or are just part of the online comedy community, it’s pretty amazing the way comedians can bond together to support and help each other. Just like any community, comedians have their fair share of jealousy and burned bridges, but overall I’ve found the comedy community to be way more helpful and supportive of its peers than just about any other profession.

8. The End Of The Gatekeeper Era

Do comedy gatekeepers still exist and are they a huge part of the comedy business? Yes. But, it’s also now possible to build a successful career without going through the gatekeepers and that’s a HUGE shift in the industry. There’s more ways than ever to build a successful comedy career these days, and you no longer have to wait for somebody to “discover” you in order to make it happen.

9. The People That Give You Opportunities

No matter where you’re at with your career, you’re likely surrounded by people who give you opportunities. Whether it’s stage time at an open mic, help producing a video, or a guy who shows you how to register your website domain, there are lots of people out there who help create opportunities for you. You should be grateful for everything they do for you – even the things that seem small. Because those small things, and the people that do them, can often lead to much bigger things.

10. The Opportunity To Get Better

Comedy is an art form where the more you do it, the better you will get. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get good enough to make it, but it’s a sure thing that your 100th time on stage will be better than your first. Not all things are like that and it’s important to recognize that just having the ability to ensure that the work you put in will result in improvement is a great thing.

11. Every View, Listen, Like, Comment, and Share

Every single time somebody takes the time to engage with something you have created is an incredible experience and one that should be valued. It’s easy to take for granted things like retweets or video views, but those are important actions from people who can really help you grow your career.

12. Your Day Job

Too many comics are too eager to leave their day job too soon. They think that the sooner they can do that, the sooner they will be considered a “real” comedian and that it will free up their time to work more on their comedy.

But often times comedians overlook the value of their day job and the value of what it provides. The financial benefits of a day job, the structure, and the life experiences it can create often times can do more to help your comedy career than hurt it. If you’ve got a decent day job, you might want to take a moment to appreciate it instead of trying to figure out how to leave it before that’s necessary.

13. The Host Of Your Show

If you’re performing on a standup show, the show’s host/MC matters – a lot. Recognize the importance of the comic filling that role and appreciate the role that they have to play in your performance on that stage.

14. Comedy Clubs

Comedy clubs are far from perfect, but they do provide some incredible opportunities for comedians. It’s a brutal business and most clubs are taking on a lot of financial risk to provide you with opportunities – you should be thankful that there are people out there willing to do that. And while there are a lot of club owners that aren’t exactly the best people in the world, there are still lots of them who treat comics well, are passionate about the art form, and do their best to create what everybody wants – a great show.

15. People Who Hate Comedy Clubs

While I think you should appreciate comedy clubs, I also think you should appreciate all the indie promoters and comedy fans who have turned their backs on the clubs. Their efforts have led to a rise in new comedy venues, alternative rooms filled with hardcore comedy fans, and a whole wave of new opportunities for comedians. Plus, the success of these alternative venues has forced comedy clubs to step up their game and improve their own situations to compete.

Now It’s Your Turn…

What do you think comedians should be thankful for? Tell me on Twitter.

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Are You Focused On Things You Can Control?

I had a conversation with a stand up comedian recently who was frustrated at his lack of bookings. He bemoaned the lack of paid gigs out there and how difficult it is to get bookers to pay attention and give him a chance.

When I asked what his ultimate career goal was he replied that he’d like to have a career like another comedian (whose name I won’t mention), who headlines clubs around the country and probably makes about $2,000 per weekend booking.

The comic I was speaking with didn’t see how he was ever going to get to that point without bookers giving him a shot first. But I see it differently.

If his goal is to make $2,000 a weekend performing stand up in front of a couple hundred people, then he’s focused on the wrong way to get there. He’s putting all of his time and effort into catching the attention of bookers and hoping they’ll give him permission to have the career he wants to have. But he doesn’t need their permission.

To make $2,000 a weekend performing stand up, all you need to do is figure out how you can convince 200 people to spend $10 to see you perform. That’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. And more importantly, it’s a goal that’s completely in his control as opposed to a goal that somebody else has to allow him to accomplish.

I told this comedian that instead of waiting around for some booker to magically decide he’s worthy of their comedy club, he should put his efforts into something he can control — figuring out how to sell 200 tickets to his own shows.

And the irony is that if he can actually do that, he won’t need the booker or the comedy club. They’ll need him.

Did you like this post? Please check out some of my other advice for stand up comedians.